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sail_boat_review-jeanneau_53-largeSailing the first Jeanneau 53 to land in North America was a treat to say the least; to share the day with my colleague David McPhail from Boatcan made for a wonderful time. Invited by Paul Fenn (also on board) and the Jeanneau team, we were treated to perfect test sail conditions on Lake St. Clair, close enough to the Canadian border to guarantee Canadian content. Our test conditions were perfect: slight chop, moderate building and waning breezes nearing 6 knots true that drove the 46-foot waterline through the water at an impressive 5.4 knots. Steering the boat was a joy with the twin steering set up, finger-tip control and light responsive helm.

The Jeanneau 53 is a natural evolution of the 54DS. That's hard to do considering the 54DS sold 400+ boats worldwide. Jeanneau has, in fact, set off a new division to focus on sailboats 50' and over.

The new moves Jeanneau is making and the new processes being implemented are yielding a higher quality product at a much lower price. Levering economies of scale across models, lower design costs with the reliance on CATIA design software and lower material costs, a base Jeanneau 53 comes in just shy of $357,000 US (landed in Baltimore, Maryland).

If we were to spec the boat, all we would add is a 60 amp battery charger, extra 12v house batteries, LED navigation lights, and a bow thruster. After year one, there is no doubt we would opt for an asymmetrical spinnaker as well. What more do you really need?

On the building front the hull is a hand laid up Fibreglass in a two-part opening mold, allowing for the recessed cove striping and hull port recesses. For osmosis protection, Jeanneau relies on two outer layers of a vinylester barrier while the hull's strength is based on a 3rd generation counter-moulded structural grid that is glued and laminated. This structural grid is also designed to minimize weight as evidenced by the numerous cutouts in its framework on throughhulls etc., which does not in any way compromise the strength.

Fred Smith, Jeanneau's local Detroit dealer, and an affable, knowledgeable and capable sailor may have sold me on an inmast furling set up. He challenged me to release my racing mindset in order to better appreciate that these boats are equipped for major bluewater cruising (where bucking the wind for hours might not always be on the dance card and where long reaches best meet the market demand). He demonstrated that by merely mirroring the way you would trim the jib for reaching by matching the same shape on the mainsail's foot (through outhaul trim) provided a very solid setup. He was right; the boat flew on our first test reaches as my colleague from Cruising World Magazine and I sat dumfounded. (Here is the basis for a future article we both thought.)

I steered for a good twenty minutes and the boat responded and tracked beautifully. The access to controls were perfect and the optional electric winches made sailing this boat effortless. Jeanneau has done an amazing job forecasting the trends; the 53 will definitely stand the test of time well. This boat will be as popular if not more so than the 54DS.

The 53 is an elegant boat. The Jeanneau team under Vittorio Garroni and Phillipe Briand has established a new benchmark in the industry. Its sailing characteristics are amazing, its live aboard space decadent and the value quotient to say the least unbelievable. The neat touches include a wonderful sliding hatch with a neat cockpit floor flip-up that contains the control lines and cleans up the cockpit, a huge cockpit (in fact, that is bigger than the Jeanneau 57), windlass controls at the helm, an expansive teak deck to die, and the bright open interior brought forward though a perfect array and integration of deck hatches and portholes. The 3-part cockpit is perfect for dining, entertaining and, of course, sailing. The unique dedicated life raft compartment allows deployment without leaving the cockpit.

Below decks the wood (or furniture as the trade seems to be calling it these days) is well done and crafted and beautifully offset with the use of both leather and stainless throughout. The flexibility of choice in configurations makes it very appealing as well; one can choose for a two stateroom version, or opt for twin forward guest cabins, or even choose a five-cabin layout with its lateral guest cabin.

It is hard not to get excited by this boat's luxury, ease of handling and performance at a price point that's going to become the new norm.

By John Kerr

To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!