POWER-Jeanneau50250The name Jeanneau might seem new to our powerboat readers but it's very familiar to the sailors in the group. Henri Jeanneau, who was fascinated by all things mechanical, including airplanes, automobiles and boats, founded Jeanneau in France in 1957. He built his first fibreglass powerboat in 1961 and launched his line of sailboats in 1964.

Since then, the Jeanneau shipyard has produced thousands and thousands of boats over the past half-century. Today the company is part of the Groupe Beneteau, one of the largest and most successful boatbuilders in the world. Jeanneau alone builds five separate powerboat ranges each with five or six different models and boats ranging in size from 16 to 50 feet.

The Prestige range was started in 2000 and there are now seven different versions in this range. The boats are designed with 3D digital software and much of the fibreglass features balsa core construction combining light weight with exceptional stiffness. Jeanneau is now ISO 9001 certified and the company's workforce of 2,000 people produces 5,500 boats a year sold in 50 different countries. And now, Canada is one of the countries to get the Prestige line of powerboats.

Our Prestige 50S test boat is a high-speed, vee-bottom powerboat in an express hardtop configuration that includes three staterooms, a Euro-style bridge and cockpit area and a (unique for this market), “aft garage” for a dinghy. Length overall is 50'4" on a 14'4" beam and maximum displacement is 42,194 pounds. The Prestige 50S is powered by a pair of straight drives Volvo Penta D9 diesels producing 575 hp per side. The classic straight shafts are mounted in half tunnels. There are hydraulic trim tabs and an underwater exhaust system helps keep things quiet.

We think the big attraction is the dramatic styling, both inside and out. We tested this boat during the Miami International Boat Show this past February with Paul Fenn, the president of Jeanneau America at the helm and a party of three onboard including a prospective client. This gentleman already owned three yachts located in different areas including one in Florida which was actually larger than the Jeanneau Prestige 50S. What attracted him to the 50S was the combination of style and (his perception of) easy single-handed operation.

This express hardtop design with power-operated sunroof means that you spend very little time struggling with huge pieces of canvas. In the time it takes to warm up the twin Volvo Penta D9 engines, you can have the boat opened up and ready to go. An attractive feature is the aft garage because it protects your dinghy from the elements, keeping it dry, safe and ready to go. No more towing a little boat and no more arriving at the marina only to find that is waterlogged, damaged, vandalized or sunk.

The garage dominates the stern of the boat but in a good way. Our test boat had genuine teak across the big swim platform and you can step up into the boat on the port or starboard sides of the vast sun lounge with stainless steel rails and a sloping backrest. It covers the top of the garage. To get your dinghy out, activate the electric lift. The cover lifts to reveal the dinghy, generator set and more storage too. It keeps everything locked up and secure.

Staying with exterior features for a minute, we liked the side decks and felt the big rails with lifelines offered safe access to the forward deck. There is another sun pad here with stainless steel rails and drink holders. We were impressed with the size and quality of the hardware and the test boat was fitted with a Lewmar windlass for convenient anchoring. Other good features included the automotive-style fastening of the windshield and side glass that has opening side sections. The windshield has immense articulated wipers. Remember, this is a single station boat so you have to drive from behind the windshield. The huge sunroof opens with the press of a button though, and it really gives an open air feeling when the side glass is also open.

Paul Fenn explained that the emphasis in this boat was on outside living. Its most dramatic feature is the way the huge sun lounge over the garage flows into the circular conversation area in the cockpit. That has a wonderful teak table that flips open to be 4 feet around to create an 8 person dining area, all with nothing to stow. Overhead LED lights make it especially impressive after dark. The test boat also had an outside galley unit with a big stainless steel sink, ceramic cooking surface, bar fridge and storage.

Of course the bridge is fully air-conditioned  – one of the most compelling reasons to go for this style of hardtop with sunroof. On a really hot day, you can close everything and drive in air-conditioned comfort. The helm has a thoughtful angled footrest, nice steering wheel and we found the double seat well positioned but not adjustable. The throttles were located conveniently, however there was nothing to rest your arm on.

Our test boat was equipped to cruise with a Raymarine E120 system, autopilot and VHF radio as well as Lenco trim tabs, full analog instruments and even a nice teak drink holder. The companion seat also has an angled footrest and a convenient small storage cubby. The dashboard is vast as you would expect, but the matte finish seemed to prevent reflections in the windshield; the way the companionway hatch is designed not only made it easy to get into the cabin but also brought in a surprising amount of light.

Other powerboat builders rarely include a chart table but Jeanneau builds in a nice chart table in the companionway. It is six steps down into the cabin. The interior trim struck us as being particularly elegant with high-gloss mahogany in a medium stain with book matched veneers and a sleek clean design. There is a dinette to starboard with another clever foldout table, overhead storage lockers and a Bose sound system. The salon feels bright and airy because of the huge hatch as well as glass overhead and four portholes for ventilation.

The galley is on the port side. There is an electric lift and flat screen television in addition to the important galley features. The test boat was equipped with a Force 10 two-burner stove, an electric stove vent, two overhead lockers, two drawers, a trash locker with flip up lid and another excellent feature (we more often see on sailboats) – a big under floor provisions locker. There is also a Vitrifrigo refrigerator and freezer built into the cabinetry.

The forward stateroom is quite spacious with a mirrored forepeak, port and starboard opening portholes and a big hatch over the queen berth. Elegant features like side panel lighting, Russian blinds and a full-length mirrored door make this quite a comfortable cabin; we were blown away by the hanging locker; it's literally a walk-in closet.

The main head is here and features teak grate flooring, mirrored overhead lockers, a bowl sink, opening porthole and a sliding circular shower enclosure that's very nice.

There are two available interior layouts. One is a three-stateroom layout with forward stateroom, queen berth aft cabin and a smaller cabin with two single beds. It would be ideal for children or crew.

The test boat had what is probably the most common choice – a full beam aft master stateroom with queen berth, dressing table, large hanging locker, and a full second head. It's nice although headroom is somewhat limited because of the design.

When you take the helm, the twin inboard engines and bow thruster make this boat almost as easy to handle for docking as a joystick system. The nice thing about direct drive inboards is that they are extremely simple and rugged. They can also be fairly efficient. The best cruising speed is 2,200 rpm consuming 40 gallons per hour and traveling at a speed of 27.4 KN. Jeanneau has done a great job with the hull design. We found the ride dry, soft and comfortable through the waves. The tunnel drive inboards and power hydraulic steering allowed us to carve an impressively tight high-speed turn or to steer a course with ease. Most owners will find the combination of performance and economy to be very satisfying.

On top of that, there is also an intangible quality to the Prestige 50S. It has an intimate and willing personality that we think, will encourage the owner to get out and go cruising, even on a moment’s notice. And, wouldn’t that be great?

PERFORMANCE

Test boat engines: Volvo Penta D9

ENGINE RPM            SPEED (MPH)

Idle 550            6.4

1,000            10.4

1,200            11.9

1,400            14.0

1,600            18.2

2,000            27.2

2,200            31.5*

2,400            34.9

2,500            36.1

2,570            38.3

*Cruising speed

Speed testing provided by Jeanneau America

SPECIFICATIONS

LENGTH OA            50’4”/15.35 m

BEAM            14’4”/4.36 m

WEIGHT DRY            29,864 lbs./13,546 kg

FUEL CAPACITY            435.9 gal./1650 L

WATER CAPACITY            169.1 gal./640 L

PRICE (as tested, base, etc.)            $1,000,000.00 US

Test boat provided by Jeanneau America

www.jeanneau.com

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

By Andy Adams

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