Jeanneau Yachts 55

23/06/2023, Roses (ESP), Jeanneau Yachts 55

Throw away the box, this is some fresh thinking

Seemingly part sailboat and part spaceship, the new Jeanneau Yachts 55 just busted through the boundaries of traditional yacht design. I couldn’t take my eyes off the bubble hardtop that met me at the dock and I stepped aboard with trepidation. A few hours later, I was planning how to spend my not-yet-won lottery winnings.

With this new Philippe Briand design, Jeanneau is after a growing market segment. Too many times they’ve watched their clients trade in a Jeanneau for a catamaran despite a multihull’s suboptimal sailing and pointing abilities, so they created a cat killer – of sorts. The multihull-sized deck space of the new Yachts 55 combined with the enhanced privacy of the separated cabins makes would-be-cat converts take another look at this monohull that also sails well to weather and fits into a conventional slip.

A hard chine runs from bow to stern and the max beam is pulled both forward and aft adding interior volume. Below the waterline the hull is kept narrow for better pointing ability and the bow clears the water for snappier maneuvering. An L-shaped keel with a bulb keeps this design on her feet while twin rudders ensure she has plenty of bite regardless of the angle of the heel.

The domed forward cockpit defines this unique and very functional new design.

Dazzling deck

Beneteau targeted the cat buyer a few years ago with their Sense line which was dubbed the “monomaran”. The attempt was met with mixed reviews. Now with the Jeanneau Yachts 55, the French builder has taken a different approach and it’s a full mike drop as the living space exceeds what you would normally find on a yacht 65 feet or longer.

The cockpit, if it can be called that, is divided into three areas – the forward nav desk, the helm stations amidship, and the outdoor lounges aft. Let’s start at the back.

All the way aft on deck is a U-shaped lounge to starboard and an L-shaped one to port. Both can be used for dining or made into massive sunbeds. The factory-direct hardtop with its fabric sunroof covers the whole space like a cat Bimini which is why this model is becoming the “monocat”. The width, cover and comfort of this lounging area plus the enormous drop-down hydraulic transom platform make you feel like you’re on a multihull.

Twin helm stations are just ahead with the wheels fixed to full superyacht-style consoles rather than to skinny binnacles. Two 12-inch Raymarine multifunction displays are the keepers of the onboard information and the throttle as well as the bow and stern thruster controls are on the starboard side. On top of the port console is a compass and Beneteau’s signature tiny demi-tasse cupholders. For the North American market, they’re comical and they won’t hold a Big Gulp.

Move over multihulls, this aft cockpit has lounges that would rattle most cats.

Controls for the electric winches and the mainsheet which is fixed to the arch above, are close at hand and the helm seats are outboard where you can easily stick your head out and check on the shape of the mainsail. Passage from here to the foredeck is via Jeanneau’s trademark walk-around deck. There’s no climbing over cockpit combings, just a civilized transit forward via a gentle outboard walkway where tall lifelines add a feeling of security.

Now for the piece-de-resistance. Ahead of the helms and behind the fixed windshield is the solarium under the space bubble. It’s the forward cockpit, the nav station and the exterior salon all in one. Enclosed under the nearly transparent dodger, this doghouse has a nav desk with another 12-inch Raymarine MFD and an autopilot control so you can stand watch in sheltered comfort with excellent visibility. To starboard is a U-shaped dinette and a wide walkway in the middle creates unimpeded transit from the companionway to the transom. You won’t see this layout on yachts under 100 feet and it’s worth the price of admission.

Robust rigging

The standard fractional rig includes an in-mast furling mainsail and a self-tacking jib on an electric furler which is operated with buttons at the helms. The standard sail area is 1,420 square feet which is easily deployed, doused and reefed with just two people or even single-handed.

Our test boat was rigged with a Sparcraft mast, a double backstay, and Harken Rewind winches which trim in both directions. We had the upgraded Incidence sails including a 110% genoa with deck tracks, an optional inner self-tacker on a manual furler, a furling main, and a Code 0 attached to the composite sprit. If in-mast furling isn’t your preference, you can opt for a traditional full-battened main and 1,731 square feet of canvas. With an air draft of 82’ 4” the Yachts 55 isn’t ICW-friendly, but she’ll eat up the miles on the outside in the Gulf Stream as she flies from northern climes to the Caribbean and back.

The master stateroom, salon and galley form a self-contained mini apartment.

Innovative interior

The Yachts 55 is immensely practical for owners looking to optimize privacy. The interior is by Andrew Winch who has created three distinctly self-contained cabins. The forward full-beam master stateroom is part of a comprehensive apartment that takes up nearly two-thirds of the hull. This grand cabin has a double berth offset to port, a large head and shower stall forward, oodles of stowage space, and a square array of four overhead hatches for light and ventilation.

Double sliding doors separate this posh bedroom from “the lounge”. To port is an L-shaped settee with a triple-section table and pop-up TV. To starboard is a straight-line galley with a three-burner Bosch stove and extraction hood, a double sink, and up to four refrigeration drawers. A short island provides a bracing point in the galley although washing dishes under way on a starboard tack will still be challenging. To the delight of tall sailors: interior headroom is 6’ 7”.

The two aft cabins are completely separated, without direct access to the salon which can only be reached by going up and through the protected part of the cockpit. Each cabin has its own staircase with gullwing doors, a double bed, and a wet head. The port cabin is about a foot longer but otherwise, they’re the same. An optional crew cabin can be tucked into the bow but at 55 feet LOA, this model will be an owner-operated boat in North America leaving the bow for stowage of fenders and lines.

Standard teak and white oak wood finishes are available. Soft-close drawers, leather cabinet pulls, indirect lighting, and plentiful USB ports add an upmarket feel.

The center island in the galley creates a boundary and provides a bracing point when under way.

Performance that packs a punch

We had lovely sailing conditions but with a chill in the air, we all soon gravitated to the warmth of the forward cockpit. Anyone careless enough to leave a seat open under the bubble soon lost it to someone else. We had a number of sail tweakers aboard all trying to own that last .1 knot of boat speed and at times the electric winches ran in stereo as adjustments were made. We were 10 aboard and not only did we not get in each other’s way but our combined weight was a rounding error on the boat’s performance.

In a true breeze of 13-14 knots, we made good 7.8 knots of boat speed on a beam reach and we still held onto 6.8 knots with the Code 0 when we cracked off to 135 degrees apparent wind angle (AWA). Under the waterline, our boat had the 6’ 2” shoal keel which helped with the skinny waters of Chesapeake Bay. The deeper draft option reaches down to 8’4” but even without that, our boat pointed well up to 38 degrees AWA and sped along at 8.1 knots when the breeze freshened to 17 knots. With push-button command and electric winches, tacking was so easy that some aboard didn’t even notice it was happening.

On the way back to the marina, we put the 110-hp Yanmar diesel and 3-blade Flexofold folding prop on a shaft to good use. We slipped along at 9.5 knots which is plenty of speed to run home ahead of a storm. The engine and generator sit well aft of the salon which keeps the master suite whisper quiet.

The wheels were quick to respond and we turned nearly in our own length. As we approached the slip, Paul Fenn, Jeanneau’s Annapolis-based rep, backed and angled the boat into a ridiculously tight spot. It was a thing of beauty.

The master head rivals those in many apartments both in size and luxury.

The Yachts 55 is a 24V boat with nearly 700 Ah of AGM batteries which may be upgraded to lithium. With Scheiber-based digital switching that the company calls Ship Control, and their remote monitoring app SEANAPPS, this Jeanneau presents quite a sophisticated package. 

As tested, our boat (which was hull #2 and the US premiere of the model) came in at $1.3 million. At press time, 20 hulls of the Yachts 55 were sold worldwide and that was in less than six months of the model’s introduction. The bubble dodger adds $26,000 to the base price of $900,000 and the rigid Bimini adds another $29,000. If you’re shopping in this territory, opt for both, because they’re worth every penny.

Some risks pay off

Jeanneau takes risks. Some work, others not so much. A few years ago, they created the walk-around deck and it’s been such a hit that other brands are muscling in on the concept. Two years back, they came up with the Sun Loft 47 bound for charter. It was a strange sailboat with nothing but cabins below and all the social living spaces including the salon and galley on deck. It wasn’t embraced. But they took the bones of that idea and dialed in the concept on the Yachts 55 which is already winning awards around the world. Being different may be risky, but sometimes risks pay off.

There’s no in-the-box thinking on the Yachts 55 because the French builder has once again turned sailboat design on its ear. If I actually buy that winning lotto ticket, I know where I’m going first. 

A sliding grill keeps cooking heat and odours out of the interior.

Specs for Jeanneau Yachts 55

LOA:              55’ 6”

LWL:                52’ 7”
16’ 4”
6’ 5” – 8’ 4”

Air draft:           82’ 4”
Sail area:       
1,410 sq ft
  40,878 lbs

Fuel:                    61 gallons

Water:                201 gallons

Jeanneau Yachts 55

Throw away the box, this is some fresh thinking

Seemingly part sailboat and part spaceship, the new Jeanneau Yachts 55 just busted through the boundaries of traditional yacht design. I couldn’t take my eyes off the bubble hardtop that met me at the dock and I stepped aboard with trepidation. A few hours later, I was planning how to spend my not-yet-won lottery winnings.

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