Back in September, before the Newport International Boat show, I got a text from my older son Simon Day. He was having lunch with friends at The Moorings restaurant on Newport, RI’s waterfront, and parked right in front of him was a boat that pricked his interest. He photographed it and texted it to me.
“What is this boat? Really cool.”
I texted back that it is the new Jeanneau 3600 and, yes, indeed, it looks very cool. To get some perspective on the meaning of “cool’ in this context it is good to know that Simon is a yacht designer and an accomplished sailor, has raced his own Mini 6.5 in offshore events and regularly crews on Class 40s, including last summer’s Fastnet Race. He’s into broad beams, hard chines, twin rudders, overpowered boats that are designed to plane and are set up for singlehanders and smaller crews of three or four to race or cruise offshore.
That the boat moored in front of him that day had all of these attributes while also looking like a production boat is what pricked his interest. So, I concluded my text with the question, “Want to come on the sail trial next weekend?”
“For sure,” came the reply.
So, on a beautiful late summer day a week later, Si and I joined Jeanneau dealer Glen Walters of Bluenose Yachts —also an accomplished singlehanded offshore sailor—and a West Coast dealer with his potential customers for an afternoon of fun on the 3600.
Several years ago Jeanneau developed the SF 3200 for amateur racers who wanted to take part in offshore events for singlehanders and crews of two or three. One hundred and fifty boats later, the company and their chosen designer Daniel Andrieu knew they had hit a sweet spot.
The decision to develop a larger version with some improvements to the initial design of the 3200 and better cruising accommodations led the Jeanneau team to the concept of the 3600. Incorporating some features seen in the Class 40s that are so popular in Europe, the new design has a plumb bow with a fixed bowsprit, fairly high topsides, chines that run the full length of the hull and increased rocker in the underwater profile.
The chines add volume aft and a positive improvement to initial stability. This will enhance the boat’s ability to power reach and even get up onto a plane. The plumb bow and bowsprit both extend the boat’s waterline to its maximum and allow you to fly asymmetrical spinnakers easily. The addition of rocker to the hull, to the point that the transom sits well out of the water when the boat is at rest, allows the stern wave to breakaway from the transom at fairly low speeds so the boat will be slipperier than the 3200 in light conditions yet quicker to get up on a plane when the conditions are right.
Jeanneau builds the boats with advanced infusion molding technology so the hulls and decks are light, stiff and very uniform in weight. The ability to make each of the boats nearly identical, as a base boat, means that fleet racing will be very competitive and fun. The boats are not exactly “one design.” Instead, the concept is to have them be “development” boats that each skipper and team optimizes.
Under the water, the J-shaped keel has a lead bulb that adds stability and power when sailing to windward. The twin rudders are high aspect foils that will give the helm a very positive feel and will prevent you from losing steerage should the boat broach under a press of sail. Twin rudders give the boat the feeling of a tight, fast sports car that seems to corner on rails.
The cockpit was designed with the help of a veteran Mini 6.5 sailor so all of the sheets and control lines are right where they need to be, whether you are out sailing solo or banging around a race course with crew. The idea is to make sail trim easy, efficient and precise.
The boat comes standard with twin tillers to steer the twin rudders. This will be the choice of most short-handed sailors and racers. But, twin wheels are available and these will be attractive to those who sail with a larger crew and will be cruising with friends and family since they free up space in the cockpit.
Down below, the 3600 has been given enough of an accommodation to make the boat comfortable for both family cruising, event racing and offshore passagemaking.
In the end, the 3600 is what is often called today a “crossover vehicle”, which means that it has the performance of a sport boat and the volume and comfort of a small fast cruiser.
When we got our first look at the 3600 as we walked down the dock Si just nodded his head and said, “She looks well proportioned and very cool.”
It was a perfect late summer afternoon as we backed the 3600 out of her slip and then motored across Newport Harbor. The sea breeze was flitting and then rapidly started to fill in with dark creases on the water appearing more and more frequently.
The boat was equipped with a handsome set of North 3Di sails—laminated—that had seen a few regattas but were still almost new. We hoisted the main, which looked very well cut, and then ran the jib sheets aft and hoisted the 105-percent jib. With eight knots of breeze, we trimmed in as we rounded Ft. Adams and hardened up to sail close to the wind as we left Narragansett Bay.
The cockpit is laid out so well that even the first time you sail the boat, all the strings are just where you need them to be. With twin wheels, the helmsman on this boat sits aft and can sit comfortably either to windward or to leeward. On both sides of the cockpit, there are foot pads that can be adjusted to compensate for heel.
The main traveler runs across the cockpit forward of the wheels. The mainsail trimmer has a good seat right next to it and access to the sheets and winches on both sides of the boat; the boat we sailed was equipped with what is called a “German” main sheeting system, which involves a double ended main sheet that leads from the aft end of the boom forward to turning blocks at the gooseneck and then aft along each side of the boat to the cockpit.
At this main-sheet trimmer position, there are large well placed foot blocks and on each you have access to the trim lines for the backstay adjuster and the control lines for the main sheet travel car.
The small jib is sheeted through floating plastic eyes that can be trimmed inboard to close the slot and eased to give the sail more twist for reaching. It is a simple and effective sheet trimming system and similar to those used on boats like the Volvo 65s or the Class 40s.
The 3600 was quite close winded. An average modern cruising boat will sail best at about 33 degrees to the apparent wind and tack in about 90 degrees of true angle. The 3600, once we got the sails trimmed properly, sailed easily at 28 degrees apparent and tacked at about 80 degrees of true angle.
The helm on the boat was incredibly light and the feel of the boat as it settled into the groove upwind very forgiving. To reduce rudder drag while still maintaining helm feel, you normally try to trim the sails for five degrees of weather helm. On the 3600, this seemed to be the boat’s default setting—she was that well balanced.
The wind was gradually building, so in 10 knots of true breeze we sailed quite easily at 28 degree apparent and made 7.2 knots. When we eased to 33 degrees, choosing speed over angle, the speedo jump up to nearly eight knots. With the small headsail, tacking the boat was easy and handling the main traveler trim was made simple by the double-ended control lines.
Sailing upwind, we had no real competition among the boats sailing out Narragansett Bay; we blew by everything as we sailed both higher and faster.
After an hour of happy sailing into the building sea breeze, we had all developed a real admiration for the 3600’s sailing qualities and turn of speed. In a recent distance race, the 3600 acquitted herself very well by finishing second to one of the best boats and sailors in Newport. With a little more practice, the 3600 could have won.
We had the number two asymmetrical spinnaker on board so we sent Si to the fore deck to get it ready and then performed an easy bear-away set. The 3600 immediately took off and in the 10 to 12 knots of breeze we were reaching more than eight knots.
The spinnaker tacks down to a tack line that leads off the end of the small fixed bow sprit. If you wanted to mount a top-down furler, you could leave a reacher or Code Zero rolled up and in place while sailing up wind and then just roll it our when off the wind.
We put the boat through a couple of jibes and were pleased to see that she hardly slowed as we did so. The cockpit is set up perfectly for spinnaker trimming from the windward side of the cockpit.
With performance boats, it is always good to test their susceptibility to broaching under spinnaker. For the 3600, we tried to get her to broach by sailing at the hottest angle possible but we did not succeed. Twin rudders, a deep keel, the beamy hard chine hull and a 44 percent ballast to displacement ratio all work hard to keep the boat from rounding up.
As we reached back into Narragansett Bay, the wind picked up a bit and the stern wave began to break away leaving a very smooth and untroubled wake. We didn’t have enough breeze to get it to plane but the 3600 will sail at over 16 knots in the right conditions.
The 3600 is a wonderful sailing machine that will appeal to any sailor who loves to sail fast and well. It is designed for point to point and offshore races sailed by short handed crews. In this category, it accomplishes its mission very well. But, the boat also can be sailed with a full crew around the buoys and will be competitive with the faster boats in the fleet.
The whole idea of the 3600 is to create a fast, light, slippery sailing machine so it makes obvious sense that the interior will be simple and as light as possible. Yet, Jeanneau hasn’t gone to the extreme of offering a stripped out hull with no amenities. Instead, the interior of the 3600 is a model of simplicity that still will serve her crew well.
The main double berths are aft on either side of the companionway and engine box. These are big and comfortable for couples to enjoy. They also can be split with weather cloths so racing crews can sleep side by side without rolling into each other.
The small galley has a stove and oven, sink and a fridge. Not fancy but perfectly adequate. The chart table is functional and has room for mounting instruments, radios, a satphone and a laptop. Radar, mounted on a pole aft with other antennas, would be useful on long coastal and offshore runs and the screen would be simply part of a standard multifunction display (formerly known as a chartplotter).
The boat has straight settees on either side of the centerline table. The table has drop leaves and is large enough for six to have a meal. The compression post for the deck-stepped mast runs through the middle of the table. Outboard of the settees are large storage bins.
The head is forward and closes off with sliding doors. Surfaces are all gel coated fiberglass moldings so the head will be simple to keep clean.
Forward of the head is the sail locker, which has a large deck hatch through which head sails and spinnakers can be passed. When we dropped the chute at the end of our test sail, we dropped it right into the hatch, where one person hauled it in and quickly repacked it into its “turtle”.
The new Sun Fast 3600 is a blast to sail and will be fun to cruise between events or on family vacations. It has the legs to win offshore events, either fully crewed or shorthanded. And it is nimble and well thought out enough to excel at close quarter sailing around the buoys.
As Si texted to me the first time he saw the boat, the Sun Fast 3600 is indeed really cool.
Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600
Displacement 10,362 lbs.
Fuel 20 gals.
Water 26 gals.
Sail area 751 sq. ft.