Cannes dishes up a F8 and big seas to stretch Jeanneau’s new sportscruiser to the limit

Cannes at the end of March, the setting for Jeanneau’s annual press event. We expect zephyrs and balmy weather and dappled light dancing across a gently rippled sea. Instead, the glamorous French port decided to dish up the sort of weather that boat testers dream of and boatbuilders have nightmares about.

At its worst, we saw 40 knots registering on our anemometer, the top end of F8. For a brief spell, the waves a mile offshore rose to three metres high, although mercifully those were flattened down to half that size as the wind swung through 180° in the space of two hours.

Jeanneau’s new sportscruiser is available in two distinct forms; a hardtop boat designated ‘Sportop’, and a conventional wind-in-the-hair Open boat. We’re normally unashamed fans of open boats, but with its big windows providing such terrific views out at any speed, and its far less fiddly canopy set-up, the Sportop was the clear winner for us. Up close and personal, it has a cleaner and more attractive appearance too.

Our two Volvo sterndrive engine options – D4 300hp and D6 370hp – gave over 31 and 34 knots, down a smidgeon on Jeanneau’s own figures but hardly surprising given the sea state.

On this size of sportscruiser, it’s extremely difficult to deviate from the standard issue twin-cabin, single-heads, compact-galley layout. And so it is with the Leader 40. However, Jeanneau’s designers have managed to conjure a midships cabin which is sufficiently impressive that owners will be torn between the feeling of space and better appointments back aft, and the convenience of the forward cabin’s en-suite heads.

Cockpit layouts can and do vary a little more. Whereas Princess majors on maximising its big U-shaped seating area on its V39, Jeanneau has traded some space for versatility, incorporating a hinging backrest which allows the rear end of its principal seating area to convert quickly into a respectable sunbed.

Irrespective of the nuances of design and the differences between rival boats, our guess is that Jeanneau has Bavaria firmly in its sights. Excluding VAT, you can pick up the Leader 40 for around £183,000 – value for money indeed.

All the boats I have driven with hulls penned by US designer Michael Peters have been very impressive indeed. So keep an eye out for our forthcoming full test report on the Leader 40 to find out how Jeanneau’s new baby sportscruiser handled the Riviera’s strong winds and big seas.

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