“But don’t they build sailboats?” That was my first thought as I caught a glimpse of Jeanneau’s Prestige 42 cruiser sitting in her berth at Harbour Towne Marina in Dania Beach, Florida. I knew the company’s name by way of its wind-powered craft, but it turns out the French yard started building powerboats 50 years ago. The 42 is one of three models the builder is bringing to America (the others are the 46 and the 50), and Jeanneau believes its streamlined production techniques and relatively low price for a nearly fully equipped vessel will give it an edge.
The key to those production efficiencies is technology. While its first powerboat was wood, by 1961 Jeanneau had embraced the space-age material of the time: fiberglass. Today its interest in new technology includes CAD design and even robots that cut nearly 10,000 pieces of wood per day for boats across all lines. Moreover, my boat’s standard high-gloss moabi wood (part of the teak family) is given its three-part finish via an automated process prior to it being cut and installed. The technique resulted in a respectable and consistent job throughout my 42, which, while new to the States, has been sold overseas for a few years. And with the elongated side windows and a raked windshield, which provides a floodlight-like beam to the saloon and galley-down, any imperfections in the finish would be brought, well, to light.
All of this ambient illumination helps enhance the saloon’s layout and feel. Why? Because Americans are used to voluminous interiors, and the 42’s saloon—accessed via a sliding glass door from the standard teak cockpit—feels expansive even though the 13'8” beam is on average narrower than many of her American-built peers. (Her beam is in line with several similar-size European builds.) She makes the most of her breadth with a starboard-side, U-shape dinette that accommodates up to six adults and a benchseat across from it. This interior room does subtract from the side decks, which narrow from ten inches at the saloon door to six inches amidships. The side deck’s narrowness makes walking forward of the house awkward; in addition, the nonskid everywhere should be more aggressive.
As I watched gray rain clouds form over Fort Lauderdale while running speed trials from the upper station with the optional bimini top retracted, I began to understand the logic behind the vessel’s standard lower helm. During these runs her sharp entry and deep-V hull form came to the forefront. The 42’s solid-fiberglass hull bottom sports a design by Michael Peters, known for drawing speedy hulls. The 42 is no exception, planing in about five seconds and powering across gentle swells at 36.3 mph (WOT) within 25 seconds as her standard 425-hp Cummins QSB5.9 diesels hummed at 3100 rpm and burned 40 gph. With the boat at this speed, the 306-gallon fuel capacity provides a 217-statute-mile range and impressive 0.91 mpg. More impressive is the fact that when I dialed the engines back to 2750 rpm, the boat managed 34 mph while burning 31.6 gph and registering 1.08 mpg, which equates to a little less than a 300-statute-mile range.
But while the 42 is efficient and roomy, she has some areas that could use fine-tuning. The flying bridge’s helm seats are so low, my knees could barely stretch under the console (I’m only 5'7”). If you are six feet or taller, you may be faced with eating-knee syndrome. Yet sightlines from here (bridge clearance is 15'2”) are good forward and to the sides; visibility aft is inhibited by the flying-bridge overhang, which offers lounge seating. In addition, while the Twin Disc single-lever electronic controls operated flawlessly, the hydraulic steering had air in the lines, which resulted in slow wheel response. It’s an easy fix.
The lazarette, which houses the standard 9-kw Onan genset, offered reasonable workspace, but I could barely squeeze myself into the engine compartment, which has a 15-inch catwalk between the powerplants, 3'5” headroom, and no outboard engine access. I think even regular maintenance checks would be best done by removing the saloon dinette table and lifting the hatches beneath it.
One aspect of the Jeanneau 42 I found appealing was the one-page options list. The standard price includes everything from those Cummins powerplants to the Onan genset to the bow thruster. While some owners may like an options list the size of a diner menu, this builder believes that its all-inclusive approach makes the buying process easier.
The company’s strategy is as straightforward as the boats it’s building. While I think the some of the 42’s features could stand changes, such as using snaps for securing the cockpit cushions instead of straps that hang, less plastic hardware and more stainless steel, a transom door that drops a little lower to prevent water from washing up and over the swim platform, and improved engine-room space planning, she is a value. With a price as tested of less than $480K, my boat was fully loaded. Well, almost. The triple-cream brie is optional.
For more information on Jeanneau America, including contact information, click here.
9-kW Onan diesel genset; 32,000-Btu Climma A/C; saloon carpeting; double benchseat at lower helm; s/s cleats, chocks, cockpit stairwell, and handrails; Max Power SP100 bow thruster; teak cockpit sole and swim platform; 1,000-watt Lewmar windlass; double berth in master; U-shape dinette and benchseat in saloon; windshield defogger; 3/ hanging lockers; foredeck sunpads; Vitifrigo stand-up refrigerator/freezer; two-burner Force 10 cooktop; moabi interior; Lenco trim tabs; rudder-angle indicator
Raymarine electronics package w/ E80 and E120 multifunction displays, 2/ST6002 autopilots, and 2/ST60 Tridata displays; bimini; flying-bridge cover, refrigerator; s/s cockpit sliding door; anchoring and mooring kit
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/425-hp Cummins QSB5.9 diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF/1.96:1
- Props: 24x28 4-blade nibral
- Price as Tested: $476,000
This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.