Boat Review: Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509

The trade winds were huffing and puffing the afternoon we got out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay to test sail the new Jeanneau 509, which made for fun and sometimes exciting sailing. The big Philippe Briand design was certainly up to every bit of it.

I had come aboard on the fly from another much smaller cruiser and was immediately taken with the stability and poise of the 509. As I took the helm, the crew aboard tightened the sheets so we could head up to close-hauled. With a flat cut in-mast furling mainsail and a 125 percent genoa, the 509 was not overpowered even as the breeze gusted to 18 knots or so. And because of her generous beam she sailed very flat and transformed wind energy almost directly into boat speed until we were sailing along happily at 8.5 knots upwind.

We threw the 509 through a few tacks to see how she behaved and can report that she carried her moderate displacement through the tacks well and maintained boat speed as we trimmed and then accelerated up to 8+ knots again in a few boat lengths. Philippe Briand certainly knows how to design slippery boats.

Cracking off to a broad reach we felt the 509’s real power. We were at 9 knots more often than not, which is getting close to hull speed in about 13 knots of apparent wind.

For the fun of it, we sailed the 509 back up the narrow channel to Miamarina and, having got our signals crossed, parked her for a moment on a sand bank. With the mainsail aback and the engine in full reverse we got her off again without fuss and discovered that the boat handles very well under power and in close quarters.

The 509 is a fine sailing boat that has a good turn of speed. She is easy to handle, and with roller furling sails can be got underway in a heartbeat and put to bed just as quickly.

In the 1990s, Jeanneau came up with a design concept for their boats that has evolved ever since, but is still very much true to the philosophy that the boats, particularly the larger models, should be comfortable to live aboard, have excellent sailing characteristics and be convenient for the crew.

It starts with an open transom and swim platform aft, which makes a good boarding platform from the dinghy as well as a swim platform and an outdoor shower. In the current models such as the 509, the old sugar scoop design has given way to a square stern profile with a central panel that folds down to make a huge aft platform.

The helm is divided into two wheels, so the helmsman always has a good view forward and there is a clear passageway to the aft platform. This idea really developed when the boats grew a lot of beam aft, and in the 509—with a chine in the aft sections—the cockpit is wider than ever. This makes for more room in the cabins below and adds to the volume and comfort of the cockpit, where the crew will spend most of its time in summer weather. The cockpit table, with the chartplotter mounted neatly in its aft end, will seat eight for dinner and the whole cockpit area will be comfortable for 12 or more for sundowners.

Down below, the new 509 has four optional interiors—three with an in-line galley on the starboard side and one with an aft galley. And, you can have it with four double cabins or three double cabins. You can also add or subtract heads as your cruising style and family requires. The owner’s version has a large double cabin forward with an en suite head and shower stall. The two guest cabins are aft in the stern quarters, yet they are very spacious and comfortable because of the extra hull volume in the aft sections. The saloon has a U-shaped dinette with two freestanding chairs to complete the seating. Across from it is a bench settee that can convert into a shorter bench with a table at one end. The chart table is just aft of the dinette and faces aft.

Jeanneau has always finished its interiors with fine marine-grade woods, whether teak or other types. The new boats use a synthetic wood called Alpi that has a uniform color and grain and will not delaminate. The interior of the boat we sailed was a very warm honey-colored veneer offset by white overhead panels and attractive off-white overheads and hull liners. The net effect is of a boat with very good ventilation and tons of natural light in all of the living spaces.

Over the years, Jeanneau has built many boats with variations of this layout that have proven to be excellent cruising homes for couples and families. And, in our experience, the larger Jeanneaus are excellent sea boats with long legs for quick passage-making and reliable systems and rigging setups for safety and performance. Whether coastal cruising with nightly anchorages and easy daysails or passage-making, the overall design and execution of the new 509 will get you home better rested than when you left. And that makes for happy and safe cruising.

As part of the enormous Groupe Beneteau, and now as a market leader in North America, Jeanneau has the ability to build boats that maximize the group’s economies of scale while keeping pricing at reasonable levels. This combination has made it hard for others to compete. In the end, sailors will benefit from this evolution.

It is now possible to buy a 50-foot cruising boat such as the 509 at a relatively fair price and know that you are getting a high quality, durable and safe boat that combines the latest in modern construction technology with the design brilliance of Philippe Briand and the in-house Jeanneau engineering team. Rest assured that with the 509, you can sail anywhere you want in comfort and style.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509
LOA 50’5”
LWL 45’8”
Beam 15’8”
Draft (std.) 7’5”
Draft (shoal) 5’8”
Displ. 30,644 lbs.
Water 163 gals
Fuel 63 gals
Sail area 1,227 q. ft.

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