The Jeanneau 53 aft-cockpit, deck-saloon sloop is a production-built passagemaker with true yacht styling that BWS had the opportunity to test sail in the fall of 2011 on the Chesapeake Bay. The afternoon was lovely and the breeze light but steady at about 8 knots. With Jeanneau America’s Paul Fenn aboard, we set off from the docks in Spa Creek and motored out into the bay.
The first thing you notice about the 53 when you climb aboard is the size of the cockpit. With the after cabin (or cabins) tucked under the cockpit, designer Philippe Briand and his team created ample interior headroom by raising the cockpit seats and extending the cockpit forward.The cockpit has twin wheels, easy access to the swim platform aft and a huge table with folding leaves. There were only three of us aboard, but I am sure we could have fit a dozen friends into the cockpit without much trouble, and at least six could sit around the cockpit table for a meal. The raised saloon cabin design fits very neatly on a boat of this size and lies low enough for the helmsman to have great visibility from both wheels. With a dodger in place, the forward end of the cockpit will be a very comfortable place for standing night watches.
The 53’s side decks are wide and unobstructed by shrouds since the side stays run to chain plates on the inboard edges of the decks. This arrangement allows for nice tight sheeting angles when sailing hard on the wind. The foredeck is enormous and offers plenty of space for lounging while in harbor or for stowing a dinghy, kayaks or paddleboards when heading to sea. The lines and halyards at the mast run aft to winches on either side of the companionway through conduits molded into the cabintop. It’s a neat solution that keeps the decks uncluttered. The roller furling genoa’s control line runs aft through fairleads to a block near the stern and then to the sheet winch. This is a big boat with a lot of sail area, so electric sheet winches and one electric halyard winch would be sensible upgrades.
The rig is tall and powerful. Jeanneau offers a cruising package with in-mast roller furling or a performance package with a fully battened main that has a lot of roach. The mast stands 71 feet above the water, so the 53 will not be able to run down the East Coast’s Intracoastal Waterway where the controlling height of the bridges is 63 feet.
The 53’s non-dimensional numbers tell a lot about what the builders and Philippe Briand were seeking in the new yacht. With a displacement-length ratio of 154, the boat is moderately light but not extreme in any way. The boat has about 33,000 pounds of displacement, a standard seven-foot, five-inch keel, and a 30 percent ballast-to-displacement ratio.
Given a lot of form stability in the moderately beamy hull, the 53 will be comfortable in a seaway, quick enough to make good daily runs and stable enough to give the crew confidence. The sail area-displacement ratio is 21.2. While that sounds high for a cruising boat, it simply means that the 53 has the horses to sail well in light air so you don’t have to motor all the time and the boat will be fun to sail in a wide range of conditions. It is easier to reef when the wind comes up than to go painfully slowly when the wind eases.
With a 15-foot, seven-inch beam, the 53 is not extremely beamy by modern standards. The length-beam ratio is 2.92, which is moderate and indicates that the designers wanted to make sure the boat sailed well first and could accommodate the required interiors second.
The new 53 is a thoroughly modern cruising boat that has definitely been drawn and built to sail well. During our trial on the Chesapeake, we sailed close-hauled well out into the bay, making 6+ knots in 8 knots of wind. We threw the boat through a few tacks and found that she sailed happily in the breeze inside of 90 degrees from tack to tack.
With performance sails bent on, she would no doubt sail quite a bit closer to the wind, too. Off the wind in the light breeze, the 53 gathered speed quickly and then broad-reached at 5+ knots. We did not have a pole for winging out the genoa or a cruising chute, so we jibed our way back into Annapolis. Her maximum reaching speed was earned at about 160 degrees off the wind; heating her up a little more did not improve our VMG as it would on a sport boat.
The 53 is laid out for family cruising and the cockpit and deck layout work toward that purpose very well. The cockpit is huge, but all sail controls are well arranged for a cruising crew of two or a racing crew of eight. And, as a cruiser, the 53 will be very competitive in point-to-point events or competitions offshore. An eager crew will have fun around the buoys, too. Like most of the recent Jeanneau cruisers, the 53 was handy and a lot of fun to sail.
A 53-foot boat with a 45-foot, six-inch waterline offers a lot of interior volume for the designer and builder to play with…and they have. The 53 has numerous interior variations that can be tailored to an owner’s specific family and crew needs. Although built on a production basis, the new 53 is really a semi-custom yacht that can be personalized to a large degree.The custom elements of the boat lie mainly in the forward and aft sleeping compartments and heads.
The saloon, galley and nav table more or less stay constant as the themes of the sleeping cabins change. The saloon focuses on the huge dinette to starboard and the bench settee to port. The oval dinette will seat four and two more can fit in neatly on the moveable stools amidships. The bench settee has a fold-down table in the middle for glasses or a board game. You could even seat two more here for dinner if you have eight aboard to feed. Behind the fold-down table lies a locker for wine glasses.
The galley has everything a sea cook or galley gourmet needs. The counters are spacious and the three-burner stove has a countertop cover that provides even more space when the stove is not in use. The fridge is side-loading and the sinks are positioned nearly on the centerline, where they will drain on both tacks. Lockers have been built in on both sides of the saloon so there is plenty of storage space. Under the floors, large storage bins can be accessed through floor sections equipped with pneumatic risers.
The nav station in all but one of the iterations lies to starboard at the foot of the companionway ladder. Here, it is convenient to the cockpit. The table is large enough for a laptop, and all of the radios and nav instruments—such as a chartplotter—can be mounted above it and outboard.In the five-cabin version, the chart table and starboard aft head become a small upper and lower sleeping cabin. The options for sleeping cabins run from uncluttered opulence to “let’s bring the whole family.” The simplest and most exclusive layout will have two very large cabins—one forward and one aft—each with a centerline double berth, large head and shower. Plus, both cabins have tons of storage and their own vanity tables. For a couple who only cruise with one other couple, this is an amazing optional layout.Most families will probably need more cabins, and the 53 can come with a standard double aft and two smaller doubles forward. Or, you can reverse the plan and have the large owner’s cabin forward where there is more headroom and two smaller doubles tucked in under the cockpit.
For those with lots of sailing friends or children, the four-cabin layout has two smaller doubles aft and two smaller doubles forward. In this arrangement, the bulkhead between the forward cabins can be removed to create one larger space. A further option is the design of the berths in the smaller aft cabins. You can either have regular doubles that you climb into from the forward end, or you can have V-shaped singles that you can get into from the side. This is a great option for young friends, siblings or those two guys you brought along to deliver the boat.
The interior of the 53 is finished in a light-colored processed wood veneer that has a distinct but pleasant and very consistent grain. Doors, corner posts, tables and handrails are all solid hardwood. Light-colored fabrics on the cushions add to the effect of warm, clean, inviting spaces below decks. Lighting is an important part of the design. During the day, you have water views through the hull ports and cabin windows from everywhere in the interior. Plus, the large cabintop hatches let in a lot of light and breeze on warm days.At night, the interior can be made private with accordion shades that fit neatly behind the valances on the side windows. Throughout the boat, LED lights have been used, adding to the natural brightness and helping you save reserve battery capacity.
Great sailing qualities, an innovative series of interior options and Jeanneau’s flair for creating modern but homey living spaces makes the new Jeanneau 53 a real owner’s boat that will serve a couple or a large family well. This is a boat you could live on for a long time and sail far.
Displ. 32,926 lbs.
Ballast 10,990 lbs
Ballast (shoal) 11,852 lbs
Sail area 1,325 sq, ft.
Water 250 gals
Fuel 63 gals.
Mast height 71’2”