The wind blew 20 knots every day during the annual Jeanneau sea trials in Cannes, France. The waters were just plain sloppy — perfect conditions for wringing out Jeanneau’s new Leader 36.
The Leader 36 is the little sister of the builder’s well-regarded Leader 40, introduced in 2014. The builder brought both versions of the 36 — an open and a sport-top — to the trials for comparison. They handled nearly identically and very well in those conditions, thanks to the brilliant Michael Peters-designed running surface.
Pushed at high speeds, the Leader 36 knifed through the rough stuff with aplomb. As every sport cruiser should, the boat answered the slightest correction, making it easy to change direction and avoid the deeper hollows between wave crests. With the exception of some inevitable windblown spray, the ride was dry and comfortable.
Turns were steady, with a modest amount of banking and no hint of digging in, and the chines aft made their presence known with good resistance to rolling. Tracking down-wave was straight and true, and control precise, again making it easy to avoid big holes between waves.
The twin 300 hp Volvo Penta D4-300 Duoprop sterndrives topped out at 3,530 rpm and 38.6 mph while burning 30.7 gph. At cruising speeds between 25 and 34 mph, the Leader 36 showed excellent economy, particularly the 17 gph figure when turning 2,600 rpm at 25 mph. The Leader 36 got up on plane right around 2,200 rpm and 17 mph, burning 13.5 gph.
For comparison, consider Monterey’s 360SC ($375,357), which is approximately the same length and beam but weighs in roughly 2,500 pounds heavier with a pair of 320 hp MerCruiser 377 MAG ECT/Bravo Three sterndrives.
The overall design is from Garroni Design of Genoa, Italy, with input from the Jeanneau design team. Our test boat had optional teak planking, part of a trim package called Premiere, on the fixed swim platform and in the cockpit to help improve footing when wet. Side decks are narrow but walkable, with good handholds for those going forward to enjoy some time on the foredeck sun pad (which has lifting backrests for support), as well as to take care of anchoring or line-handling duties.
The sun deck (you can call it that on the sport-top version as well, once the electric sunroof is opened) on the Leader 36 is well thought out for relaxing, starting with a massive sun pad aft. We particularly liked the backrest that can pivot to provide head support or become a seat back for the dinette just ahead on the port side. The molded locker to starboard has a flip-up cover and will accommodate an optional outdoor grill.
There’s a dedicated sun lounge to port, and a small jump seat just inboard of it, which makes getting up or down to the lounge easier. When you take into account the fact that the helm bench is a single, you realize that there’s no place for your mate to sit and face forward, except the jump seat, which is a bit narrow, or the dinette. And there’s really no chance for a wider helm seat because it would partially block the entrance to the cabin.
We found the helm comfortable both standing and sitting, with a flip-up bolster, an adjustable wheel and controls thoughtfully positioned. We particularly liked the center-dash position for the multifunction device, in this case an optional e127 Raymarine with a 12-inch screen, making it easy to give a quick glance to check navigation information. Systems switches flank the screen and are easy to access yet hard to accidentally activate. Traditional-style gauges are set up high in a panel just below the compass. Slow-speed maneuvering options include bow thruster and MerCruiser Axius or Volvo Penta joystick.
Flip a switch and the sun pad rises, exposing the engine compartment. There was plenty of room to work around the engines, check the strainers and do the routine maintenance checks required before starting engines. Should an engine ever fail, it will require removal of only the sun pad to make extraction and replacement straightforward.
Descending the companionway stairs, we found ourselves in what appeared to be an open-plan main cabin with a compact galley to port, an enclosed head to starboard and a four-person dinette (with a nicely varnished table) forward, sitting at the foot of a squared-off double berth. In this case, appearances were slightly deceptive because there was a hidden pocket door that slides out from the starboard bulkhead and completely closes off the forward cabin for privacy. The midcabin also has a closing door, in addition to two single athwartship berths that can be pushed together to form a double, and a single berth for a child running fore and aft along the hull side.
Headroom in the central portion of the main cabin is about 6 feet 6 inches, ideal for a tall boater. There are lots of opening hatches and ports for natural light and ventilation, and the decor is an eye-pleasing combination of white and warm wood. The single head compartment to starboard has a shower separated from the vessel-style designer sink and storage counter by an acrylic panel, with a drop-down cover for the manual toilet creating a shower seat.
Overall, the Leader 36 offers the complete package of comfortable amenities and excellent performance, which is why it will be a great success for Jeanneau, as well as its owners.
Comparable Model: Monterey 360SC