My default attitude for many imported yachts, especially ones that have proved popular across the pond, is with measured cynicism. Do they really understand North American boaters? In the case of the Jeanneau Leader 9.0, it was simply an arched eyebrow, like the ones perfected by French-bistro waiters.
But the Leader 9.0 strikes all the right chords. It’s perfect for fun, for sun, for weekending, or for just hanging out on the water. There might not be as much culture gap as I’d thought, or perhaps this Jeanneau just has the right stuff. As the Cap Camarat 9.0WA in Europe, it’s proved very popular — for good reasons.
The starting point is a 16-degree deadrise hull designed by Michael Peters, which quickly underlined his skills with offshore boats during our runs in a lumpy Gulf Stream. The deck layout, based on the Leader 8.5, is a walkaround with cruiser accommodations and tons of seating space in the cockpit, plus sprawling space on sun pads forward.
But, you might ask, how do they get cruiser amenities in a cabin limited both by length and walkaround decks? Well, I didn’t say “in” the cabin, and the galley is a console opposite the helm, holding a sink with folding faucet and a single-burner stove, plus stowage. A stainless-steel Isotherm fridge is tucked under the helm console, and it’s probably worth supplementing with an ice chest if you’re planning a long weekend because the fridge would be challenged by a couple of six-packs.
The Leader 9.0 is outboard-powered, which results in a large and quite usable cockpit, abetted by the discovery by this huge French builder of jump seats. There is a very nice teak (no varnishing!) high-low table facing a wide settee with a high backrest aft, and then a jump seat flops down to starboard to make an L shape. To seat everyone, another jump seat pulls down from the helm console, making a full U-shaped dinette.
The skipper and a companion get very nice seats with neck rests and flip-up bolsters for either standing or sitting a bit higher. There’s a well-placed molded footrest, and the dash itself is simplicity, with rows of lighted and labeled rocker switches and a panel for 12-inch Garmin or Raytheon monitors. Our test boat was equipped with Lenco trim tabs and a Quik bow thruster. We particularly liked the padded “eyebrow” over the instruments to eliminate glare or reflections, and the stainless-steel-topped windshield does a good job of lifting the breeze overhead. To keep the crew from parboiling in the sun, our test boat also had a fiberglass hardtop with a sliding moonroof over the helm, all mounted on sturdy powder-coated legs.
Power for the Leader 9.0 is a pair of Yamaha four-strokes, and our boat had twin 250 hp V-6 4.2 liters for a top speed of 50.1 mph. You can also opt for twin 225s or a single 350, although I’d bet many dealers are going to outfit these with twin 200s for economy without much speed loss.
The cabin, without a galley, has a surprising amount of space for sleeping and tinkling. Looking forward, a pair of curved settees surround another teak dining table, which can drop down with filler cushions to form a V-berth probably best suited for the kiddos.
But aft, tucked away under the cockpit (not claustrophobic in the least) is a large double berth more than 6 feet in length and with stowage bins. Big windows make this surprisingly airy, although a privacy curtain might be a nice addition.
The head compartment is another surprise for a 30-footer, with a Euro-styled vessel sink and stylish faucet on a vanity, plus a shower stall. The electric head shares the shower, but it has a drop-down lid to cover it and, if you’re like me, you don’t like “wet showers” that soak the entire head. To this end, Jeanneau has provided a full sliding Lucite door to make this a “real” shower stall so you don’t splash everywhere.
Forward, there’s a big sun pad, and our test boat had deck extensions outside the two outboards, adding to the boarding/swimming area and a good option.
Underway, the Leader 9.0 was impressive. It felt solid and remained dry in spite of some leftover seas in the Gulf Stream. The Michael Peters’ hull threw the spray wide while tracking nicely in random conditions into, across and down seas. This boat is fun to throw around, and there’s a sturdy ski pole aft, so you can tow everything from skiers to wakeboarders.
If you’re shopping around, take a look at the Wellcraft 290 Coastal, with twin 300s and an inside galley but no cockpit dinette or forward sun pad (about $194,000).
We were impressed by the Jeanneau Leader 9.0. It delivered on its promise of being perfect for family fun, is solidly built, and has a nice array of standard amenities.
- Clearly designed for child safety with high coamings and rails.
- Great head with enclosed shower.
- Airy double berth tucked under cockpit floor.
- Some cooks mighty look dubiously at a single-burner stove.
- Cockpit galley adds cabin space but eliminates forward-facing seat.
Price: $130,000 (base with test power)
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engines: Twin Yamaha four-stroke 250
Drive/Props: Saltwater Series II 15.75″ x 15″ 3-blade
Gear Ratio: 1.75:1
Fuel Load: 80 gal.
Water on Board: 10 gal.
Crew Weight: 750 lb.
Jeanneau America – Annapolis, Maryland; 410-280-9400; jeanneauamerica.com