In France, sailing and boating qualify as national pastimes almost on a par with soccer — and the sports heroes (and heroines) are oftentimes sailors. The French always do an exceptional job of designing boats to be supremely functional as well as stylish but with safety always in mind. Superb handholds are everywhere they should be, and stuff just works. You’ll also find little unused dead space. However, many American boaters have been slow to embrace Euro styling. Jeanneau has done a remarkable job incorporating features that precious few American boats offer and has wrapped them in a package much more suited to the colonists’ tastes.
Jeanneau’s NC11 is rife with enough innovations to make it difficult to determine direct competitors. For example, lots of boats have an island berth in the forward stateroom. But the NC11’s berth pulls aft to give greater length while in use, then pushes forward when not in use to provide added moving-around room. Port lights on both sides plus an overhead hatch allow in a flood of ambient light.
To starboard, a guest compartment berth extends aft beneath the salon. Yes, you’ll need to kneel to access this space, but it’s quite long and easily transforms into a large queen berth. This cabin also sports port lights that open for air circulation. And with your head forward, you needn’t worry about claustrophobia in the least with more than 6 feet of headroom above you.
Opposite is the head. This boasts beautiful European fittings, a VacuFlush head, lots of stowage, and a separate shower stall that even accommodates people of stately stature.
A few steps up to the main cabin leads you to the portside helm. We like that the helm layout provides enough space to easily mount a large multifunction display, in addition to a VHF along with other electronics. Though the large space under the windscreen won’t function well for paper-chart navigation due to its angle, it certainly makes cleaning the inside of the windscreen easy. The wide seat boasts a flip-up bolster so you can sit or stand. Our favorite helm/salon feature is the huge opening convertible top; press a button and you might as well be in a 36-foot dual console.
Standard power for the NC11 consists of twin 200 hp Volvo Penta D3 diesels coupled to sterndrives. Optional joystick control for easy close-quarters maneuvering and docking was installed at the helm of our test boat. There is a mostly unobstructed view all the way around, though we discovered a minor visibility issue aft when the cockpit sunshade was deployed.You'll need to duck your head to see aft.
A sliding door by the helm allows instant access to the side deck. Step through to see a unique and functional design element: The starboard-side deck is wider than the portside deck, making fore-and-aft movement much easier and safer. Once forward, choose from a large sun pad or a bow seat while enjoying the sunset and lazily watching the mate haul the anchor with the recessed Lewmar windlass.
Jeanneau incorporated numerous multifunction design features. For example, the wide guest seat facing forward lets you flip over the seat back, converting it to seating for three at the salon table. The mirror-image aft seat for the table also has a seat back that can be flipped, turning it into an aft-facing seat just inside the wide-open cockpit doors. These sliding doors open partially or completely in multiple ways for flexible access. Not enough flexibility for you? Then fold down both salon table seats and you have a comfortable queen berth — multitasking at its best!
The amount of stowage in the salon impresses as well, with stowage compartments on both sides in addition to the galley and the hidden jack-in-the-box TV that rises up on rams when you push a button.
In the cockpit, a substantial water-chest space under the forward end covered by a handsome teak grate ensures that any water entering the cockpit stands no chance of lingering. A large centerline aft cockpit seat provides storage but also moves on tracks, letting you choose to have more cockpit space or a swim platform — brilliant! Finally, between the cockpit and the salon, we discovered excellent engine-room access.
Shopping? Sea Ray’s Sundancer 350 Coupe is a high-line cruiser offered with diesel sterndrive power ($478,233 with twin Mercury 370 Diesel TDI SeaCore 4.2L T3 Bravo IIIXR with Axius joystick).
We admit to being traditionalists when it comes to yacht design, but the NC11 just strikes a blow for innovative aesthetics and function.
* Boat features multifunction furniture throughout.
* Huge convertible top brings the outside in.
* Unique side-deck design is a winner.
* Visibility aft is compromised when the sunshade is deployed.
Price: $337,400 (base); $445,000 (as tested)
Available Power: Sterndrive
How We Tested
Engines: Twin 200 hp Volvo Penta D3 diesel sterndrives
Props: F5 stainless-steel DuoProp propsets
Gear Ratio: 1.95:1
Fuel Load: 100 gal.
Water on Board: 66 gal.
Crew Weight: 780 lb.
Jeanneau America - Annapolis, Maryland; 410-280-9400; jeanneauamerica.com