Satisfaction. That’s what I expect every time I get behind the helm of a yacht with a Michael Peters pedigree, and the Jeanneau Leader 40 met my expectations emphatically. In addition to sparkling performance and well-balanced handling, this contemporary express cruiser blends the talents of Jeanneau’s design staff and Garroni Design to create a yacht that’s equally well thought out for day-tripping, overnighting, or longer stints of coastal cruising.
Jeanneau offers the Leader 40 either as an Open with a nicely proportioned, forward-slanting radar arch supporting a canvas Bimini top,or in a Sportop (hardtop) version that features an abundance of sunlight and natural ventilation when the electrically controlled sunroof is open, and also excellent protection from the elements when desired.
The particular Leader 40 I had the pleasure to test was a Sportop model, which I recently boarded behind the Jeanneau America offices in Annapolis, Maryland. Nicolas Harvey, president for Jeanneau America, and the company’s marketing director, Margriet Mitchell, joined me for a run on the Chesapeake Bay. Power for our test boat was a pair of 380-horsepower Mer- Cruiser 8.2L Magnum gasoline engines mated to Bravo 3XR, twin-prop sterndrives. These are the most powerful gasoline stern drives available (twin 320-horsepower Mercs are the other offering) on the Leader 40, capable of a hair-blown-back 37-knot top end under the right conditions.
The optional Axius Joystick gave us one-handed control around the docks, spinning the boat in its pivot point and moving side-to-side or diagonally with great precision. Simple and intuitive to use, even for a beginner, Axius technology melts away the need for twin-throttle/shifter experience around the docks—although I’m convinced that we all need to learn and practice departing or docking without the joystick for good measure. To be clear, Axius is only available with the 380-horsepower Mercs.
For those desiring diesel, the boat can be ordered with twin 300-horsepower Volvo Penta D4s mated to Duoprop outdrives, either with or without Volvo’s joystick technology, or a pair of 370-horsepower Volvo Penta D6s with joystick capabilities.
From a standing start, the MerCruiser-equipped Leader 40 reached a high cruising speed of 30 knots at about 4000 rpm in just under 20 seconds, and achieved an economical range of consumption, roughly 30 gph to 44 gph, between 3000 and 4000 rpm. Best cruising-range figures, computed with a 10-percent fuel reserve, went from 137 to 109 nautical miles within that same rpm envelope. Bow rise was minimal, and I never lost sight of the horizon, even while comfortably seated at the helm.
But for safety reasons, I like to stand for a more elevated view of the waters immediately ahead when accelerating from idle speed. In this case, I opened the electrically operated hardtop, flipped up the forward edge of the helm seat so that it acted as a bolster, and stood up so that my head was above the hardtop roof—a wonderful viewpoint, unless it’s pouring rain, of course.
Did I mention that the Leader 40 is a Michael Peters design? It shows immediately when running at high cruising speeds in a chop: Wave penetration is clean with no slamming, hard turns are banked enough to enjoy the sense of turning without scrubbing off gobs of speed, and downwind runs track straight
and true, while allowing plenty of maneuverability to select appropriate angles to waves as they grow. Most satisfying
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