Paul Fenn

The Jeanneau 64, Love at First Sight – The Conclusion (so, did we sell a boat?)

From a boat builders perspective, certainly one of the most important considerations that goes into the making of a great boat is whether or not when all is said and done, people want to buy it. In order for this to happen, especially with a big boat like a 64 footer, a real balance needs to be struck between the design of the boat, how the boat performs, the look of the boat, the overall quality of the finished product and the always important issue of the final price of the boat. Often times a boat will come along that may have lots of great creature comforts but may not sail very well. Other times, a boat can sail great but not be very comfortable to live aboard. And there are still other boats out there that sail well and are plenty comfortable but cost an arm and a leg to buy so not a lot of them get sold. The bottom line is that it’s a real art to be able to consistently turn out a finished product that encompasses all the essential elements for it to be successful in the market. But, as good as I think Jeanneau is at doing this, we never really know how successful a new model will be until it’s built and presented to the final customer. Until that time comes, we often find ourselves holding our breath and wringing our hands waiting to see if we’ve gotten it right or gotten it wrong.

Jeanneau 64 Artist Rendering
John and Kris Palmer made their decision to sell their 54DS and purchase a 64 largely based on these initial artist renderings of what the boat would actually be like.

John and Kris Palmer were among the first to put down a small deposit towards the purchase of a new Jeanneau 64. This had been done last October based on the initial drawings of the boat and a targeted selling price. Today, the Palmers, along with their three kids, Jack, Julia and Sam would be meeting us in Marseille to see the boat for the first time and either confirm their order or give it a pass.

The Palmers had been sailing a Jeanneau 54DS for the past 10 years and loved it. Any boat, including a new 64 footer would be a tough act to follow. The Jeanneau 54DS was one of the most successful boats ever produced reaching a total production of almost 400 before it was discontinued in 2009. Even today, the 54DS is in high-demand on the secondary market; a real testament to its overall design, build quality and price.

The amazing 54DS was produced from 2002 - 2009. Almost 400 were built. John and Kris bought their's in 2003 and lovingly sailed it on Lake Michigan for 10 years before selling it this past January. It now lives in California.
The amazing 54DS was produced from 2002 – 2009. Almost 400 were built. John and Kris bought their’s in 2003 and lovingly sailed it on Lake Michigan for 10 years before selling it this past January. It now lives in California.

The 64 was in so many ways a very different boat than the 54DS. Of course it was bigger, by a lot! But, is was also a lot more modern and sophisticated. Instead of using traditional teak down below like the 54DS, the 64 utilizes a light oak. The furnishings throughout the 64 are much more contemporary than those found on the 54DS. And yet, as I explained in part 1 of this 4 part story, while the interior of the 64 is very modern, it’s not so modern to be cold and impractical but is in fact, just the opposite. Philippe Briand and Andrew Winch managed to design a very modern, very contemporary looking boat that is extremely warm and comfortable. The question is, would John and Kris like it, now that they saw it in real life?

Great shot taken by Gilles Martin of the Jeanneau 64 running under main and staysail off the coast of Corsica.
Great shot taken by Gilles Martin of the Jeanneau 64 running under main and staysail off the coast of Corsica. What an awesome machine!

The Palmers arrived at the boat about 2:00 in the afternoon and climbed aboard. Watching them standing in the cockpit reminded me of how I first reacted to the boat; they were reserved trying to take it all in. After a few minutes we encouraged them to go below and check it out. The kids, ages 16, 14 and 12 were off like a shot. John and Kris moved more slowly but I could tell they were doing their best to contain their enthusiasm. Soon we were standing in the main salon and I remember the look of total astonishment wash across John’s face. This was followed by him uttering a single word, “WOW.” This is pretty much what we were expecting but to see it, is to believe it!  Now that the initial impressions were over with and thankfully positive, it was time to throw off the lines and go for a sail.

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Kris, Julia and Sam Palmer enjoy their first sail aboard the Jeanneau 64. Julia  is having fun capturing her younger brother on video. I’m just watching to make sure she doesn’t drop the camera since it’s mine!
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Bob Reed with 16-year-old Jack Palmer at the helm off the coast of Marseille

The wind was fairly brisk and the skies overcast when we set sail just outside Marseille Harbor. We spent the better part of an hour taking back and forth. Not unexpectedly, John loved the way the boat sailed and was especially intrigued with the electric mainsail winch that lived below decks and allowed you to sheet in and out with the touch of a button from either helm station. Another feature that is easy to be impressed with is the optional stern thruster. The 64 comes standard with a bow thruster and with the addition of the stern thruster, it instantly makes docking even in the tightest of quarters a snap. We made good use of both as we eased our way between two other large boats and back onto the cement seawall; Mediterranean style!

It had been a great day but no day is complete without a nice dinner with good French wine, especially when in France. So later in the evening, after having a few cocktails on board, we all headed out for dinner in Marseille. And I guess somewhere along the line, it was all just taken for granted that the first 64 headed to the USA would have the Palmers’ name on it, for sure. Anyway that’s how we were treating things because after we all were seated and the wine poured, we raised our glasses high and said, “here’s to a new 64, congratulations!”

The Palmer family (less young Sam) out on the town in Marseille celebrating their purchase of the Jeanneau 64.
The Palmer family (less young Sam) out on the town in Marseille celebrating their purchase of the Jeanneau 64. Photo by Bob Reed of St. Clair Sailboat Center in Michigan.

It’s always fun to sell a boat, especially to repeat customers. And the fact that John and Kris had taken so well to the 64 was, to put it bluntly, flattering. In fact, it was more than that. It was more like love at first sight but then again how could it have been anything else.

On we go…

The Jeanneau 64, Love at First Sight – Part 3 (an offshore passage)

As I stated in part 1, of this 4 part series, my original plan was to spend just 3 days in Corsica but I soon realized that there were too many reasons to stay than to go, so that’s what I did. Thankfully, I have an understanding wife who recognizes a good opportunity when one comes along and not only gave me permission to stay but encouraged me to stay. Lucky me!

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Before all the cameras were packed away, thousands of photos were taken and yards upon yards of video was shot. It was great watching all this from behind the scenes.

The next event in this ongoing adventure was a 3-day professional photo shoot. This may sound like something that’s all fun and games but I can tell you that there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye with lots of moving parts. There are shots taken while underway on all points of sail and shots taken at anchor from every angle. Shots taken from the top of the mast, shots taken from the chase boat and shots taken from the helicopter that had been hired. The days are long too. The photographer, Gilles Martin, wanted sunrise shots, sunset shots, evening shots and all shots in between. Everyone involved was up early and went to bed late. Don’t get me wrong, there are worst ways to spend your days other than on a 64 foot boat in the Mediterranean Sea with attractive woman on board, in bikinis no less. Still, there was some work involved here too, so I don’t want anyone thinking it was ALL fun and games just mostly fun and games.

After we wrapped up the photo shoot, we welcomed Bob Reed, the Jeanneau dealer from Detroit, MI on board. Bob had come to help us sail the boat from Corsica to Marseilles. He had also come to meet his customers John and Kris Palmer who were flying in from The States to see the 64 and hopefully confirm their decision to buy one. The Palmers had just recently sold their Jeanneau 54DS so they were well acquainted with Jeanneau and the Jeanneau team.

Bob Reed, Jean-Luc Paillat and Erik Stromberg are all smiles as start our passage from corsica to Marseilles.
Bob Reed, Jean-Luc Paillat and Erik Stromberg are all smiles as we start our passage from Corsica to Marseilles. It would end up being be a grand adventure

The wind was blowing steady at 20 knots out of the northeast when we pulled off the dock in route to Marseilles. Our course would initially take us due south down the coast of Corsica then west passing between Corsica and Sardinia, then finally northwest to Marseilles. If the forecast held true, we’d end up on a beam reach with plenty of breeze all the way to Marseilles.

Sailing the big 64 proved to be a piece of cake, even in 30+ knots of wind. At 68,500 pounds, this boat, or should I say yacht, was rock-solid and sliced through the choppy Mediterranean Sea like the proverbial hot knife through butter. For the first half of our 200 + mile passage, we ran with a full main and 110% genoa, but as the wind and seas continued to build, we made the wise decision to ditch the genoa and go with the 90% self-tacking jib. This change resulted in the boat sailing flatter and more comfortably and we didn’t lose a single knot of boat speed, proving once again that what holds true for dinghies, holds true for big boats too. A boat that sails flat also sails fast.

The wind continued to blow strong and steady throughout the night. Our boat speed consistently varied between 10 and 12 knots although we also saw speeds of 13 and even 14 now and again. The area in and around Corsica is a heavily traveled route for commercial vessels. I was thankful that our duel Raymarine touch-screen chartplotters were equipped with AIS (automatic identification system) enabling us to not only identify the vessels around us but to also see at a glance their speed and the direction they were headed. Talk about taking the angst out of sailing at night, this was an absolute godsend!

By 5;00am the following morning, the sun was on the rise producing a warm orange glow off to the east. It would soon give way to another glorious day which would stay with us all the way into the evening as we closed in on the city of Marseilles on France’s southern coast..

One of the best things about ocean sailing is watching the sun come up. I don't think I have ever experienced a prettier one than this one.
One of the best things about ocean sailing is watching the sun come up. I don’t think I have ever experienced a prettier sunrise than this one.

By 8:00pm we had our sails furled and were tied stern-to in downtown Marseilles, just 27 hours after we had set sail from Corsica. It had been a great trip. The Jeanneau 64 performed superbly in the strong winds and lumpy seas. Tomorrow, we would welcome aboard John Palmer and his family. We would tell them about our adventure and hope that they would sense our enthusiasm and fall in love with this new flagship of the Jeanneau range. For now however, we’ll simply enjoy each other’s company, stretch out in the cockpit, and raise our glasses high to a great trip. Ahh, only if everyday could be like this.

On we go…

P.S. Read the conclusion of my Corsican adventure and find out if we sold a boat or not! Read it now.

 

 

The Jeanneau 64, Love at First Sight – Part 2 (sailing with Philippe Briand)

Whether sitting at anchor or under sail, the Jeanneau 64 is proving to be one sweet ticket to ride!

Our second day in Corsica was met with clear blue skies, plenty of sunshine but not a whole lot of breeze. We had made a plan the night before to rendezvous for lunch. I can tell you that as a long-time member of the Crack of Noon Club, lunchtime worked fine for me. It had been a late night and I for one was still suffering from jet-lag so not having to jump out of bed first thing in the morning was a welcome surprise. We all pretty much hooked up right on schedule and after a nice plate of moules frites (mussels and fries) and a cold Heineken, we were ready for a sail on the Jeanneau 64. We had just cast of the lines and begun to pull away from the dock when who should show up but Philippe Briand. We quickly backed up, hauled Philippe aboard and headed out of the harbor of Porto-Vecchio. Being in Corsica was one thing. Being in Corsica sailing on a brand spanking new 64 footer was even better. But sailing around Corsica aboard a new 64 footer with Philippe Briand the designer of the boat on board? This was pretty much over the top!

The Jeanneau 64 – hull #1, carries two fixed headsails. The outer sail is a 110% genoa on an electric furling system while the inner sail is a 90% self-tacking jib on a manual furling system. This is a very nice setup where the genoa can be used for lighter wind and the self-taking jib for heavy wind and where you find yourself doing a lot of tacking to windward. Hull #1 also has a code 0 which comes in very handy on light-air days when you’re looking for a little extra horsepower.

Jeanneau's Nick Harvey enjoys a spot on the bow of the 64 just in front of the Code 0
Jeanneau’s Nick Harvey enjoys a spot on the bow of the 64 just in front of the Code 0. Note the electric furling unit just behind the anchor which is standard equipment on the boat.

Soon after leaving the harbor we pulled out the main, unfurled the code 0 and went off on a close reach. The 64 has an incredibly big cockpit. In fact at one point, Erik Stromberg and I counted 17 people on board and we still had room for more. Life on deck is essentially separated into two zones with the aft part of the cockpit reserved for the operation of the boat and the forward section reserved for lounging and dining. I did a little bit of both!

Philippe Briand temporarily lost in thought and Jeanneau America's Valerie Toomey put the forward cockpit to good use during our brief but enjoyable sail
Philippe Briand (temporarily lost in thought) and Jeanneau America’s Valerie Toomey put the forward cockpit to good use during our brief but enjoyable sail. Notice how the cockpit tale is down on the port side making for a huge longing area but is up on the starboard side. This arrangement gives you lots of versatility depending on what you’re after at any given time, longing or dining.

The business end of the cockpit is clean and uncluttered. Because the 64 has an arch, the mainsheet traveler is overhead and completely out of the way. Also, trimming of the main benefits from a clever piece of technology in the form of a Harken electric winch that lives below the mast step and does the job of sheeting in and out the main at the touch of a button. Not only does this system make handling the main incredibly easy, it also completely eliminates having yards and yards of mainsheet in the cockpit. It’s really an awesome system!

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Captain Fenn standing at the port helm of the Jeanneau 64. From here, the helmsman has complete control of the vessel whether navigating, trimming sails, motoring or dropping anchor. It can all be done from the vicinity of the duel helm stations.

Philippe Briand on What Makes a Yacht a Yacht:

Because this first sail was just with my fellow Jeanneau colleagues, it made for a very casual and enjoyable setting. It also allowed me some one on one time with Philippe to pick his brain about how the Jeanneau 64 came to be. One of the questions I was most interested in hearing his answer to was “what makes a yacht a yacht and not just another big boat?” When I put this question to him, he smiled broadly and said, “oh, let me think about that for a minute. It’s a good question” You would think that a guy that regularly designs super-yachts between 100′ – 250′ long would have an easy answer to this question but instead, he gave the question serious thought. After a few seconds he said, “a yacht provides the customer with the ability to have his fingerprints on the project. You have to view it more like a villa that is configured and outfitted to the owner’s taste. With a yacht, you have to make accommodations for the owner’s taste by providing more custom options.” “And how do you balance the fact that at the end of the day the 64 is still a production boat and not a custom boat” I asked. “Another good question,” he said. “The great thing about what Jeanneau offers to the customer, is a highly engineered design that allows for a variety of configurations and options that will meet 95% of the customers desires all at a price that doesn’t come anywhere close to a one-off custom yacht. I really think that more than the designers, more than the craftsman, it’s the engineers that should get the credit for the finished product. Without them, the boat would never have been built.” “So it sounds like Jeanneau is on the right track” I said. “Honestly, I think when it comes to modern boat building, it’s the only logical way to go.” Philippe concluded.

Valerie Toomey relaxes on the drop-down swim platform after taking a refreshing dip in the cool Medateranian Sea.
Valerie Toomey relaxes on the drop-down swim platform after taking a refreshing dip in the cool Mediterranean Sea.

We manged to find the time to drop anchor and take a swim before heading back to the dock. After-all, we wanted to test all aspects of the boat. While at anchor, Erik was lamenting to Philippe about how much it had cost him to outfit the boat with high-end pillows and comforters. “This stuff cost a small fortune” Erik said. “Of course” Philippe replied. “What did you expect, it’s A Yacht!” “Oh” I chimed in, “so the real difference between a yacht and a boat is that a yacht cost more?” Philippe smiled and laughed and said, “of course, that’s what makes a yacht so special!” I should have known!

Enjoying a cold Heineken on a beautiful day in Corsica aboard the Jeanneau 64
Just me enjoying a cold Heineken on a beautiful day in Corsica aboard the Jeanneau 64

The story continues at Love at First Sight – Part 3 when we set sail for some of Corsica’s most beautiful harbors for a photo shoot and then head offshore for an ocean passage to Marseille.

On we go….