Jeanneau’s latest Sun Fast is a whole bundle of fun, as Pip Hare discovered on a full test of the 3300 off La Trinite
When Jeanneau decided it was time to replace their popular, 11-year-old Sun Fast 3200 they knew it was time to shake things up, so they invited Guillaume Verdier, designer of foiling IMOCAs, to collaborate with Daniel Andrieu, the Sun Fast’s original architect, and the result is an eyebrow-raising punchy pocket rocket.
Sailing from La Trinité the day after the boat had secured a podium position in the hugely competitive double-handed class at the Spi Ouest regatta. I found a boisterous and adventurous bundle of fun that made my face ache from grinning at the end of each downwind run.
The Sun Fast 3300 has a bold look, accentuated by an orange and grey wrap. It’s got a high volume reverse bow, full-length chines, chamfered toerail and a short, fixed bowsprit. From on deck, the fullness of the bow makes the boat seem short for a 33-footer. It reminds me of a Mini Transat yacht, the 21-footers raced solo across the Atlantic.
Despite the radical offshore looks the Sun Fast 3300 is designed to be versatile, for both inshore and offshore racing, sailing short-handed and fully crewed. The concept was to retain simplicity, to make a boat that everyone will want to sail.
We left the dock in a building breeze, tacking our way out of the channel in 16-18 knots, leaving both of the split backstays off to allow quick tacks among the buoys and the traffic. In the flat water of the channel the boat was easy to handle, and built speed quickly.
Once in open water I found beating into the oncoming waves on the Sun Fast 3300 a physical experience, as the big flat bow slapped the water. This upwind slamming is completely normal for a bow of this design and the ride can be made more comfortable by good, active helming.
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We ghosted down the Hamble River under mainsail alone, the water slipping silently past our red hull in the grainy…
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Once I got into the groove the slamming significantly reduced and, despite beating into a reasonable seaway, we achieved an upwind speed of around 6.8 knots with a VMG of over 5 knots. As the cockpit is relatively short, the coachroof should afford a small amount of protection from really big waves.
A central console under the tiller houses controls for mainsheet and the fine-tune for the backstays – the traveller is managed using your forward hand from the side of the cockpit.
The mainsail is powerful and needed to be trimmed through the gusts. The Sun Fast 3300 is available with a water ballast option of 200lt – the test boat had this fitted but due to a technical problem we were not able to try it during the test. I’ve no doubt the boat would have settled down a lot with this extra 200kg of weight on the windward side.
The water ballast system comprises two independent tanks; both emptied and filled individually using two separate pumps. The benefit of this system over the normal set-up – where water is gravity transferred between tanks for tacking – is that tanks can be emptied quickly even if they are on the low side of the boat.
So if a quick tack is made without time to transfer ballast, the weight can easily be removed. However, it does mean that when coming out of a tack, the boat has no ballast, which in breezy conditions could be slow.
The square head of the mainsail has necessitated the use of split backstays. Managing backstays as well as everything else during manoeuvres can be a challenge for small crews, but by using a coarse and fine-tune system, Jeanneau has made the job simple. Pull the majority of the backstay on using the coarse tune, which goes through a clutch. Small adjustments for trim can then be made with the fine tune cascade system at the central console.
Keeping under control
This system also allows for a quick backstay release via the clutch on the coarse tune – essential if having to suddenly bear away. This method of coarse and fine tune is replicated on the mainsheet controls and is a great way of getting tension without needing to use a winch.
The jib uses a 3D trimming ring with a transverse track, a system that I find simple and versatile. The ring can be moved in three directions – in, out and down – which allows inhauling for beating, outhauling for fetching and controls the leech tension without the need for a longitudinal track or changing to different sheets for an outboard lead.
Tacking the Sun Fast 3300 was easy with two aboard. The helmsman can manage the backstays and steps over the tiller during the manoeuvre leaving the rest of the cockpit free for a crew to manage sheets. The tiller is low in the cockpit, quite far aft, and can be gripped between your calves to hold the boat steady while standing to tail halyards or manage sheets.
By the time we’d crossed the Bay de Quiberon it was gusting in the low 20s and we were feeling overpowered, especially without water ballast. The boat can be controlled in these conditions using traveller, mainsheet and feathering into the gusts, but this is a temporary measure only. If continuing upwind a reef or smaller headsail would have been essential.
Having maximised the sea room, it was time for the fun to begin. We chose our spinnaker and hoisted. Initially the spinnaker struggled to fill because the short bowsprit is blanketed by the jib; this is not a bad thing for hoists and drops but does mean the jib and spinnaker cannot be flown at the same time.
As soon as the jib started to drop the kite filled and BOOM! Even with my co-skipper on the front of the boat our bow actually leapt out of the water and we blasted off with some pace. The grin I was wearing sailing under spinnaker actually made my face hurt after a while. This boat is seriously fun, powerful and responsive. We sat at 130° true wind angle, playing in the waves, pushing to the limits – our top speed surfing was 14.3 knots and the other side of the bay arrived far too quickly.
The spinnaker sheets are led to the windward primary winch via an articulating cheek block and the two-ended kicker, which is on the coachroof, can easily reach the helming position. We inside gybed the asymmetric spinnaker without too much hassle but, due to the short length of the bowsprit, I think outside gybing would be more successful in moderate or bigger winds.
On the limit of reaching under spinnaker, the boat wiped out a couple of times, with little warning that the rudder was losing grip and no chance to get it back again. This is an area which Jeanneau has acknowledged is not right and the two designers will be reworking the rudders to ensure future boats do not have this problem.
Below decks the Sun Fast 3300 is basic with few comforts, but there are features to make life more comfortable at sea. The coachroof is shaped to allow standing headroom along the centreline and across the width of the cabin at the bottom of the companionway. This provides a comfortable area to take kit off when coming off watch and has allowed forward facing windows to be placed in the coachroof, so the horizon and jib trim can both be viewed from below decks.
There are two double cabins aft. Access to the rudders and pilot rams is through the back of the starboard cabin, which is quite awkward. There are two settee berths in the saloon and a heads in the bow, separated from the saloon by a bulkhead with a fabric door. If water ballast is installed it takes the place of the two wardrobes in the aft cabins.
The Sun Fast 3300 is like a jack in the box: it’s a brightly coloured package and you know when you lift the lid you’ll get a surprise – and during our test this little rocket certainly delivered on fun. I love how bold Jeanneau has been with the design and already the boat is showing promise on the double-handed scene. In essence, the Sun Fast 3300 is a small boat that is capable of delivering big thrills.