The Sun Fast 3600 was consciously designed to up the ante for short-handed racing and cruising, but can any 36-footer appeal to both full and short-handed crews? Matthew Sheahan finds out
Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 on test – a multi-purpose cruiser-racer
That’s precisely what happened to Jeanneau six years ago when they created what they thought would be a limited-run production boat for the Transquadra, a transatlantic race for over 40-year-olds. Initially they produced around 15-20 boats, mainly for people who wanted to take part in an event in which amateur crews race either single- or double-handed from Europe to the Caribbean.
Six years and 150 boats later it was clear the French yard had hit a sweet spot with a smal,l yet swift and manageable 32ft performance boat that could also be raced competitively with a full crew.
Although loosely termed a racer, the category didn’t fully describe what the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200 was about. It became the sailing equivalent of the motor industry’s crossover category, a term to describe the growing range of suburban 4x4s – a multi-purpose racer.
Having watched the trend develop, Jeanneau is now dangling another carrot, the Sun Fast 3600. On the face of it she is simply a bigger version of the popular 3200 with a higher freeboard, angular chines and more volume throughout. But that’s only scratching the surface of this new design.
While the 3200 is a tidy package, the 3600 appears to be beefier and smarter all round, yet is also easier to race both short-handed and fully crewed. She is mild-mannered enough, with sufficient creature comforts to allow some family cruising too.
Could she really be this good? We jumped aboard the first 3600 to arrive in the UK to discover what the French giants had done to improve such a successful formula.
More power, less drag
The trend for hull chines continues to creep its way from grand-prix racers into the mainstream market. Whether the detail is of any practical use for many modern displacement cruisers is up for debate. But the aggressive chines on the Sun Fast 3600 are the starting point for a refined hull shape designed to generate more power, but without adding drag.
Apart from helping to move the centre of buoyancy further outboard when heeled, thus increasing the stability generated by the hull, these chines are high by the time they reach the back of the boat – just how high is evident when you view the 3600 from astern. This draws your eye to the ample fore and aft rocker that has been designed into her hull to leave the stern floating well above the water’s surface when she’s at rest.
The rocker and radiused sections aft are two of the key factors in making the 3600 a more slippery boat in light winds, an Achilles heel for the otherwise well-mannered 3200. Her smaller sister had no chines and a very flat run aft, which made her stable downhill in a breeze, but prone to dragging a lot of wetted surface area in lighter breezes.
To maintain the 3600’s fore and aft trim when heeled, her forward sections also carry a decent amount of volume helped by the chine, which is carried all the way to the bow. These and other subtle hull details are lessons derived from the high-performance arena and suggest a well-balanced, well-mannered boat. And in practice she is just that.
For a start, her twin rudders provide the kind of sure-footed feel you would expect, but without the characteristic heavy, almost sluggish sensation that often goes with them. Instead the 3600 feels light and nimble on the helm. While we’re on the subject, the twin-wheel option will find favour with those looking to sail with a full crew. Personally I’d have the tillers every time, particularly as they provide such a comfortable and secure seating position for the helmsman.