- It manages to pack a lot of recreational usability into its open deck, without critically compromising the performance.
- It handles well, and although its top speed is modest, the manner in which it gets there is commendable.
- For a fully featured cruising machine, the Leader 30 offers a remarkably rewarding drive.
Jeanneau Leader 30
Alex Smith investigates the new entry point to Jeanneau’s family cruiser line.
Jeanneau’s established Leader line of inboard family cruisers was designed to combine clever layouts and bright spaces with a useful dose of sporting ability. Until the end of 2016, there were just three boats in that fleet – the 36, the 40 and the 46 – but they have now been joined by a pair of new models in the form of the 30 and the 33. And what is particularly interesting about the 30 is that, while it obeys the established blueprint in a great many ways, this smallest Leader is in fact the only open craft in the line.
As you would expect, Jeanneau have tried to make the very best use of the 30’s open configuration with a cockpit that plays to its unique strengths. A starboard walkway leads you from the big aft swim platform into a cockpit dominated by an enormous dining station that runs all the way along the port side, from the aft bench to the navigator’s seat. The navigator’s position itself is also neatly arranged for al fresco duties. It uses a pair of seats, one facing permanently aft with its backrest mounted against the console mouldings, and the other with a swinging backrest, enabling you either to join the rest of the diners or to face forward and join the skipper.
It’s a very effective solution, but the table stanchion on the test boat, which is angled to help avoid knocking into your knees, is a rigid one-dimensional affair, capable of nothing beyond its basic job. You can’t lower it to slot the table into the gap and you can’t remove it because it’s screwed down to the deck. As a result, what ought to be a convertible space with a sunbathing area covering perhaps 60% of the cockpit is nothing more or less than a place to eat and drink. However, I am assured that a telescopic table leg is available – and it’s certainly an option you should take. With that in place, you can either convert the whole space into a lounging platform or you can fold the two aft backrests out to create a smaller sun pad, without unduly disrupting any of the diners.
Further aft, the big swim platform is the best part of 4 feet long, and you can also take advantage of that with an optional barbecue to help generate another open-air entertainment option. And the practicalities are well handled too. The storage beneath the aft bench is large enough for a compact dinghy and is accessible both from the swim platform and from the cockpit; and there’s also ample space in the locker beneath the table brace for a generator.
It’s not perfect, of course. The step to take you up onto the port walkway is a tiny device, recessed into a precipitous moulding – and if the bimini happens to be erected, one of the supporting straps is tethered to a steel D-ring, directly in your path. But there’s no doubt that, with the telescopic table leg and the aft barbecue in place, the Leader 30 does a very adept job of maximising its own fair-weather potential.
Lofty, Bright and Great Value
Step down below and you find yourself at the hub of a three-section layout. Ahead of you, in the V of the bow, is a dining area that converts into the main double berth. This can be cordoned off by means of a curtain from the central area, where an enclosed heads and shower compartment to starboard leaves plenty of space for a port galley and access to the cockpit steps. The third section, accessed via a full-height door on the port side, is the guest double. This runs transversely beneath the cockpit sole and offers a useful changing area, plus a bench and storage spaces, beneath the swollen mouldings on the cockpit’s port side.
It’s a very efficient arrangement for a boat of this size, but what’s really striking down here is the vertical space and the amount of natural light. There is easy standing headroom both in the heads compartment and in the galley area; and the integration of flush overhead glass panels in the navigator’s console, allied to additional windows running fore and aft above the shelving units and work surfaces, means light bounces off the pale woods and the pearly white cupboard doors in almost omnidirectional fashion.
The absence of a bulkhead to divide off the forward space from the galley is also quite helpful in this regard. And while ‘open plan’ is not for everyone on a family cruiser, it’s not a problem here. On the contrary, it helps improve integration between the lower deck’s communal areas during the day – and when the time comes to bed down, the use of the dividing curtain, the guest door and the physical partition of the central galley area creates a very decent level of privacy when your kids or a second couple are staying on board.
However, there are a few design issues that compromise the excellence of this space. In the main dinette, for instance, the seat bases are too deep and the backrests are too low, too soft and too distant. It makes it very difficult to lounge down here in comfort, particularly as the optional overhead lockers, which orbit the space, have a habit of digging you in the back of the neck with their lower edge. The lockers themselves also open the wrong way, with lids that hinge down rather than up, which makes them more prone to collaborating with gravity on a lumpy passage and falling open. The finish also feels a bit careless in parts – and while the guest double is neatly arranged, with a compact fore-and-aft settee and room to get changed without smacking your elbows on bulkheads and getting trapped in your own jumper, there’s no doubt that it would benefit from a hull window at the head of the bed. There’s plenty of space to insert one, so I can only imagine it’s one of those areas where budgetary constraints have compelled the builder to stop short.
Wind in the Hair (Whether You Like It or Not)
The Leader 30 uses a very low screen. It’s possible that the designers have again chosen this route in a bid to maximise the boat’s appeal as an open platform – and in some respects, it works well. It makes the boat look a little more dynamic, it gives you the ‘wind-in-the-hair’ experience of an authentic open boat and, for those over 5 foot 10, it provides great visibility all round. But for use in northern European waters, that persistent blast of sea air in the face, whether seated, leaning against the bolster or standing, would become quite tiresome over time. If you’re between 5 foot 6 and 5 foot 10, that low rim also invades the eyeline, hovering on or around the horizon – and because there’s no height adjustability on the seat, there’s no easy way to dial that out.
Even so, the helm position is very well arranged, with plenty of support and an ergonomically satisfying arrangement of controls. And, while the seas off Cannes were almost mirror calm during our test, the handling also felt very well sorted. The transition to the plane is achieved in a shade over 5 seconds, and 29.5 knots takes just 17 seconds from a standstill. The outright top end of 30.8 knots takes another 20 seconds or so of careful trim and throttle manipulation to achieve, but given that you hit optimum efficiency at around 25 knots, you’re unlikely to care about eking out that last knot or two.
Now of course, 30 knots is not especially quick for a sports boat, but it says very good things about the Leader 30 that wide-open throttle feels much the same as a gentle 20-knot cruise. She turns with laudable heel, grips at the prop, even when pushed hard with generous trim and an armful of lock, and her attitude indicates a weight distribution that is very well judged. Despite the enormous dining station to port of the cockpit, the navigator’s convertible set-up also makes you feel very much included in the party. Yes, the skipper is plagued by persistent wind in the face, but for a fully featured cruising machine, the Leader 30 offers a remarkably rewarding drive.
The Leader 30 is first and foremost a cruiser. That shows in the remarkable generosity of headroom and natural light down below, and in its capacity to sleep as many as six people. And yet it also manages to pack a lot of recreational usability into its open deck, without critically compromising the performance. It handles well, and although its top speed is modest, the manner in which it gets there is commendable.
My only real concern revolves around the uncomfortable lower dinette and the exposed helm. On a family cruiser, they can feel like big issues, so if you can afford to increase your budget by around 35%, I would take a look at the new Leader 33. In addition to eradicating every issue I’ve raised about the 30, it offers uprated performance, better space, a more user-friendly experience and an improved quality of finish. Certainly, the Leader 30 is a very credible family cruiser in its own right, but by taking the Leader blueprint and maximising its core strengths, the new 33 looks like the standout winner in the fleet.
- Composed performance
- Remarkable headroom down below
- Impressive light management
- Useful guest cabin
- Helm exposed to the elements
- Uncomfortable seats in main dinette
- Rudimentary finish in parts
- RPM Speed (kn) Fuel flow (l/h) Range (nm @ 90%)
- 650 (idle) 4.1 2.4 461.3
- 1000 5.4 2.7 540.0
- 1500 7.3 8.4 234.7
- 2000 9.2 19.0 130.7
- 2500 15.8 30.1 141.7
- 3000 23.6 39.1 163.0
- 3500 29.8 53.0 151.8
- 3600 30.8 57.0 145.9
- LOA: 9.23m
- Beam: 2.98m
- Weight: 3700 kg
- Fuel capacity: 300 litres
- Freshwater capacity: 100 litres
- People capacity: 9
- Power: Petrol or diesel, single or twin
- Engine: Volvo Penta D4 300
- From $120,000 plus taxes