- While the 30 and the 36 are quite striking examples of their type, the 33 looks like the best-judged Leader yet.
- … it achieves pretty much everything the larger boat does, but on a smaller, more affordable platform.
Jeanneau Leader 33
Hot on the heels of the new Leader 30 comes a hardtop family cruiser with the credentials to set an even higher standard. Alex Smith takes a look …
With around 50 models in their current powerboat portfolio, Jeanneau are not a company to sit on an established product line and wait for the sales to happen. Certainly, plenty of their boats (the Merry Fishers and Cap Camarats in particular) seem to have been around forever, but the Jeanneau fleet is in a perpetual state of development and reinvention. That’s why it was so interesting back in 2016 to witness the latest direction for the Leader line …
It came at the Cannes International Yachting Festival, where the new entry-level 30-footer was making its debut. Here was an open sports boat full of promise for the family cruiser on a modest budget. It combined a broad alfresco cockpit with four-berth accommodation and class-leading light and headroom throughout the lower decks. But there were a few issues that compromised the appeal of the package – not least a low-slung windscreen that offered very little in the way of protection, and some ergonomic oddities in the main cabin that made it all but impossible to sit down without knocking your head on the overhead lockers.
Even then, however, the merit of that boat was beyond question, so the arrival of a new 33 is good reason for optimism. After all, despite the implications of its model name, this platform is more than 4 feet longer than the Leader 30, and it’s also available either as a Med-friendly open sports cruiser or as a hardtop model. With its extra scale, allied to its uprated helm protection, it ought to be in a great position to make the most of Jeanneau’s latest Leader blueprint.
This may be the hardtop variant, but when you step into the cockpit from the big aft swim platform, it’s plain that the 33’s external space still revolves around communal gatherings. Other than a permanent galley that butts up against the back of the helm seat, all you get is an extendable dining table orbited by bench seating that runs all the way up the port side, from the aft bench to the two-man navigator’s seat. The 33 is rated to carry up to 10 people, and the scale of this seating arrangement reflects that very aptly.
However, it’s about more than just size. To help increase its versatility, the two-man nav seat can be swung in its entirety – either to lift up and face forward or to drop down and face aft, as an integrated part of the dining station. It would be good to see a pair of swing-out seat pods fitted to the starboard side of the table to help cater for a really large party at a single sitting, but for those who see social interaction as the key cockpit priority, it’s really not possible for a vessel of such modest scale to do much better than this.
In line with current fashions, the backrests at the aft end of the cockpit also fold down, one to the port side and the other over the swim platform. The intention here is to expand the lounging space for sun-loving guests – but with its tendency to blockade the port walkway, it’s quite a rudimentary concept and one that feels more like a partially resolved afterthought than a positive design feature. And there are some similarly imperfect moments elsewhere …
For instance, it’s slightly awkward for the skipper to force the folding footrest past the forward edge of the helm seat – and if you do happen to stand on its inboard edge, its relative flimsiness can cause its back to bow up, potentially causing you to stumble down onto the deck. And as for the stowage of small items, while the designers have provided a sunken trough along the dash top, there’s no compartmentalised or lockable space for more valuable gear, either here at the helm or at the navigator’s position. It’s a peculiar oversight for such a user-friendly design, but even this can’t mask the fact that, for those who like to sip wine, nibble canapés and chew the cud, the 33’s spacious and elegant cockpit does a really outstanding job.
Down below, the 33 has borrowed the innovative ‘open-plan-sliding-door’ set-up of the 36. It basically involves two cabins, one forward and one aft, divided by a central section with a heads and shower compartment to starboard and a galley to port. In the forward cabin, at the foot of the bed, sits an L-shaped settee with a removable table. With the sliding doors wide open, that integrates very nicely with the galley area, creating a casual lounge or four-man dining area. With the door slid shut, it can also operate as a private lower dinette – and although the bed is too short to do an overnighting job for serious cruisers while in the lounge or dining configuration, it can be extended over the settee area, creating a very substantial double berth indeed. True, floor space with the door shut is quite limited and it obviously takes a minute or two to rig and derig, but this dual ability on so compact a platform is very welcome, particularly when you consider how much space the upper deck enjoys.
The headroom and natural light down here are also outstanding. As a 6-footer, the freedom to move is very pleasing, but even a man 6 inches taller than me could enjoy these spaces with room to spare. As for the light, it seems to flood in from everywhere – from the overhead skylights in the navigator’s console top, from the full-height access door at the top of the steps and from the long hull windows above the galley work surface. It reflects and bounces from the pale headlinings and the pearly white cupboard doors, generating an omnidirectional brightness that makes this region of the boat feel wonderfully open.
Easy and Pleasing
Get underway and while that hardtop does limit your visibility a little bit, particularly in the turn, the use of a trio of glass panels recessed into the overhead sunroof does a good job of mitigating the issue. When the sunroof is open, the visibility is further improved – and of course, if you want a more convincing open-boat experience, you can always spec this model without the hardtop. That would help reduce the weight and expense and maximise visibility at a stroke – and with its extra elevation, there’s no doubt that the screen on the 33 would be well able to provide the open-boating protection the Leader 30 seemed to lack.
Up at the helm, the Leader 33 feels equally well judged in most other regards too. From a standstill, you hit the plane within 7 seconds, before pushing on to 30 knots in about 20 seconds. You can eke out another 2.4 knots if you keep the throttle pinned and execute subtle tweaks with the tabs and trim, but given the disproportionate decline in efficiency after about 26 knots, that’s not a game most of us will be interested in playing on a boat like this. However, what most certainly is of interest is the fact that the helm responses of the Leader 33 are so compliant and reassuring …
We’ve got a pair of Volvo Penta’s D3 220s here, and even when the seas get up in the late afternoon, this base engine option offers sufficient dexterity and quick-wittedness for you to pick your way through a seascape with real relish. Of course, it’s not a razor-sharp drive, and as a 5-tonne boat with 440hp of diesel inboards it was never likely to be. But it’s easy, dependable and (within the limits of moderate expectations) fun. If you really want to up the ante, you could always investigate MerCruiser’s 250hp V6s or even their 6.2-litre MPI 300hp V8s, but for the vast majority of us, these base Volvos are likely to represent a very pleasing compromise.
While the 30 and the 36 are quite striking examples of their type, the 33 looks like the best-judged Leader yet. It’s better designed, better finished and more comfortable than the new 30, and although you could argue that it cheats a little bit by exceeding its implied 33ft by nearly half a metre, a comparison with the larger Leader 36 shows it in an even more flattering light. After all, with its bright, spacious accommodation, private sleeping areas and convertible cockpit, this new platform seats and sleeps the same number of people as the 36. It also boasts fuel and water capacities of a similar order – and by adopting the same principles in layout, subtly tweaked with extra flexibility in furniture function, both up top and down below, it achieves pretty much everything the larger boat does, but on a smaller, more affordable platform. Whichever way you look at it, that makes the Leader 33 a very successful four-berth platform and a tremendously effective way to arrange 34.5 feet of family cruising space.
RPM Speed (kn) Fuel flow (L/h) Range (nm @ 90%)
1000 4.2 3.4 578.1
1500 6.7 8.6 364.6
2000 8.7 23.0 177.0
2500 12.7 35.1 169.3
3000 19.5 47.2 193.3
3500 25.4 60.1 197.8
4000 32.4 95.0 159.6
- Big, versatile cockpit
- Clever lower layout
- Impressive internal light
- Lofty headroom
- Easy, pleasing drive
- No storage for small stuff at helm
- Flimsy skipper’s footrest
- Shower is a bit tight
Max. people: 10
Fuel: 520 litres
Water: 175 litres
Power: 440–600 hp
Engines: 2 x Volvo Penta D3 220 DP