This article originally appeared in the June issue of Lakeland Boating.
Attention Great Lakes boaters — I think I found the best boat to cruise on your waterways. And I found it in Florida! I’m speaking of the Jeanneau Leader 33 — the newest entry from Jeanneau’s Leader lineup.
This little pocket yacht comes with some very cool features. Featuring a sporty style due to her French pedigree, the Leader 33 comes in two versions: An Open Express with a radar arch or a Sport Top with an enclosed hardtop. I tested the Sport Top model, which featured an integrated electric sunroof. I find the enclosed style offers better protection from the elements. Although the Open model functions great in ideal weather, you would likely want to get a canvas top and curtains. With sliding side windows and an open aft section, there’s plenty of airflow on the Sport Top. Alternatively, button it up for AC or heat to extend your cruising season.
The cockpit seating is a mini-marvel in itself. As a standard configuration, a U-shaped bench with padded backrests runs across the aft, up the port side and turns just aft of the port dash. A hi/lo pedestal teak table is fitted between the bench. This area, however, has a metamorphic personality. First, unfold the table to create a large dining area for up to eight. Next, fold down the aft backrest to create a large aft sunpad area for multiple lounging bodies. Grab the portside backrest and tilt it down; it now becomes a headrest for the sunpad. Lower the table and add the filler cushion to create an even larger pad area.
I’m sure you’re wondering what’s next? Well, the forward backrest pulls up and back, elevating the bottom cushion and transforming the area into a forward-facing portside helm seat.
Jeanneau has created a social area that can be mixed and matched to work for any mood, group size or specific need. It’s innovative and functional. This social area keeps the party together and within reach of the captain.
To cool the masses, there’s a wetbar counter behind the helm seat with an under-counter fridge, sink and storage. If there’s too much sun, the hardtop sports an aft awning.
But do these cool features eat into the storage space availability? Not even close. On the Leader 33, there’s storage in the aft lazarette for fenders and other gear, and it’s accessible from the swim platform. There’s also storage under the aft seat and two in-deck storage wells under the table. And that’s not including the storage space inside.
I did notice a mounting bracket outside by the swim platform. Thibaud Maudet, Jeanneau Yachts’ South American regional sales director and my guide for the day, explains that it’s for the stainless steel grill. “The grill has a specific storage spot under the seat,” she says. “There’s a place for everything.”
Simple yet functional, the starboard helm has a swivel barrel seat that sits on a stand. There’s easy access to all helm controls, including the Raymarine Hybridtouch multifunction display, Volvo Penta engine monitor, rocker switches, Lenco tabs, Volvo throttle controls and joystick, Raymarine VHF and more. Across to port, the area has a footrest, a grabrail and room to layout a chart.
Down below, ambient light floods in from the skylights, hatches and hullside windows. Any issues with claustrophobia are kept at bay; there is no closed-in feeling. To port is the galley with an under-counter Waeco fridge/freezer, a microwave, a two-burner electric Kenyon cooktop, a stainless steel sink with cover and storage. The cabinets, doors and walls have a walnut finish.
Across from the galley is a large head with wood cabinetry, a basin sink and a separate stall for the head and shower. It’s tough to put a separate shower on a 33-foot yacht, and having a “wet head” is just a nuisance, so blending these two functions is quite clever.
Sleeping accommodations start with the mid-ship room tucked under the main deck, which offers a double berth, a locker and a sofa. There’s sufficient headroom on the sofa side, and it’s a nice spot for a nap or for another guest. Everything can be tucked away, thanks to storage areas underneath the berths and sofa.
Innovation abounds in the forward area. First, the “day” configuration includes a wide-open salon with a U-shaped settee, which runs across the end of the master berth. Plush seats with over-sized cushions as backrests make this a comfortable lounging area. Drop in the foldout table and you can have a full family meal right here. And, of course, the table has its own storage drawer below.
Here’s where it gets interesting: For the “night” configuration, remove the table, move the backrest cushions out of the way, and the master berth pulls out and over the seating, creating a full-size queen berth. This extends the bed’s platform over the seats. Drop in a filler cushion to complete the bed. It’s a clever way of using the same space for day/night usage, while also maximizing utilization. Six overhead cabinets, a locker and shelf storage are spacious, and several side windows and an overhead hatch add light. A pullout door or curtain creates privacy. Even with the berth in the day position, this is still a private oasis when the door is closed. Full settee seating is available for you to enjoy some quiet time.
The Leader 33 can offer all this interior space thanks to the twin Volvo Penta D3 220-hp installed with sterndrives, keeping the engines located all the way aft against the transom. These powerplants got our test boat up to 32.5 knots wide-open, with a comfortable cruise just over 24 knots at 3,500 rpm.
While underway, there was one spot underneath a narrow bridge where the water was rushing through on the nose. The Leader 33 kept her course while our navigator for the day, Capt. Tony Pedraja, remained in full control of the yacht thanks to the efficient hull design and quick response of throttle controls. There was no yawing or broaching, even as the water frothed with action.
With a sleek style and low profile — thanks to the swept- back windshield and hardtop — this is a “go fast” looking yacht that can, well, go fast.
The forward sunpad/seat is a perfect vantage point. Getting there is easy, as Jeanneau is safety-minded and equips the 33 with plenty of grabrails (especially along the house side), high railings and molded-in steps from the cockpit to the side deck.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other noticeable details, such as leather-wrap grabrails, bountiful cup holders, a large forward, single-pane windshield, skylights in the forward dash to let in ambient light below, an aft pass-thru gate, Fusion speakers, direct/indirect hardtop lighting and more. Opt for the 7.5kva generator, bowthruster, carpets, linens and other niceties.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Jeanneau has a long history of crafting power and sailing yachts enjoyed the world over. With the new Jeanneau Leader 33, it’s Great Lakes boaters who reap the rewards. Get out there and find your own waterway to cruise!