Prestige 50

This Euro-look cruiser from Jeanneau offers a sophisticated profile and clever use of space.

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Jeanneau. French name. French boat. Say it: "zhon-no," like "in-spek-tor clew-so."

For many of Yachting's readers, the name will already be familiar, because Jeanneau sailboats are well known on these shores and, for those who frequent the Caribbean, the charter fleets are rife with Jeanneaus.

In Europe, Jeanneau powerboats are very popular and, in fact, Henri Jeanneau started his company with a wooden motorboat in 1957. But the power side of the company has only recently begun dipping its toe on this side of The Pond.

Newest in its Prestige series (and now the flagship), is the Prestige 50 Flybridge. the Jeanneau design team worked with Garroni Design of Italy to draft a three-stateroom, three-head yacht where-surprisingly-the heads as well as the cabins are comfortably sized. Too often, in the quest to stuff in as many staterooms or heads as possible, designers produce phone booths too small for Superman to change into his tights.

Actually, this is a four-cabin, four-head yacht if you count the miniscule crew cabin tucked into the lazarette. The crew cabin is probably spacious by European standards, but it's going to be difficult to find an American crew who won't demand at least Motel 6 accommodations. On the other hand, it's perfect for a teenager who wants his privacy or (really, honey, i didn't think this...) as a mother-in-law suite. Really.

The cockpit is stylish, with teak decking and a curved settee against the transom, but it doesn't exude a French flair. This could be any Euro yacht, with a warping winch on the port quarter and easy steps to the wide swim platform.

But the moment you pass through the triple-slide stainless steel doors into the salon, well, wow! Or, rather, oohla- la!! This salon is sleek, supple, and elegant.

Even better, it's really comfortable. I won't give away anything by noting that the French have really figured out seating. There was no seat or couch or banquette on the Jeanneau 50 FB that wasn't really comfy.

And there's plenty of seating in the salon, too, with a wraparound sofa to starboard and a couch to port with a pop-up flatscreen tV behind it. The oh-so-trendy cocktail table unfolds for dining and, with the sliding doors opened, the salon becomes an alfresco part of the cockpit.

Up two steps is the pilothouse level but, because there are no bulkheads, it flows seamlessly from the entertainment area. To port is a dinette with a cantilevered table, which provides unhindered room for four sets of knees underneath. The seating height is perfect for unobstructed views through the wraparound windows, which are on two levels so the salon also has a view.

The lower helm is a molded fiberglass console edged in faux leather and purpose-designed to handle the standard Raymarine E120 screen. The row of analog gauges seemed alien in our world of digital engine monitors but, arrayed just below the line of sight across the top of the panel, they were also a reminder of how well round gauges with needles tell you what you need to know.

The galley is down but, because it is open overhead to the salon and the windshield above, it has an airy, skylighted feel. The L-shaped counter has a speckled faux granite top, with covers for the two round sinks and the cooktop. Here's a clever idea sure to be quickly stolen by other builders: the lift-out cover for the cooktop has two handles, turning it into a serving tray for drinks or munchies. Very slick.

The master stateroom is under the raised pilothouse so it has full headroom on two levels, with a lozenge-shaped berth angled to take advantage of the large window to starboard. The headboard wraps around into a nightstand, and the bulkheads are a mix of fabric and high gloss cherry. To port is a built-in vanity with stool, and the pop-up television is at the back of the vanity, putting it a fair distance from the bed. The en suite head is pleasantly sized and the all-molded compartment makes it easy to clean.

All the way forward is the VIP stateroom, again with a lozenge-shaped berth and another large en suite head with circular shower. The final cabin is nicely flexible, with two single berths that can combine into a double by removing the nightstand and adding filler cushions. It has a private entry into the day-head that also opens into the foyer area.

The bridge, which you reach by gentle teak steps, breaks the rules. It is, if you will, a center console bridge. The helm is well aft from the venturi windscreen, and the intervening space is used for a humongous sunpad that wraps around the console.

On the port side is an adjustable chaise, so a bikinied crumpet can sprawl facing aft in comfort. Forming the backrest for the double-wide helm seat is a buffet counter that opens to reveal a grill and a sink, while a fridge with ice maker hides to port.

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A bench seat with a tall backrest fills the after area of the bridge, wrapping around a triangular cocktail or dining table. There's open storage for a liferaft, lifejackets, or an ice chest under the seating.

Going forward on the port side to handle the lines for our test run, I found the side deck a bit snug for my increasingly ample girth. After we cleared the dock, I went aft on the starboard side and found, to my delight, that I'd lost considerable weight while tossing off the lines. I was devastated when the rep from Jeanneau dealer Total Marine told me the foredeck wasn't a magical weight loss center. They offset the entire cabin, creating asymmetrical side decks that are wider on the starboard side. Boo hoo.

The only power available for the Prestige 50 Flybridge is a pair of 575-horespower Volvo Penta D9 diesels. An 11 kW Onan genset in a sound box is standard.

The engineroom on the Prestige 50 is well finished, and Jeanneau does a nice job securing all the wiring and plumbing in a seamanlike fashion.

The MaxPower bow thruster was useful getting out of a tight slip and, once underway, the Jeanneau 50 is a delight. We didn't have raging seas for our test but, by looping back over our wake and those of some big sportfisherman, I found that she sliced easily through the swells with only minimal pounding. Running from the lower helm, it was clear the yacht was solidly built, with no rattles or crashes from the structure.

This Jeanneau also delivers instant gratification: shove the throttles forward and there is an instantaneous push in your back from the helm seat. This baby moves!

We topped out at about 35 knots and, even at a mild 2000 rpm, we were trucking along at better than 24 knots.

Whether you think the American dollar is strengthening (glass half full) or the Euro is weakening (glass half empty), the Jeanneau 50 Flybridge is a downright steal. Quick, call inspector clouseau!

Jeanneau America, (410) 280-9400; **www.jeanneau.fr**