Jeanneau Leader 36

An exemplary express.

by Gary Reich
With a name that starts with the word “leader,” you might expect Jeanneau’s Leader 36 to do a number of things well. You might assume the Leader 36 has a clever, innovative interior or perhaps a set of powerful yet efficient engines.

Specifications

  • LOA: 37'7"
  • Beam: 11'10"
  • Draft:
  • Weight: 14,586 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 146 gals.
  • Water Capacity: 42 gals.
  • Power: T-Volvo Penta 300 hp D4 Diesels
  • Price: Contact dealer

jeanneauamerica.com

You’d probably also guess that it’s packed with luxury and comfort features and boasts a sleek and sporty design. Well, I’m here to tell you this boat has all of those things. Hard to believe? Keep reading.

Sitting in between the company’s Leader 8, Leader 40 and Leader 46 in Jeanneau’s express boat model range, the Leader 36 popped on the U.S. market in 2015. While Jeanneau is a relative newcomer to the American express boat market, don’t let that fool you into thinking the French builder is a newbie at this powerboat thing. In fact, its founder, Henri Jeanneau, built the company’s first powerboat, a wooden race boat, in 1957.

Yep, you read that correctly — Jeanneau started out as a powerboat company, not a sailboat builder. Most folks believe it’s the other way around.  

As with many of Jeanneau’s powerboats, the Leader 36 picks up design cues and lines from its luxury motoryacht division, Prestige Yachts. An angular appearance and an aggressive, forward-leaning stance give the Leader 36 a look that means business, while an ever-so-slightly arched, optional hardtop and graceful reverse sheerline provide a bit of elegance. It’s a refreshing design in a sea of express cruisers that can sometimes look high-sided, unbalanced and, well, boring. Plenty of teak on strategic areas of the deck, and a white and bronze gelcoat scheme further richen the Leader 36’s good looks.

 

The great outdoors

Speaking of deck space, outdoor enjoyment on deck is a key focus on express boats and a detail Jeanneau has not neglected on the Leader 36. Aft is a sprawling swim platform smothered in sharp-looking teak. It offers plenty of room for staging water toys, such as stand-up paddleboards, kayaks or a small tender. It’s also roomy and comfortable for simply dipping your toes in the water, and the easy-to-deploy swim ladder makes slipping into the water — and getting out — a breeze. A step-and-a-half up from the swim platform and through a swinging stainless steel door in the transom is the all-important bridge deck, covered in more teak decking.

The bridge deck sits underneath an expansive cabin top — Jeanneau calls it a “sport top” — which you’d think might block and cramp things up. But simply press a button and nearly half of it slides back electronically, opening up the bridge deck to the sky. This area is where Leader 36 owners and guests will spend a majority of their time. Whether lying in the sun or gathering to enjoy a cocktail cruise, there’s plenty of versatile and convertible spaces to accommodate a good-sized group of folks.

The transom, for example, features a large sunpad with “Transformer”-like qualities. Move a few bolsters around and the area becomes an aft- or forward-facing lounge with backrest. Make some more moves and the sunpad has an upward-tilting and aft-facing headrest. Or, shuffle some pieces around again and you’ve got a completely flat place to work on your base tan. The whole assembly lifts up on gas struts to expose the Leader 36’s mechanical and engine spaces. This convertibility is something Jeanneau has mastered on many of its models, and we’ll see more of it when we step down below. But first, let’s move a bit farther up on the bridge deck.

Just forward of the roomy transom sunpad to port is a U-shaped seating area set around a solid and sturdy-feeling teak table with beefy stainless steel tubing as a support. It folds out or in to provide more room, depending on the number of guests you have to serve. With the sunpad unit configured correctly and tucked up against the dining area, there’s room for about six folks. Take the sunpad lounge element out of the equation, and four folks can sip cocktails and enjoy happy hour nosh here with a nice, open view aft out onto the stern.  

Farther forward again, to port at the front end of the bridge deck is a raised area with a curved sunpad lounge and a small one-person companion bench that’s adjacent to the helm. Some folks might prefer more seating here rather than the raised sunpad, but the elevated area allows something quite remarkable below, which we’ll get to shortly. The helm, to starboard, is situated just across from the companion seating and provides great visibility both fore and aft — even more so when the huge fiberglass sunroof is opened with the push of a button. Simply pop your head up and out for a better view.

Just behind the helm is a wet bar with sink, electric grill, refrigerator/freezer and stowage space underneath. But, as we’ve alluded to, it’s down below where Jeanneau has really done its homework.

 

Innovation inside

If you’ve ever done an overnighter on an express boat with another couple — or with your kids, for that matter — you know that many yachts in this size range often lack an enclosed, private master stateroom. More often than not, the master is either tucked away mid-cabin under the bridge deck without so much as a bulkhead or door, or designed as part of the main salon with only a curtain to provide “privacy.” Neither is a great option, if we’re being honest. So how about two separate staterooms: one for your guests and one for you, the owner? That’s exactly what you’ll find on the Leader 36, and the way Jeanneau accomplished this is really quite an innovation in design.

Remember that raised sunpad lounge area up on the bridge deck? That allows folks to walk aft back to the mid-cabin guest stateroom, which has two twin berths that can be converted to just under a queen-size berth with a filler cushion. There’s standing room back here with a dressing bench and hanging locker and the cabin is totally private with its own door. All the way in the bow of the boat is a queen-size berth with an L-shaped dinette in front of it, which provides the illusion of a master stateroom that’s completely open to the main salon. But close a couple of clever sliding doors and the area becomes completely private and shut off from the rest of the boat. There you go: two completely private sleeping areas on a midsize express boat.

The two cabins share a head with enclosed shower to starboard in the main salon, and a more-than-adequate galley is to port. Our review craft had a two-burner stove, sink, microwave and an incredible amount of stowage tucked away in strategic locations. Headroom is ample as well, and the interior feels open and spacious.

Back up under the bridge deck engine hatch — in a standard Leader 36 — is a pair of MerCruiser 300 MAG 5.7-liter gasoline V8 inboards with sterndrives. Our test boat was equipped with optional twin Volvo Penta D4 300-hp turbo diesels paired to Duoprop sterndrives and optional joystick steering. In case you’re wondering, that package is a hefty $46,900 upcharge, but worth it if intricate control and speed are what you desire. Another power option is a duo of Volvo Penta D4 260-hp diesels, also with Duoprop sterndrives. Now sounds like a good time to take her for a ride.

 

Sea trial

We ran the Leader 36 on my home waters of Chesapeake Bay during a beautiful autumn day. The twin Chesapeake Bay bridges provided a pleasant backdrop. Leaving the slip, we employed the joystick steering system, which responded well to inputs and made entering the narrow thruway between the rows of slips a breeze. Some folks are surprised when they find out that a sterndrive-paired joystick system can be this good, but they’re often as good as — or better than, in some cases — joysticks mated to conventional pod drives. We were able to make the boat move completely sideways, diagonally, and fore and aft with minor joystick inputs. As we left the entrance channel toward the open Chesapeake Bay, a firm application of throttle quickly put us back in our seats and the Leader 36 up on a plane.

Fully trimmed and stabilized against a half-foot chop, we ran the Leader 36 in two directions at wide-open throttle and noted an average top speed of about 32 knots. At this speed, the D4 diesels slurped up around 30 gallons per hour (gph) of fuel. Most folks with this engine package will likely cruise the Leader 36 between 15 and 22 knots, where fuel consumption ranges between 13 and 17 gph, respectively. Keep it on the 15-knot end and you’ll enjoy a theoretical cruising range in the neighborhood of 170 nautical miles, which is respectable for a boat this size with twin 300-hp power plants to feed.

Though we didn’t have any sporty weather to contend with on our sea trial, we did manage to stir up enough wakes with the boat itself to get a rough idea of how she’ll perform in a sea. We found out she’ll perform quite well. When we pushed the boat through a spinning mess of 2- to 3-foot wakes, agitated by putting the Leader 36 into steep turns over and over again, she broke through the waves cleanly and with little to no banging. Turning was responsive and sporty, and we felt no slipping in the turns. Also, the boat runs at a quiet 82 dBA at the helm at full speed. The excellent ride, handling and quietness aside, there was a bit more clattering of some cabinet components on deck and below than some may like. The good news is that it’s a challenge easily solved with some inexpensive rubber bumpers from your local hardware store.

As we motored back in toward the marina and I jotted down some notes, a word fell to the note pad not used very often, especially when note-taking: Exemplary. And that’s what the Leader 36 is — an exemplary express cruiser with an innovative interior and excellent performance, chock-full of luxury and comfort features. If a midsize express boat is on your shopping list, add this one to it.

 

McGard
Paul Gauguin Cruises