Satisfaction. That’s what I expect every time I get behind the helm of a
yacht with a Michael Peters pedigree, and the Jeanneau Leader 40 met
my expectations emphatically. In addition to sparkling performance
and well-balanced handling, this contemporary express cruiser blends
the talents of Jeanneau’s design staff and Garroni Design to create a
yacht that’s equally well thought out for day-tripping, overnighting, or
longer stints of coastal cruising.
Jeanneau offers the Leader 40 either as an Open with a nicely proportioned, forward-slanting radar arch supporting a canvas Bimini top,
or in a Sportop (hardtop) version that features an abundance of sunlight
and natural ventilation when the electrically controlled sunroof
is open, and also excellent protection from the elements when desired.
The particular Leader 40 I had the pleasure to test was a Sportop model, which I recently boarded behind the Jeanneau America offices
in Annapolis, Maryland. Nicolas Harvey, president for Jeanneau
America, and the company’s marketing director, Margriet
Mitchell, joined me for a run on the Chesapeake Bay.
Power for our test boat was a pair of 380-horsepower Mer-
Cruiser 8.2L Magnum gasoline engines mated to Bravo 3XR, twin-prop sterndrives. These are the most powerful gasoline stern drives available (twin 320-horsepower Mercs are the other offering) on the Leader 40, capable of a hair-blown-back 37-knot top end under the right conditions.
The optional Axius Joystick gave us one-handed control
around the docks, spinning the boat in its pivot point and
moving side-to-side or diagonally with great precision. Simple
and intuitive to use, even for a beginner, Axius technology
melts away the need for twin-throttle/shifter experience
around the docks—although I’m convinced that we all need
to learn and practice departing or docking without the joystick
for good measure. To be clear, Axius is only available
with the 380-horsepower Mercs.
For those desiring diesel, the boat can be ordered with
twin 300-horsepower Volvo Penta D4s mated to Duoprop
outdrives, either with or without Volvo’s joystick technology,
or a pair of 370-horsepower Volvo Penta D6s with joystick
From a standing start, the MerCruiser-equipped Leader
40 reached a high cruising speed of 30 knots at about 4000
rpm in just under 20 seconds, and achieved an economical
range of consumption, roughly 30 gph to 44 gph, between
3000 and 4000 rpm. Best cruising-range figures, computed
with a 10-percent fuel reserve, went from 137 to 109 nautical
miles within that same rpm envelope. Bow rise was minimal,
and I never lost sight of the horizon, even while comfortably
seated at the helm.
But for safety reasons, I like to stand for a more elevated
view of the waters immediately ahead when accelerating from
idle speed. In this case, I opened the electrically operated
hardtop, flipped up the forward edge of the helm seat so that
it acted as a bolster, and stood up so that my head was above
the hardtop roof—a wonderful viewpoint, unless it’s pouring
rain, of course.
Did I mention that the Leader 40 is a Michael Peters design?
It shows immediately when running at high cruising speeds
in a chop: Wave penetration is clean with no slamming, hard
turns are banked enough to enjoy the sense of turning without
scrubbing off gobs of speed, and downwind runs track straight
and true, while allowing plenty of maneuverability to select appropriate
angles to waves as they grow. Most satisfying