The first boat I´ve chosen out of my material collection of this year´s Boot Duesseldorf boat show is by far the most funniest and ridiculous boat I´ve seen in years. I was starstruck and absolutely blown away when I first set foot on in and – just to be sure that my first impressions wasn´t all too subjective – I returned the following days again. Yep, I thought, this is the funniest boat of the whole show! And there he was: Zaphod Beeblebrox from “A Hitchhiker´s Guide to the Galaxy”, laughing and giggling loudly, dancing around me in my imagination. Somehow my (surely already flu-stricken) brain dug up this character, opened a drawer in my mind and let him out.
To me it seems that this boat was either done by the President of the Galaxy of for him. I don´t mean it in a disrespectful way, but every corner from which I looked at the Jeanneau Yachts 55 this cheerful, crazy, funny and chaotic guy was waving at me in my imagination and yelled: “Come over here! Look at this, you must like this too … what do you say???!” So, let´s strap up for this first walkthrough of Boot Duesseldorf 2024.
A boat as if it was done by (or for) Zaphod Beeblebrox
The Jeanneau Yachts 55 is not a new boat to me. When I visited the Excess shipyard some weeks ago I had seen the prototype in expedition ready to being finished. Of course, taking pictures was forbidden and so I complied, but I remember that the huge – and I mean huge! – hard dodger of the boat looked absolutely intimidating from standing down below. Aboard the real yacht, it hasn´t lost its enormous impression.
Instead of a lightweight foldable sprayhood the designers came up with a GRP and (plexi?)-glass dome that is absolutely huge. The area it spans over is bigger than my home flat. The dodger is polished nicely and the glass surfaces are free of any fingerprints, scratches and marks. Of course, it´s boat show time. Underneath this wintergarden and in extension all along abaft over the stern section, the cockpit area is protected against the elements. I didn´t had no ruler with me, but I guess that the canopied area is 7 meters long easily.
The huge steering posts are a novum too: On this yacht the helmsman is in no way disconnected behind the “fun area” anymore, but rather part of it. The wheels and instruments are integrated in two large “housings”. The main winches with the lines are diverted here so that the boat will be principally sailed from here. The big “Beeblebrox”-Effect comes when looking a bit more onto these GRP-housings: They are the entrances to the guest cabins. Yep, as a guest, you will enter your cabin through one of the steering posts …
The main boating area: Jeanneau Yacht 55´s cockpit
But first things first. Let´s start with the wintergarden. The forward area underneath an enormously big one-piece bend plexi glass front windshield features a navigation post-ish “Captain´s seat”. I guess. It looks like a traditional (and extremely well sized!) chart table but it isn’t. As there are no instruments, secondary chart plotter or anything else, I can only guess what this is meant to be. But surely, Zaphod could sit down here and do his chartworks. Vis-à-vis a U-shaped settee for 3, maybe 4 persons around a dinner table is located. A strange place, but I can see its intended purpose, to have 6 adults sitting here and having dinner is unimaginable, it´s just too small I´d say.
Behind this area the already mentioned GRP housings with the entrances to the two VIP guest cabins are located. These are essentially big cuboids with a tainted plexi-door opened with a gas spring. We will have a look into these cabins later. Let´s check out the cockpit area further and take some more steps behind the wheels.
Standing behind the wheels and looking to the front, I imagine being the skipper of this boat. I imagine that the boat has the maximum occupancy of two people per cabin, making it 6 persons aboard. I don´t see anything beyond the boat because literally everything is in my way of sight. The huge dodger with its thick frame, the thick Targa mainsheet-arch, of course the swinging entrance doors to the cabins (when open) take a lot of sight … it must be a pain in the ass to navigate this big boat through a narrow channel or marina. Jeeez!
Anyway, it’s a party boat, right? Beeblebrox surely wasn´t a big navigator and traveler, he was there to turn the office of the President of the Galaxy into a wild party place. And so is his ship: This Jeanneau Yachts 55 is a boat to celebrate the party of your life for sure! Somehow we will manage to leave port, set sails (or let it be, let´s use the engine) and fire up the latest Fusion HiFi entertainment pack – where´s the cold beer?
“Lounging” needs a new definition
The god thing about those huge Grp housings is that there is a large ventilation window right below the steering wheel. So, after getting up we just have to yell through this opening if the party is on or not. Beware: Don´t stick your hand through in autopilot mode because it might get entangled by the wildly rotating steering wheel. On the contrary, ladies at the helm, from below here there may be a great sight underneath your skirts from here … Zaphod loves it!
Don´t leave me here. It gets even more ridiculous. If you found the forward half of the cockpit area strange and exciting, wait for what the designers have in petto for you on the latter half. Its lounge time, Baby! But this is not just a single or double or even triple or quadruple-sized lounging area! No, it is just simply by far the single biggest cushion-covered area I have ever seen on a boat in my whole life!
I mean, yes, for show purpose they´ve folded out and re-arranged the setup to showcase the maximum area and surely during sailing transit this all can be reduced to normal seats and steering posts, but, Jesus Christ sailor and his holy mother, what is that?!? The whole stern section of this boat bears the area of an aircraft carrier, stuffed with sunbrella cushion. How many chicks will Mr. Beeblebrox be able to invite for a little lounging here? Not to mention: Where to put these literal tons of cushions when not needed or in bad weather?
If six people are aboard this boat, the sun lounge area available is ridiculously oversized. I don´t want to think of a normal oceanic sea state at anchor. At normal rolling and pitching it must be really great fun to try and get a hold on these huge areas. I mean, this is more cushion covered area than my flat at home! Surely, a great place to throw a party, watch your kids play or just have a Cheerleader´s team shooting. Can you imagine me walking this boat? And we haven´t even taken a look down below deck. This is just the cockpit! I put back in place my lower jar, oust the Cheerleaders and lusty Beeblebrox from my mind and decide to check out the cabins.
Here, everybody is an owner.
The Jeanneau Yacht 55 has a simple, yet intriguing concept: Aboard this yacht everybody shall feel like being the owner. I think this is a nice idea to start from, because even on the big luxury charter boats, there is often just one large proprietor´s cabin and the others are, well, much smaller. For this yacht, the classic concept of a central salon from which a forward owner´s cabin and two aft guest cabins are branching of, has been thrown overboard. Instead, you already guessed it, the guests enter their cabins via the steering wheel housings on deck. No collective entryway.
Looking down through one of the entryways, large cabins can be seen. There are huge beds which seem to have close to 2 by 2 meters in measurements, which would be absolutely awesome! Each cabin has a small dressing sofa, some cabinets and stowage and their own bathrooms, sufficiently sized. I step down the ladder and enter the cabin. Full standing height and at least near the ladder enough room to move. Definitely bigger than any classic aft guest cabin could possible be on a 55-footer.
I mentioned it and it is indeed worth another remark: The beds in those cabins are fantastic. Even if modern hull design increased the aft cabin´s volumes manyfold over the years by carrying aft the full width of the boat, the volume of the guest cabins aboard the Jeanneau Yacht 55 are on totally different level. I can´t remember having seen such big beds in a monohull´s aft cabin, maybe aboard a catamaran. A small porthole makes for some natural light, there could be more, and as I wrote, ventilation is achieved through small hatches to the cockpit.
So, if the guests aboard a Jeanneau Yachts 55 are indeed lodging like true owners, what´s it be like to be the owner on this yacht? Going down the central entryway into the salon, the boat´s mid-section opens up. I am puzzled yet again, this time more because the interior isn´t what I had expected. The salon appears comparatively … small. It´s just like Zaphod would certainly have his frenzy smile frozen and wonder: Is that all?
The salon is a mere L-settee around a dinner table (yep, another dinner table) in the portside corner of the salon. Just a niche into which it is placed and it looks a bit loveless, lacking the charm and the funny bits of the ship´s details we´ve seen so far. It felt a bit too dark, clueless. I missed everything of the new and bold approach the designers have taken – a boring seating area. Maybe that´s because this is the least used area of the boat?
Because what is going on vis-à-vis the sad sofa is amazing: Look at this galley: Now we are talking! Bright, shiny and oversized, this is a ship´s galley that will surely make any ship´s cook the happiest man aboard. Rarely, again, I have seen such a big galley. The available countertop-area is huge. In fact I am sure you could prepare a full six course menu down here for all six people without having to juggle and improvise!
A bit too ambitious (I know, it´s just a detail but I find it sticks out so much) are the big ass grip handles to open and close the various drawers, like MC Hammer´s trousers, but maybe that´s something this funny boat can “wear” with pride. Nevertheless, as I roam the galley and admire the countless drawers, cupboards, cabinets and fridges, this is a cool galley for sure!
Unlike so many things I´ve seen aboard so far, this galley is even high-seas capable: Even though it´s big and spacious, there aren´t many areas where you wouldn´t be able to get a good hold in heavy seas cooking. A ship´s cook aboard the Jeanneau Yachts 55 will always be able to wedge himself between the furniture and work safely for a great crew meal. Well done, Jeanneau! So, having seen the central – rather boring – salon and the marvelous kitchen, how´s your cabin, Zaphod?
To the President´s quarters
Jo, that´s a true Beeblebrox I guess. Staying true to the self-entitled testament to be the funniest boat of the show, this owner´s cabin is as well one of the strangest I´ve seen so far. The bed. Island bed, of course, is placed to portside of the cabin put offset of the longitudinal axis. Sleeping feet to the salon, half of the room is left open and unused. I mean, in harbour, okay, this might work. But at anchor or even underway? This is crazy …
Imagine a normal Atlantic Ocean seastate, 2, 3 meters. The boat is sailing and moving – sleeping in this bed is dangerous unless no fiddles are installed. You will roll over, fall out and if really lucky hit the furniture that is on the opposite side of the room. On the other hand, if the boat sails on portside bow, everything is cool. Beware of a tack … But this rather strange layout is not the strangest about Zaphod´s bow area aboard this boat.
Looking back, you quickly notice that there are two sliding doors into the front cabin. Both open up into the salon. I don´t know the reason for this because it makes no sense to me except for a four cabin version where there would be two front cabins next to each other. In this configuration, having two entrances into the salon is another details on the ridiculous list of this boat. Neither the door at the foot-end of the bed makes sense nor the door right into the galley. A central door (and if you like, a grand and big one) would have worked much better in my opinion. Anyway … that´s not all.
The other half of Zaphod´s cabin to starboard side is covered by a huge wall system. Also, notice the big ass AC-outlet on the picture: I guess we can simulate ice plane Hoth here. Ah, wrong franchise. Anyway, this huge shelf unit will excite the ladies as “I need more stowage!” is most certainly a sentence very rarely heard or spoken on this boat for sure. Only the strange offset rhomboidal dressing seat is strange detail. Staying true to the boat´s spirit.
Questionable, again in high seas and some vivid sailing, is the decision to have the owner´s bathroom being placed at the foremost part of the living area. The up and down in waves must be felt quite annoyingly here. A bathroom near the pivotal center “sitting” on top of the keel like in traditional layouts would have been the better choice, I am sure. Also, for a 55-footer and being Jeanneau´s second biggest flagship, this owner´s bathroom felt rather small in volume and dimensions. Regarding the possible movements in the front of the boat, having such a small bathroom on the other hand is making it a lot safer.
“Is this the future of cruising?”
… this was the headline by one of the big yachting magazines recently writing their articles about the newly launched Jeanneau Yachts 55. If I should answer, I would wholeheartedly say: “Dear Lord, I sincerely hope it is not the future of cruising!” The Jeanneau Yachts 54 is – and I man it seriously – maybe a perfect boat for the most relaxing and fun waterborne vacation you can have. She is excessively wasting around with lounges, relaxing areas, fun areas and offers three huge cabins that make their inhabitants feel like owners. But is this cruising? I don´t think so.
This boat is a big lady indeed! The Jeanneau Yachts 55 clocks in with massive 18.5 tons of empty displacement. As a comparison, her “sister” from the Group, the Oceanis Yacht 54 (in my eyes a true cruising yacht) has 2 tons less to carry, even the big Bavaria C57 has 18.1 tons. There are no free informations available on sails area and such but I guess this is secondary for a boat like this. Let me put it this way …
I think Jeanneau did an exceptional job here to presenting a boat that is true to the brand´s values on the one hand but on the other hand doing something completely different, unseen and unheard of so far. The 55 will be a superb charter boat for people who seek the ultimate holiday sensations, a perfect platform for seaborn vacations in the higher-priced charter. On the contrary, this boat is so awkward from a cruising-perspective that I doubt she will sell well to “real” sailors and cruising families. But time will tell.
Zaphod would be flabbergasted, for sure!
I started my Boot Duesseldorf 2024 walkthrough-series with this boat because the Jeanneau Yachts 55 sticked to my mind from the first day on. It’s a really funny boat and surely a fun boat to sail with when underway without pressure in some warm weather with your best friends. Made not so much for sailing but more to act like an amusement park, a big playground or field to play with, she was the first yacht I saw during Boot 2024 and is by far the funniest boat of the show.
Wait, not so fast. Maybe there is another contender for this title. Wauquiez showed a model and some renderings of their latest model. It seems that good old Zaphod Beeblebrox had his 10 fingers and two heads entangled in the conception of this yacht too … is this how boats will be designed now? Well. I don´t know. Maybe it´s still my feverish brain squirting out those crazy thoughts. Anyway. Don´t panic. And bring your towel.
P.S. – Please excuse my “Hitchhiker´s”-references, but I cannot get the picture of Zaphod Beeblebrox out of my head in connection with this boat. Next time, I try to be more objective and grounded.
You might as well find interesting to read:
Aboard the brand new Oceanis Yacht 54
At the Amel shipyard in La Rochelle
Meeting CNB excellence (when it still was in Bordeaux)