Light, nimble and exceedingly quick, the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 was clearly a labor of love for the major-domos of the French builder, all of whom love to race. As the project came to fruition, marketing director Erik Stromberg actually had a canting mock-up of the yacht in his office, and between meetings with his colleagues they'd fuss with the deck layouts and other details — just a bunch of big boys playing with boats. If you love sailing, you'll see that they came up with something pretty darn special.
French naval architect Daniel Andrieu was ultimately tasked with merging the ideas into an actual design, and with its hard chine, open transom, broad beam and low coachroof, the 3600's overall look is strictly business. Thanks to its vacuum-bagged, resin-infused layup and minimalist interior (though there are two very comfortable aft cabins), the 36-foot-10-inch hull displaces a mere 10,000 pounds, give or take a few.
Our 2015 Boat of the Year judges, who sailed the boat on Chesapeake Bay last fall, toppled head over heels for it. It didn't win the top prize in the Cruiser/Racer division (the Salona 44 did), but if this weren't Cruising World, and it had been the Racer/Cruiser class, the outcome would have been different. So if you haven't got the message, and you never race, you should probably flip the page. The Sun Fast 3600 was born to compete. (All up, with instruments and racing sails, it'll cost around $350,000 to do so.) But if you want a boat that will be a gas to campaign, particularly in distance races, and still have the amenities to take the family on perfectly pleasant coastal forays, keep reading.
In a concession to the American market, the first 3600 delivered stateside, named Invictus, was set up with twin wheels; in Europe, where the vast majority of the boats have so far been sold, dual tillers, stationed well outboard, are standard. Either way, thanks to the pair of canted rudders to which either the wheels or tillers are married, the helm is buttery and responsive, and control is immediate and precise.
"The helm was so light it felt like the wheels weren't even connected to anything until you turned them, and then the slightest movement spun the boat on its axis," gushed judge Mark Schrader.
"Ergonomically, it was just outstanding," seconded his colleague Tim Murphy. "The sail controls were beautifully laid out. The traveler is right in the sole, and very easy to reach. In 10 knots of breeze with the spinnaker up, we got her immediately up to her theoretical hull speed of 7.5 knots. She willingly went there straightaway."
"I loved it," concluded judge Ed Sherman. "It was the best sailing boat we had the pleasure of working with this year, without a doubt in my mind."
Of course, a raceboat is ultimately judged by its racing results, and Invictus scored big in several of last summer's top East Coast events, including a second in the Cruising Spinnaker class at Rhode Island's Block Island Race Week, where she was skippered by veteran racing sailor Ted Ruegg, CW's advertising director. Ruegg was also duly impressed by the 3600, and noted the boat was very receptive to precise rig tuning for specific conditions (Andrieu supplied the calculations); had impressive pace upwind (she met her VPP target of 7.4 knots in solid breeze); and could fly, under control, in big gusts with her asymmetric kite (recording a top speed of 16.8 knots in the very windy round-the-island race).
Below deck the Jenneau is fairly sparse, but that's not to say that it can't comfortably sleep two couples in the twin aft bunks, and two more people on the main saloon settes.
The galley is small, but features a small stove and offers refrigeration, rather than an icebox, which is a nice amenity for a boat geared towards speed.
The 3600 also features a head and sink forward in the bow, though if you're planning on carrying a full sail inventory for racing, it can be difficult to access.
All in all, the Sun Fast 3600 is a winner. It will out perform any cruiser in its class and sails its polars to a tee, but offers amenities that many 36 foot speedsters are lacking. Get one and start winning races and cruising with speed and style.