Every now and then, I come across a boat that stands out from the crowd, a boat that rises above the rest, sometimes dramatically. Not all boats, in my opinion, have personalities, but those that do tend to elicit either warmth and confidence in those who use them, or, more sadly, the sad absence of such outstanding characteristics. Based on a recent test drive in St. Petersburg, Florida, I’d say the Jeanneau Leader 7.5 Center Console belongs squarely in the former category.
Granted, the weather was perfect. The waves slowly rolling across Boca Ciega Bay were pint-sized, stretched thin and glowing green in the sun. But there were other factors—related specifically to real-world, behind-the-wheel performance—that cranked up the synergy between me and this spirited little 24-footer.
The first factor appeared when I discovered, after repeatedly launching the boat out of the hole, that the Lenco electric tabs were not required to facilitate a thrilling transition from displacement to planing mode. All I had to do was tuck the single 300-hp F300 Yamaha outboard in and firewall the throttle—the boat dang near spritzed onto plane in three seconds flat with regularity (and without lifting her nose appreciably). Without a doubt, this is speedboat material.
The second factor became apparent shortly after, just north of Treasure Island Causeway, when I spun a hard over turn to port at around 31 knots and then straightened out for a WOT beeline run. We were doing about 43 knots in seconds, with a fuel burn of 26 gph. Whoooeee! The sense of control was not only palpable but exhilarating. I’d seen almost no sideways slide in the turn, and despite the fact that I’d never bothered to trim the Yamaha even slightly before yanking the steering wheel to port (which, to be technically correct, I should have done), the tach readings on the dash had dropped by only a few rpm. What caused such spectacular events to occur? To find out, I gently drew the sticks back.
“Now that right there,” I emphasized to Nick Harvey, president of Jeanneau America, “was one of the most enjoyable little test runs I’ve experienced in quite some while. What gives with this boat—why does she perform the way she does?” Harvey grinned excitedly. “Well,” he said, “this is the eighth iteration of a 24-foot hull we’ve been working to tweak and perfect for the past 20 years. So, little by little, we’ve fine-tuned it and fine-tuned it. And we also, of course, always try to achieve the best compromise between power, engine weight and hull design—we don’t offer a whole lot of engine options on any of our boats. This one has just two, 250 and 300 horsepower—they’re what works the best.” (Pike,2020)
Back at the dock, I examined the 7.5’s layout, which was a fairly simple, straightforward affair. At the back of the boat, there’s a U-shaped lounge that can be easily converted into a bench (leaving both aft quarters of the boat free for fishing) or an expansive sundeck. Another U-shaper with a removable table can be found further forward. In the center console, there’s also room for an optional MSD behind the sliding door.
While the base model of the new Jeanneau Leader 7.5 Center Console is fairly basic in terms of equipment (options include seat cushions, Garmin electronics, trim tabs, Fusion stereo, an electric windlass, and a folding bimini), the starting price is relatively low—$77,860. Which, I suppose, is another reason I’m drawn to this little family-friendly speedster.
Jeanneau Leader 7.5 Center Console Specifications:
Displ.: 3,175 lbs.
Fuel: 74 gal.
Water: 21 gal.
Power: 1/Yamaha 250-hp or 300-hp outboard
Base Price: $77,860
Pike, Capt. Bill. “Review Of the Jeanneau Leader 7.5 Center Console – Power & Motoryacht.” Power & Motoryacht, Www.powerandmotoryacht.com, 10 March. 2020, https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/boats/review-of-the-jeanneau-leader-7-5-center-console.