J/121

Sailing World - - Boty -

Dis­tance DE­SIGNED racing FOR Short-handed racing THE JUDGES LIKED Over­all per­for­mance De­sign and ver­si­til­ity RE­QUIRED CREW Two to five PRICE AS TESTED $475,000

AAs if on cue, in the midst of our BOTY dock­side brief­ing with J/ Boats’ Jeff John­stone, a mid­dleaged gen­tle­man ap­pears in the com­pan­ion­way, out of the blue. John­stone in­tro­duces him as an owner, from Port­land, Ore­gon, who is trad­ing in his J/46 for a yet-to-be-built J/121. He climbs down the com­pan­ion­way stairs, in­ter­rupts the judg­ing team’s Q&A ses­sion, and then promptly cites all the races he in­tends to en­ter when he takes own­er­ship of Hull No. 14: the Swift­sure, the Ore­gon Off shore, the Van Isle 360, and even the Pacifi c Cup from San Fran­cisco to Hawaii. Mo­ments ear­lier, John­stone had ex­plained this very con­cept: The J/121 is a buck­etlist boat. This guy is Ex­hibit A.

“We saw that sig­na­ture events were at­tract­ing record fleets — the Fast­net Race, the Three- Bridge Fi­asco in San Fran­cisco, the Chicago-mac, for ex­am­ple — all these types of short-handed, ad­ven­ture-style races where it’s more about the ex­pe­ri­ence than win­ning,” says John­stone. “We thought that if we could elim­i­nate half the crew on a 40- footer that’s pur­pose-built for point-to-point racing but still pass the beer­can and day­sail test, we’d have peo­ple interested.”

Their re­search led John­stone and his brother, Alan, to a de­sign con­cept built around a crew of five. As for rail meat? No need. That’s what the wa­ter bal­last tanks are for.

Ex­tra hands to get sails up and down? No need there ei­ther. There’s an im­pres­sive quiver of head­sails, most on roller furlers. With the en­tire in­ven­tory hang­ing from the rig on hal­yard locks, and sheets and furl­ing lines spilling into the cock­pit, the boat could be eas­ily mistaken for a Class 40 — al­beit, one that ac­tu­ally goes up­wind.

“This is your clas­sic J Boat in that ev­ery­thing is well-thoughtout and works well, and it sails re­ally nicely,” says Rich. “You can race the boat with five peo­ple, no prob­lem, al­though I’m sure you’ll end up with more peo­ple who want to go.”

While an owner might have to leave a few friends on the dock in or­der to reap the ben­e­fits of 800 pounds of wa­ter bal­last, Ste­wart was un­sure the rat­ing hit would be worth the trade-off at times. “ORR hits you on wa­ter

In 15 to 20 knots, the boat is re­ally fast and sta­ble, with or with­out the bal­last. The rud­der never loses its grip. CHUCK ALLEN

bal­last, at least a lit­tle,” he says, “so the ques­tion will be whether the wa­ter-bal­last ef­fect on the dis­place­ment will out­weigh the rat­ing im­pact. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Re­gard­less, the point of the boat, the judges all agreed, is not wind­ward/ lee­ward racing but point to point where the tanks re­main full for long stretches. The wa­ter doesn’t have to leave the rail to get a sand­wich or re­lieve it­self.

The 121 isn’t con­fig­ured for cruis­ing, and John­stone says no one had yet or­dered the op­tional V- berth pack­age. “The in­te­rior is func­tion ver­sus form,” he says. There are proper pas­sage-mak­ing berths, syn­thetic floor­ing, molded fur­ni­ture and ma­hogany trim to make it homey enough while tak­ing day-to-day race abuse.

The John­stones la­bored long and hard over the deck­hard­ware mock- ups in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the many leads, de­flec­tions and loads of the head­sail sheets. There isn’t enough side- deck area for athwartships tracks, so the J/ 121 uses hy­brid floating jib leads that al­low in- haul­ing or bar­ber haul­ing. On a long off­shore leg, you can tweak all day long.

While cock­pit er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent, says Ste­wart, and all the winches are well­po­si­tioned and easy to work at, the trav­eler sys­tem needs to be rethought. “With the 4-to-1 main­sheet, we couldn’t get the trav­eler to cen­ter­line. Chang­ing it to 2-to-1 might solve that. The winches are plenty strong to al­low it.”

The com­mon phrase among the judges was, “There’s a lot go­ing on,” when all the sails are on deck and ready to de­ploy. “It’ll def­i­nitely be a new sort of learn­ing curve for own­ers in terms of when to use the wa­ter bal­last and fig­ur­ing out the sail crossovers. A cou­ple of days of train­ing with a sail­maker, and a good bow­man, will be nec­es­sary.”

But any good sailor en­joys a good chal­lenge, says Allen, who has sailed the boat in winds far stronger than those ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the BOTY test sail. “In 15 to 20 knots, the boat is re­ally fast and sta­ble, with or with­out the bal­last. The rud­der never loses its grip. It’s rock- solid in a breeze, a great boat all around.” Q

The J/121’s five-sail in­ven­tory is de­signed for racing with a crew of five. The main has a 10 per­cent first reef, then a deeper sec­ond reef. The pri­mary jib is 105 per­cent, and a heavy­weather in­ner jib is about 85 per­cent. For off-the-wind sail­ing,...

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