Tuesday, April 10, 2012

J/95 Cruising Re-Evolution

J/95 shoal performance cruiser- sailing upwind in United Kingdom (Eastern United Kingdom)- In 2009, the J/95 was the first of the revolutionary shoal-performance J's introduced in perhaps one of the most difficult economic times ever faced by the Americas, Europe and other parts of the world.  Nevertheless, this sparkling performer confounded everyone.  While being the first J to ever win the coveted "Triple-Crown" of sailing- "best boat" in short for CRUISING WORLD, SAILING WORLD and SAIL Magazines, it was seen as a radical departure for the brand.  Could it really work?  Twin rudders, lifting centerboard within a shoal-draft lead keel, huge wheel in an open T-shaped cockpit?  Even more radical, a carbon mast option that permitted owners to deck-step the rig, go under low-bridges and even trailer-sailor the boat to any lake, bay or ocean you wished?  Perhaps it was an inspiration worthy of the amazing travels of a certain globe-girdling yachtsman like Irving Johnson and his remarkable ketch YANKEE with its striped sails and mainmast/mizzenmast that could be lowered to go just about anywhere-- remember those days dreaming wistfully about how we might join Irving on his magical ketch as it was chronicled in National Geographic Magazine traveling to the most intriguing and challenging sailing spots around the world?

Today, with over thirty boats sold around the world, some stories told by J/95's passionate advocates are becoming legion.  With nine boats in Europe (UK, Switzerland, Germany), one in the Caribbean and thirteen in the USA (of note- 4 in Barnegat Bay/Jersey Shore and 4 in Naples/Sarasota) it is fair to say the J/95 has confounded virtually all of its critics and, more importantly, gained some very enthusiastic followers- owners, families and crew alike.

One of these sailors happens to be Frank and Carol Curtis who took delivery of their beautiful black J/95 JUST IS in April 2011. Frank is based on the East Coast UK, where it's shallow and tidal and so we asked him whether he had the boat lying on the mud with the board up. He explained that they've not done that so far, but he did say the lifting board is a huge advantage on deliveries. On their trip from Burnham to Ramsgate (for Ramsgate Week regatta) they were able to shave off a big 'corner' of the trip by going into shallow draft mode and so arrived two hours ahead of the other boats that left ahead of them.  Frank and Carol also won their class at Ramsgate Week, winning five out of eight races! A win so convincing that the regatta organizers are trying to move him in to a different class for this year!

Perhaps better yet, here it is in Frank and Carol's words what the J/95 has meant to them: "I consider the J/95 to be the 'bees knees'.

We sailed the J/105 with great pleasure and some offshore success but she was tiller steered and pretty physical in a breeze. As my mobility and stamina deteriorated the inevitable decision was taken and she was sold to France.

I pottered around for a bit feeling lost until a friend asked me to trial a J/97 down at the Hamble. This boat did not suit me but I saw the J/95 on a nearby dock and she looked exactly right.  A trial sail confirmed that I could cope with the configuration so the deed was done.

I have found the boat a real pleasure to sail. The cockpit shape and size, wheel and mainsheet controls allow me to sail safely and comfortably. Handling is as drama free as I have ever experienced. Carole is a fan of the cockpit and sail handling controls but is nagging me to fit a nav table. No problem.  Black is exactly right for the 95 and she has drawn admiring comments wherever we have sailed.

Our racing has proved to be a bit of a challenge under IRC and we have found ourselves off the pace when the breeze drops. I had a look at competitors sail area and we seem to be about 20% smaller than say, the SJ320 or A31.

We intend to fit a larger, light airs headsail and not worry about rating changes.  Under IRC we have to sail with the centerboard down or accept a penalty for shallow draft. Don't ask because I have no idea how that works!

There are advantages to the centerboard system even in the lowered position. Without a bulb to anchor us in the mud we feel really confident when sailing shallow water and when the boat is lifted to scrub there are invariably traces of the bottom where the board has cut through the mud. Our competitors are absolutely convinced that we sail with the board up whenever the shore appears!

We have faired the keel bottom and fitted a slot strip in the centerboard trunk. If all works well we will sail some light air club races, (under local handicap), with the board-up and really get into the bank on the foul tide legs.

A couple of other uses of board-up are when ashore we sit on a low trailer and when launching can get afloat on a modest tide without the yard dragging us through the mud. The amount of water available is limited and deep draft boats have a very limited launch window here.

In any event, I hope that this gives you a feel for what we think of our lovely J/95. I could write a book! From a very satisfied sailor.  My very best regards, Frank'n'Carole, of course."   For more sailing information on the J/95 shoal performance sailboat.