Tuesday, February 4, 2014

J/70 An All-Round Boat Review

J/70 sailing off Marstrand Sweden (Marstrand, Sweden)-  “It is a remarkable story.  When talking actual sales figures, in just over a year the J/70 has sold hundreds of boats. It has become so popular to race, many event organizers cannot accommodate everyone who want to sail- the parking lots and all the logistics around are not enough! And in Sweden, the boat has won the hearts of many with more buyers than boats to sell!

The explanation for the unusual success today, with boat production not keeping pace with demand, can be attributed to several factors. Mainly, nice beautiful lines, simple, fun, sporty sailing qualities and particularly advantageous price. For the first time in many years, there is now a modern, sensible daysailer for the people.

These qualities are exactly what designer Alan Johnstone was up to when he began to plan for a successor to father Rod's formidable success with the J/24 (with 5,300 boats) and the J/80 (about 1,600 boats). Alan listened to the audience in the form of sailors who were in search of a new, great little day-sailor. He made ​​an effort to keep the price down, without compromising on construction quality. The solution was a highly specified hand layup of the laminate with strict weight controls. This was complimented by a high-tech, performance-engineered mast, spreaders, boom and bowsprit all built in carbon fiber epoxy laminate (the favorite of the aerospace industry), while the fittings on deck are kept as simple as necessary.

To be on the safe side with the concept, Alan asked experts and sailmakers to test the boat before the start of mass production and to comment or criticize on what they thought needed changes. Perhaps the evaluation was as much an opportunity for him to ensure that the marketing of the new J/70 was true- that it was a substantial, clever little sailboat that performed and feels genuinely comfortable just sitting at the dock.

The lines are beautiful, subjectively speaking, the J/70 is the neatest J as seen on the ocean's horizon. It has a fairly slim hull with low freeboard, modern flare breadth pulled all the way back to the stern.  She also has a straight stem with a narrow bow to effortlessly slice through waves.  The open stern, large open cockpit, rudder hung on the stern with a clever bump so the tiller ends up almost horizontally are all examples of good design. The J/70 is a symphony of aesthetic proportions and pleasingly elegant to the eye— no other sportsboat we’ve seen around the world comes close.

When the jury of the Sailing World Boat of the Year decided to nominate the J/70 in the “Performance one-design class”, it was precisely the lines and the promising sailing characteristics that determined its ultimate top boat award. And, expectations were met by far in connection with the test outside Karingon, Sweden with speeds in excess of 6-7 meters per second. With a full load (five people on-board without crowding in the cockpit) the boat easily sailed the half-ton crew without disruption to speed or stability.

The response on the long tiller and the deep rudder is excellent, the balance is neither too light and vague or too heavy and over-ruling. Meanwhile, the grip on the rudder is considerable, the J/70 responds fast when you want to fall-off and it requires negligence when sailing under the gennaker to get a broach. Acceleration is direct and fast, the mainsheet, together with the long mainsheet track, serves as throttle and brake. The boat is lively, but not wobbly, and therefore safe for regular Sunday sailing.

Speed, of course, is the fastest when you set the masthead gennaker and the J/70 almost imperceptibly slides onto a plane. But even for just main and jib the boat glides smoothly and quickly, making the J/70 a boat you can take out your near or dear ones in without scaring them.

The decor below is, for a small boat, nothing to comfort family cruising sailors- no headroom, no toilet, no kitchen, no dress code and no natural light. But that does not prevent older sailors approaching senior status from getting on a “back to basics” boat, it’s absolutely just right. For campers, the berths are long and the thick cushions make anyone sleep like a log. Ventilation is arranged by having the cabin door half open and using a “boom tent”.  In fact, the more “youthful” sailors can go camping on the boat with boom tent, sleeping bags and a bucket for a weekend on the J/70!

The trailer is well-designed and has a strong grip on the J/70 hull, all brackets are just right.  The mast sits on a hinging-bracket on the deck, which allows the mast to be raised and lowered with just two people. The lifting keel and the boat's light weight allows an ordinary car to pull the entire rig, thereby reducing transportation costs to exotic regattas at home and in Europe.

The bottom line is the J/70 is a fun, easy-to-eat “recipe” for almost every kind of sailor. It is nice and easy to sail regardless of whether you are new in the sailing world or an old hand looking for experiences to relive youthful days on the water. If any boat shall renew the sport and tempt new followers, this is it! All credit to Alan Johnstone in Newport on the other side of the Atlantic.”
Review courtesy of Curt Gelin at Batmassan.se    Here’s the Batmassan.se overview of the J/70 (link is Swedish).