Sunday, April 19, 2015

J/88 Sailing Perspectives- by Don Finkle

J/88 family daysailer/ weekender (Youngstown, New York)- “Why the J88?  Now that we have a couple of seasons of sailing and selling the 29 foot J88 we can answer this question with confidence.  An acknowledged perk of our business is the ability to sail the newest designs as they come out, not just once or twice, but over a season or more.  We have been able to do this for over 40 years, and the boats we like the most are the ones we hold onto the longest.  This will be our fourth year with the J70 and the third with the J88, which will tell you what we think of these boats.  There is much you can figure out by reading specs and studying equipment lists, such as the standard carbon fiber rig and retractable sprit, diesel saildrive, full race deck layout, a real marine head, etc.  What you can’t really tell is how the boat sails and handles, that is where we can fill in the blanks.

J/88 towed behind SUV truckJ/Boats has made themselves the preeminent performance boat company by focusing on what the majority of racers want.  Because they are racing sailors themselves and spend a great deal of time on the water and at regattas they know their customers.  They are not after the Grand Prix market, that is too small and there is very limited staying power there.  J/Boats are designed to be fast and agile enough to be fun and competitive with the vast majority of the boats out there but not tweaky and skittish or demanding of excellent crew to keep the mast pointed up and the keel pointed down.  The J88 is a perfect example of that, a fast boat that is fun to sail, easy to handle, and not over the top powered up.  Don’t get the idea that it is not quick enough however, for unless you are looking for the ultimate in speed you won’t be disappointed.  The 88 is well balanced on the helm, goes where you point it, is surprisingly close-winded and stable.  The various sail tests out there (one included below) will emphasize that the 88 is nimble yet has a bigger boat feel.  That is comforting when you are day-sailing, taking out friends and family, training new crew, or when the weather gets nasty.

J/88 sailing on Lake Ontario off New YorkThe 88 has become one of our all-time favorites because we can have so much fun with it.  It is a perfect size for those who don’t need to go cruising for any length of time.  The inboard engine, furling jib, marine head, real electrical system and seats in the forward cockpit make for convenience.  The retractable sprit and asymmetrical kits mean easier sailing with less demand for crew experience.  The deck and cockpit layout allow for comfortable places to sit.  The lack of midship toerails makes for much more comfortable hiking, as does the increased spacing between upper and lower lifelines.  The low deckhouse and small headsail overlap improve forward visibility upwind. We can be underway very quickly and putting the boat away after sailing is also simple.  This means more time having fun and less time for chores.  On the flip side all of the sail controls are there as standard equipment so you can have lots of fun fine-trimming to your heart’s content.

Yes, we love the J88 and make no apologies for that.  A good, solid, all-around performer designed by people who know what matters and built to last.  So please tell us what more one can ask for?

J/88s sailing CanAm regatta in New YorkAt least 6 J/88s racing out of Youngstown this summer:  We have one of, if not the, biggest local fleet in North America.  On any given race night, we could have six J/88’s on the starting line.  Whether we have our own start or not, there will be great one-design racing between the boats on Lake Ontario.  We found out last year that there were a lot of boats in our PHRF range that made for good competitive racing.  We were given a PHRF-LO rating of 87, but raced it at 81 because of the six second “protect the fleet” penalty.  That rating didn’t seem to hurt too much and still had good competition with the other Beneteau 36.7’s racing with a 78 rating, the J/109 at 80, Beneteau 10R at 92, NM Custom 30 at 93.  The J/88 is tough to beat if sailed to its potential.  We don’t know what the rating will be this year, but we are fine with any number between 81 and 87, knowing that we can be competitive in that range.