2013 Boat of the Year: J/70

J/Boats' new one-design sensation is lighting the sportboat scene ablaze. Quick, stiff, ramp-launchable, and priced right, the J/70 checked all the BOTY boxes as it sailed its way to the top of the judges' lists. Behold our 2013 Boat of the Year.

Sailing World

2013 Boat of the Year: J/70

The j/70 nailed its design brief: a fun, reasonably priced, and ramp-launchable sportboat. Six months after prototype testing, hull numbers were into triple digits.Walter Cooper

Designed for: one-design and club racing
Required race crew: 3 to 4 (class weight unspecified)
Best attributes: fast, stable, ramp-launchable, and rapid class development
Price as sailed: $44,900 (inc. trailer) (**see amended price note @ conclusion)
www.jboats.com

How does a builder wedge another 20-something sportboat into the most competitive niche of performance sailing, and have fleet racing blossom virtually overnight? It's easier said than done, but for the Johnstone brothers, Alan and Jeff, there's an old family recipe: be patient, hone in on a target market, sell it hard before you build it, and then bring the goods when the timing is right. With the J/70 they've delivered a design for the modern racing family, once again. Measured against our Boat of the Year criteria, it came out on top with high marks on all fronts: A multi-generational sportboat? Yep. Good construction? Check. Fun to sail? Check, check, and check it out.

“The boat really sailed well,” said Greg Stewart after testing the J/70 in 10 to 15 knots of wind. “It had a light feel on the helm, upwind and downwind. I could tell the boat was solid right away; it went well through the waves, and with the kite up we could sail the angles we wanted.”

The 70’s well-rounded performance is its best attribute, said Allen, who was heavily involved with the boat’s class sail development before BOTY testing. “It’s really stable, gets up—and stays—on a plane in 12 knots, and is an easy boat to sail,” he said. “The thing is sweet.”

Its stability is a key trait the judges picked up on right away, and is one that Jeff Johnstone says was fundamental to the 70’s design brief. “We originally had two completely different designs,” he told the judges during their dock briefing. “One was a more recreational-type sportboat and one a club trainer, and in the end we went with a sportier boat that we knew could be easily depowered and modified for [sailing] program use. We wanted a boat that wasn’t just a one-design, but had a future for club team racing, training, etc., and we knew it had to have the right stability for that. It feels like a bigger boat, and with legs-in hiking, clubs can use it for match racing, team racing, and frostbiting, too.”

One-design crew weight is unspecified for 2013 to encourage diverse team development, but initial class rules stipulate teams of three to four, only two of which can hike with legs outboard. The 11-foot cockpit has a lot of room for three adults to get around the racecourse without bumping elbows, although winch placement was one point of contention for panelist Tom Rich. When he sat forward of the traveler, he said, which was the most comfortable position for helming, given the angle of the lifelines, he was up against the winch.

“The winches are the one thing that everyone who sailed the boats initially wanted to get rid of,” said Allen, “but they’re staying, and you’ll want them in breeze when the helmsman is back behind the traveler anyway.”

The ability to ramp launch the J/70 is a first for J/Boats, and managing the 630-pound keel (which has a class-optional kelp cutter) is easy with the provided lifting crane. The keel itself is a molded fiberglass shell around a stainless steel spar structure, with a lifting bolt cast directly to the lead bulb. Four wedges bolted to the keel head give it a tight fit in its trunk. A stainless steel plate locks the keel in place when it’s down.

The judges noted there wasn’t any noticeable keel movement while sailing. An all-up weight of 1,750 pounds, a full Southern Spars carbon rig package, and high-aspect Dacron sail plan (nylon spinnaker) help give the 70 its lively feel, and its overall ease of handling is what really sold the judges. “This is a great boat for a wide range of sailors,” said Allen. “It kind of reminds me of a faster J/80, but with the roller furler drum below the deck and the plumb bow, the boat points much better upwind, and tracks really well in light air. It’ll appeal to a lot of people.”

For more images of the J/70, click here.
Read about the editors' first sail on the J/70 here.
Find more on all of our BOTY nominees here.

—Eds. Note: The J/70 is built by C&C Fiberglass Components, Bristol, R.I. The "as sailed" price was quoted at the time of testing. This was introductory fleet pricing. J/Boats president Jeff Johnstone informs us as of 12/21/12 the price is "$46,000 to $49,000 FOB RI, depending on sails, trailer, and outboard."