J/100-The Perfect Day Racer/Weekender

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BOTY-J100a

Walter Cooper

J Boats, with their slogan "Better Boats for People who Love to Sail," has done it again. The J/100, a sleek 33-footer, has all the ingredients for a winning Boat of the Year formula: looks, simplicity, speed, and price. The J/100 is eye-catching mooring candy. I remember sitting at the New York YC in Newport, R.I., last summer looking down the hill at hull No. 1. There was something about the dark color and narrow beam of the boat that brought my eye back to it over, and over, and over again. The mooring field was full of yachts, ranging in size, and all I could do was to imagine what it would be like to sail this one. I was pleased, because I knew it was registered for the 2005 BOTY contest, and that I'd be taking it for a spin in a couple of months. It was entertaining to hear out-of-towners trying to figure out what kind of boat it was-the ads that J Boats had run to that point had only been computer renderings and line drawings. When someone finally said: "It's the new J/100," all I heard was: "Wow." The J/100 is quite clean on the deck, everything is led aft, making it easy for shorthanded sailing. I've seen the J/100 both with and without the optional, self-tacking Hoyt Boom for the headsail. The boats that don't have it appear a touch larger because of the large open deck area forwarded of the mast. I personally would prefer using the boom and sailing shorthanded, maybe on one of those weekend races to Block Island or Cuttyhunk. I also like the look of the J/100 when the dodger is up; it looks like the perfect weekender racer/cruiser or pocket rocket. With the long, narrow lines she looks like a standout performer. The simplicity theme continues down below. Sleeping four, it has an optional V-berth forward, and two side berths in the middle of the boat. A standard marine head and sink is forward and there's a door that separates the main part of the cabin from the V-berth. There's no built-in fridge, just a large cooler-obviously not the set-up to venture across the Atlantic, but over to Martha's Vineyard, no problem. The easy access to the engine makes switching out a filter quick and simple, although I have to say the soundproofing in the engine box didn't work well on the boat we test-sailed. The lighting is basic with a few reading lamps and overheads, another tip-off that this isn't a 33-footer to sail to Bermuda. Access to the keel bolts and bilge is great. The only other negative I saw down below was the lack of ventilation, I could see it getting a bit musty. The J/100 feels like a large, stable dinghy with speed. When stepping aboard you feel that slight heel which you tend to feel in most light keelboats, probably because it only displaces 6000 pounds. As you can imagine, the boat is quite sensitive to weight placement while sailing. If the mainsail trimmer goes to leeward to release the traveler, it's noticeable. When all four or five crew are sitting to weather-legs in, there are gentleman rules for this class-it gets in the sweetest of grooves, locking into spectacular upwind numbers. The acceleration is excellent, and you build boatspeed quicker than any boat I've sailed in a long time. The J/100 also turns on a dime. While performing the standard 360-degree turn test, we noticed that the boat spins well inside one boatlength, with speed, and will climb back to its previous numbers in no time. The tacking angles are quite high, and the boat never drops much in speed while changing tacks. Another noticeable quality is that it holds its speed well through the lulls, where you see other boats dropping off quickly and having to change gears to accommodate. I think just a bit of backstay ease and some traveler up is all you've got to do to change gears on this boat. A tiller makes all the difference in the world when it comes to sailing. Sometimes, when you steer boats that are in the lower to mid 30-foot range, they can wipe out or have rudder stall. Not the J/100; I tried my best to wipe it out, but had no success. The rudder is plenty deep enough for this kid. Downwind is fun. The A-Sail makes life easy, and the boat reacts with a lot of pep. When a puff comes on you can feel it accelerate with the ability to "ride down" to almost any angle you want to go to; a great feeling. Jibing is simple, you just have to watch out that you don't turn too quickly. Because the boat is so light, the clew may not make it through in time to load up on the new jibe. I also think they could have extended the grab rails farther aft toward the cockpit; it gets a bit tricky getting from the foredeck to the cockpit with no life lines and the rail ending so quickly. I know, the theory of this boat is you'll never have to go forward, but the occasional kite debacle happens, and the need to "run up there" will occur. At $135,000, ready to race, the J/100 is the ideal purchase for a wide range of sailors: retiring and wanting a daysailer that performs; current J owners looking for their next J Boat; the family looking to race at the club level together, and many others. The Hall Rig, Harken and Spinlock gear are all products that will last a long, long time. The J/100 was the clear choice to be our Overall Winner in The 2005 Sailing World-Boat of the Year Competition. With its aesthetically pleasing features, simplistic design, and superb sailing characteristics all bundled up at a remarkably low price, I'd have to say J Boats-to use a Red Sox analogy-has hit it off the top of the Green Monster. Anyone who appreciates performance day racing/cruising needs to schedule a sail on the J/100.