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Javelin 2, Nothing Faster Than This Winning Cat

Sailing World¿s 2003 Overall Performance Boat of the Year

November 5, 2002
Walter Cooper

The Javelin 2 is a different breed of catamaran. At first glance, it looks odd, with a reverse sheerline that extends forward to unusually small bows that suggest they could “stuff” in the first gust. This combined with a giant rig stretching off the water almost twice the 18-foot waterline length, doesn’t inspire confidence that this bird will fly without crashing on the first significant breeze.

So why is the Jav 2 considered a breakthrough boat that’s taking Europe by storm, with many of the top cat sailors in the U.S. quickly jumping on board? This question needs a little history. High-speed sailing began in iceboats with the development of the rotating mast and full-battened sails; jibs quickly became obsolete as uni-rigs ruled. Early on, uni-rigs also dominated Class C cat competition, but with smaller cats in the 16- to 20-foot range, the jib-and-main configuration has remained the standard.

The Jav 2 represents a departure: It’s the first small, uni-rigged beach cat specifically designed to be raced by a two-man crew. Up until now, all uni-rigged cats have been raced singlehanded because there wasn’t much for a crew to do. The Jav 2 solves this problem with a giant mainsail on a radically tall mast. It takes two people to control this thing and sail it well in any kind of air. It has lots of adjustments to control mainsail shape and trim that need constant attention, and in winds over 8 mph, both crew must be out on the wire.

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Still, this doesn’t make for a breakthrough boat. W.F. Oliver, who’s the importer and owner of the Jav 2 we tested, admits that it’s a little “sticky” upwind in the real light stuff and can be beat by a good A Class cat in anything under 5 mph. But upwind is only part of the performance package. What goes upwind must come down, and it’s off the wind that the Jav 2 really gets into a turbo-charged mode by doubling its sail area with an optimized 215 sq. ft. asymmetric chute. The powerhouse combination of main and chute at 430 sq. ft. allows the Jav 2 to scream downwind at near maximum speed doing 90-degree jibing angles. The speed is such that I estimate the Jav 2 was easily going twice wind velocity in the 6 to 10 mph winds in which we sailed her, suggesting a level of efficiency rarely seen in any small cat.

The main challenge with the Jav 2 is controlling 430 sq. ft. of sail on a small 18-foot platform. A major step forward was to get rid of the jib, which is just about worthless downwind and always in the way. With the jib gone the boat structure has been reconfigured both to save weight and to make chute launching and takedowns faster and easier. The crew can also concentrate their efforts on working this big chute without any distractions. Marrying wave-piercing hulls to this powerhouse rig is a necessity for survival.

On my trial sail, I set out to test the wave-piercing bows to see if they were really up to handling 430 sq. ft. of downwind sail. I was able to stuff the lee bow about two feet below the surface and was pleasantly surprised to see it quickly recover with only a momentary drop in speed. In higher winds and waves, I suspect it’s going to be more of a challenge, requiring a coordinated effort by an experienced crew to keep this high-powered cat on her feet.

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A subtle, but important feature of the Jav 2 is that designer Michelangelo Petrucci has created a unique U-shaped hull configuration. His strategy appears to combine maximum lift capability with a low-volume wave-piercing potential that features a distinct flat area extending from the centerboard forward to the bow. With displacement volume put low in the hulls, he has lowered the sheerline to save weight and windage. This approach is a departure from the norm, but it appears to work well in combination with a spinnaker tacked well forward on a long pole. The chute helps to lift the bows up so that the hulls are able to use the forward planing surfaces to maximum advantage.

The Jav 2 appears to be built very well by Bimare of Bellaria, Italy. Construction of the hulls is straightforward with glass skins separated by a 7mm-foam core that is consolidated with vinylester resin under vacuum pressure. The very bottom of the hulls are solid glass and are beefed up to take beach abuse. The two-part molds with joints at the deck and keel are perfectly fair, producing a beautiful hull that seems to have no joints at all with a first-class gelcoat finish.

A higher and more expensive level of construction is seen in the carbon mast, boom, boards, rudders, and spinnaker pole. This is an appropriate strategy because weight in these areas, especially the mast, is critical to the success of this boat. The builder and designer have done a good job of prioritizing the needs of the structure to be both light enough at 285 pounds, yet strong enough, to handle the significant loads of a big rig. Most impressively, this boat is being produced at an all-up ready-to-race package priced at 12,000 Euro (under $13,000 at press time based on current exchange rates). This could change with Euro/dollar exchange rates, but right now it seems like a great bargain.

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While the Jav 2 is Italian designed and built, it has an American stamp with the likes of Randy Smyth, W.F. Oliver, and other American cat sailors testing out the early prototypes. Much of the subtle sophistication one sees on this boat is a result of their input, which has probably contributed a good deal to its present success.

My only concern with the Jav 2 is how well it will hold up under hard usage by aggressive crews who push her to the max in high winds and big waves. The lightweight 30-pound mast seems especially vulnerable with this much sail area to support.

We’ll all soon find out the answer to this question. Next May as many as 40 Jav 2s will begin the toughest race for beach cats ever designed by man. The 10-day Worrell 1000 race up the East Coast from Florida to Virginia can be a real boat and people buster. If the Jav 2s can survive this punishing experience as well as some of the past well-built beach cats, I predict the class could grow to become a major segment in the competitive North American beach-cat category.

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