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Hooray for the hundredth!

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 26 Sep 2021 22:00 UTC
Giddy Up! Beam reach and the A-Bag on the J/99 © J Composites

Now if you're a British subject that means you get a letter from HRH QEII. If you're French, maybe you get one from President Macron. Certainly POTUS does to US citizens. So then here is our card, of sorts, to the J/99, because come Boot Düsseldorf, which is being held from 22 to 31/1/2022, 100 of the little speedsters will have been delivered. Well done!

If you even just glance at these ramblings occasionally, you will have noticed we have had a lot to say about short-handed, and especially the new breed of craft purposely designed and built for that, like the J/99. Back in November 2020 we had a deeper look at the J/99 in Good Thinking, 99, after skirting around the edges a bit in other editorials.

Alas, it all seemed like a very good time to come back to Fred Bouvier from the builder, J/Composites, to see what he put it all down to; because no matter which way you talk about it, 100 is plenty special! "Versatility is the main reason for J/99's success. She's a good daysailer, as well as family weekender, and in the meantime you can win races in all kinds of handicap systems, because her design has not been focused on just the one rating formula."

Now he also knows a lot about sailing, and here's a video of him having a blast two-handed off Les Sables-d'Olonne. "We may not have set out to market the J/99 as a One Design Class, but certainly the number of boats in different regions does now allow us to start thinking about a J/99 class. Our goal from the outset was to get the vessel numbers out there and being used, and then class racing will come", said Bouvier in closing.

Regions. Right then. That sounds perfect. There are presently seven J/99s in Australia, with the last one just being commissioned now, and in fact, #8 is due soon too, and discussions for numbers 9 and 10 are under way as well. As it turns out, Ray Entwistle from J/Boats Australia also felt that the vessel's inherent versatility was the key to its success, with them residing from Hobart to Newcastle; some in pens and some on moorings...

Entwistle expanded, "If you put racing to one side, as the results speak for themselves, apart from the versatility of the design, another key feature is the high normal specification. Our Australian owners represent a very broad spectrum in terms of age, experience, and reasons for purchasing the boat: whether it be short-handed or fully crewed racing, offshore and inshore, family cruising or a complete mixture of the lot. The J/99 does covers it all."

Importantly, relative to Bouvier's thoughts, "All the J/99's in Australia are single rudder, no water ballast, and standard alloy spars in configuration, so it's the beginnings of a well matched fleet of new generation 32-footers."

Australia's first J/99 arrived during lockdown 2020, so the sailing was quite limited. Ray and wife Sandra utilised the time to practice their short handed manoeuvring. "We found the J/99 to be everything it said on the box; stiff, spacious, comfortable, incredibly well configured for both short-handed and fully crewed racing, and super responsive. Once we finally started racing, we found her such an easy boat to sail regardless of the wind and sea state, it was just pure joy to get out and stretch her legs", said Ray.

Sandra would comment about it all after some practice as they had not done a lot of double-handed for a while, "Actually, I prefer racing two-up, as I get to do a bit of everything - from tactics to jib trim to kite trim, and all the tasks to make that happen. Paradoxically, I find it less stressful with just two on board, the reason being that we ensure we are organised and prepared for what's going to happen next, I know what Ray is going to do and vice versa."

Naturally, the Australian representatives expect a lot from any J/Boat, but found with the J/99 that it delivered even more than their lofty expectations, with a string of wins keeping the smile on the dial factor also nice and high.

There are two J/99's entered in the two-handed division of the 2021 Sydney to Hobart race. Both owners wanted a boat that was an all-rounder, so offering great up and downwind performance, as well as excellent stability. Importantly, S2H is not their only focus, for the boat also needed to be family friendly, and the J/99 ticked all their boxes. Indeed, with S2H 2020 cancelled, one of them spent last Christmas cruising their J/99 with his young family.

"Our Hobart owner, who has built and owned multiple boats over the years, stated the performance of the J/99 exceeds all his expectations, with his crew commenting it is the best boat he has ever owned. Being an octogenarian and concerned about the rough weather in Hobart, he opted for the wheel version so he had something to hang onto through the tacks and gybes. He reported he has moved up two divisions already, despite coming from a larger boat!"

So the latest J/99 to Australia belongs to Shane, who has been a J/Boat owner some years ago. He had the following to say regarding his selection of the J/99. "Way back in 2003 I bought my first J/Boat, which was a little J/92 called, Selkie. 18 years later, Selkie is still being sailed around Sydney Harbour, and I am sure the current owners are having as much fun with her as I did."

Shane added, "The thing I liked about the J/92, and now the J/99, is quite simply they are a fun and fast boat to sail. On the J/99 everything on deck is well thought out - everything comes to hand easily, whether you're sailing short-handed or fully crewed. J/Boats are designed and built really well built. You can use them to race, cruise, or a combination of both."

I have been racing or cruising yachts for more than thirty years now. In this modern era of sailing there are a lot of great craft to choose from. There are many new trends, and indeed a touch of new fashion in modern yacht design. Some boats are great downwind, some are fast on a reach, and some are terrific to windward. In the racing I do I was looking for a good windward/leeward boat. A boat capable of two handed racing in the S2H, competing in other ocean races, such as the CYCA Blue Water Series, and a boat I could still have fun with around the cans on a Wednesday night. For me, the J/99 ticked all of those boxes."

Rum Rebellion is the name for Shane's new J/99, and he knows they'll have plenty on to get her ready in time for the Hobart. He added in closing, "I appreciate all the work Ray and Sandra at J/Boats Australia have done in getting her to Australia, in what can be best described as a difficult year. They have certainly assisted me in any way they can."

Speaking of offshore, here's a video of the J/99 Jazz, with her designers Rod and Alan Johnstone on board, heading to Bermuda on a 'mercy mission', as such, back last year.

Nearly Off.

Yes it is nearly 'game on' time for Yassine Drk. You know it is still unbelievable to contemplate - 300nm non-stop and unassisted - in a Laser! Yassine checked in just the other day, and commented, "My departure is scheduled for the 28th. The wind will shift to the East, making it possible to leave the Strait (Gibraltar). The current is pretty strong, and without a good Easterly breeze, leaving will be impossible. I would have enjoyed its strength a few days ago when after a two hours on the one tack I was still at the same place, hahaha."

At any rate, he was kind enough to share this video of his training, which clearly he is very much enjoying, simply stating, "It's very beautiful here."

Please avail yourself of the plethora of information on the group's sites when you can.

Equally, if your class or association is generating material, please submit your material. Want to subscribe? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. You can also register for other editions from the pull down menu.

Finally, many thanks for making Sail-World your go-to choice. We're always here to keep pumping out the news. Stay safe, and enjoy your time on the water.

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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