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J Composites 2020 - LEADERBOARD

For the sheer joy of it - Part II

by John Curnow, Global Editor, SailWorldCruising.com 11 Nov 16:00 UTC
Next stop Tahiti - J/45 © J/Boats

We're ready to roll with Part II of the story of the stunning J/45. Before we do that, a big thank you to everyone who has read the first instalment, and provided their thoughts, input, and feedback. Muchas Gracias. We feel very honoured that you have contacted us, and shared so closely with us...

So here we are, we're going straight into it, literally, but you can read Part I now, in case you missed it.

Turn it on its head

J/Composites' Fred Bouvier commented, "We wanted to team with a guy with we know closely, who is one of the latest Vendée skippers, called Benjamin Dutreux. We offered him the boat for a week, so as to test everything. Not performance, but his full feedback and input on cruising. They made a lot of distance, because they almost crossed the entire west coast of France, from Brittany down to the corner of Spain and back, so probably some 900nm in just seven days."

What I like about the idea, and the video that accompanies it, is not so much that they've put a racer on to a cruising boat but that they've somebody to assess a cruising boat, when ordinarily their main determination is speed. So I really like the point of seeing what he's going to say about going cruising, when he's used to chasing all the numbers.

It was a matching of philosophies that drove it all, as Fred explains: "If you look at his Vendée Globe race, which was his first, he had a strong showing finishing ninth overall, and third of the non-foilers, spending most of his time in the pack with the foilers: All of that off a minimum of budget."

"We know what he is able to do because he always goes to the essential, what is important, not playing for hours and putting thousands of Euros into stupid details that can offer you something more, but if it goes wrong it really is a nightmare. This aligns very much with the DNA of J/Boats; do not try to reinvent the wheel, just do things better, and focus on the essential."

"There is also another kind of nice match. He won the European tour of the Ocean Race last summer with Team Germany, a non-foiling IMOCA 60 up against three of the top foilers. He beat them with a non-foiling boat, and this goes a long way to explaining the versatile performance that we spoke of earlier."

"A foiler can be super fast on a reach crossing the Atlantic, but finally when you sail all round Europe, including in the Med, where you will find some light winds, upwind, downwind, you know something of everything, having a versatile boat which a standard IMOCA is, well it makes you have better performance overall. We have a perfect match with Benjamin, and full confidence in him, and just wanted his insight into using the J/45 for its intended purpose."

Seems they certainly don't need to sell the pace. It's all about the project...

Making a difference by being different

Now if you're going to be a bit different, which the J/45 is, then it's important to explain the reason for the difference. Hopefully, we have expanded and explained just what that all really means. The performance is real, and satisfying, and based on feedback from its first showing at Cannes, the rest of it fits the bill, too.

A (if not the) key point would be the core quality of the construction. Some of this you can see, and we are not just talking about the finishing. It's creating the composite construction, the assembly, what's behind cupboard doors, behind the carpentry, that allows for clean and clear decks.

Importantly, the J is fully resin infused. The hull is done so entirely in vinylester. The deck, structures, bulkheads and even the swimming platform are infused too, in polyester resin. This is why the keel can be four tonnes out of a total of ten, and strength is more than a byword, it's a fundamental characteristic. It is here that the difference can be found, for not all are created equally. It might be sandwich composite construction, but hand laminated, not infusion, and thereby not uniform, nor as strong across the board.

Which means you can handle the power?

Now the standard keel is 2.32m, the shoal draft is 2.1, and there is an impressive 2.6m also on offer, and it has nearly the same bulb mass as the 2.32. Why you ask? Well, some may refer to that as the racing version, but there's way more to it than that. It comes down to what kind of sailing you're doing, and where you're doing it.

Sail in the Med, and you'll anchor/dock at exactly the same position as a boat with the shoal draft. Start talking South Pacific atolls, and it is a different story. However, the other side of the coin is stiffness, or righting moment. The 2.6 will carry rag further uprange, and puffs will get translated into pace or height, or both. A place that offers 5 and also 25 knots in that same day would be ideally suited to that, because you wont be changing gears as much.

"The J/45 will handle its sail plan properly in 20 knots of wind. The deep 2.6m keel is what is fitted to hull #1, and as we say, it's a perfect match for Mediterranean cruising, where it's either super light, or super breezy, and not so much medium. It makes the boat safer in breezy conditions."

Now many are concerned about deep drafts, and also think heavy displacement cruisers are safer in serious conditions. Yet these are not well-founded positions. A modern, strong composite craft, like the J/45 with its deck hardware, easy sail handling, along with the inbuilt and inherent stability of the boat, is going to make it a lot easier if you face 30 knots by surprise.

Conversely, if you are in the big, heavy boat, it could well be sails down, and escape under Diesel, which is going to be way slower to home get home or your next port, and far more uncomfortable. Yachts sail, and don't motor so well. This is the reality, and something all purchasers should take on board when evaluating what craft to buy.

It's a matter of thinking your project through completely, but clearly the boat has been designed with the standard draft, and its overall performance is made with that configuration.

Stuart Johnstone has sailed her off Les Sables d'Olonne, made this video and commented, "It is the first large offshore performance cruiser designed by J/Boats and built in collaboration with J/Composites in France. The elegant, powerful J/45 was created to safely and swiftly take you anywhere your heart desires, sailing the world's Seven Seas. She sets new standards for comfort and roominess in her interior as well, featuring a three-cabin layout."

My that's a long trunk!

Well that elephant in the room just has to be racing, now doesn't it?! The boat will perform well on the track. That seems to be a given. The J/112 certainly did as a fast cruiser, with an ORC World Championship and several IRC scalps too. I think it is more about detailing the level of comfort, quality and finishing that exists inside the J/45. By all accounts from the show at Cannes, all were suitably impressed by what they saw down below.

GRUNT

A lot of the chatter thus far has been about headsails, VMG and so forth. If you look at where the forestay mounts directly on top of the prow, you might wonder if the bowsprit is purely for the asymmetric kite, and a Code Zero isn't in the equation. Fred quickly puts us straight on that, "No, no. We suggest the Code Zero. Others have a small prodder because the Code Zero is essential to sail the boat under 8 knots upwind, reaching and everything. Whereas the J/45 is more than happy enough to be sailing with the headsail upwind, but as soon as you bear away, please bring the Code Zero, for then you are going to have a boat that sails faster than the wind."

"Using the Code Zero is something you deserve as a cruising sailor, because now Code Zero designers have made strong developments as well, like being non-cable, and they are very versatile, so just perfect for a cruiser."

"Obviously others have a self-tacking jib as standard, and then you're just a blob in the water. That's no way to try to make the boat move in a light wind, in the Med, or anywhere. For us it's more like having the extra, super fun tools to get on board."

It will be no surprise that the standard main goes into a boom bag. Don't be expecting to see in-mast furling on the options list, however, "No, no. We will offer an option of a furling boom, but that is the limit of the easy handling versus performance compromise we can accept. In-mast furling is not part of our DNA, as there is too much of performance lost into that concept. A triangle mainsail is just plain no."

"We will probably have a customer ask for it, but you have to stick to your DNA. We will explain that it is not in their best interests, and if it means losing a deal, then so be it. We have many examples of people who went elsewhere and then two years later they come and see us and say, 'We really respect you, because I now understand what you told me.' You have to stick to what you think, and try your best to convince a potential customer."

Now the headsail sheets just under the bottom of the D1, which is inboard for easier access moving for'ard. So yes, it's quite inboard, and there is an optional inhauler system on offer, so that will make it well and truly close hauled, for those looking to extract every last degree, and you might say there's that elephant again... Undisputedly, however, it all says that the J/45 is the sailor's cruiser, even if every now and then the sailor does like to let the dogs off the leash in the park.

Get in quick smart.

J/Composites has been proven to be able to build a lot of boats. In the J/45 they have already sold over ten, and that is well and truly the first year's worth of production for this model. Six of them came off the plans alone. "The first is in the Med, then we have the USA, Australia for our number three, number four is going to Portugal, then again USA, UK, the Netherlands, USA again; so it's a pretty good spread everywhere," said Fred.

Downunder soon enough

Ray Entwistle from J/Boats Australia introduces the owners of J/45 Hull #3. "When James and Sally Crowley were looking for a fast, easy to handle, and comfortable cruising yacht to explore the South Pacific, they had long ocean passages, and short island-hopping in mind."

"Their search ended with the new J/45. And such was their confidence in J/Boats' design and construction capabilities, they ordered their boat sight unseen, right off the plan. We're excited to soon welcome their J/45 to Australian shores, and then help them commission their new pride and joy."

"Having spent many years successfully racing their J/122, the decision for the Brisbane-based husband and wife team on which boat to take into their next phase of life was easy. The boat had to sail superbly, be well built, capable of crossing oceans, easy to sail two-handed, have moderate draft, an excellent galley, and sufficient storage. The list was quite endless, oh, and the boat had to be competitive for the occasional race!"

The Crowleys said, "As it came to pass, narrowing that list involved endless internet searches, reviews of blogs, books and articles, but in the end, it came down to the question, 'What is most important for us?' The answer was that they love to sail, and sail fast. Other factors quickly became secondary to this."

Of course, at that time the boat they created in their minds didn't exist, or at least they didn't know about it. This led them down the path of what would they would need to do to their J/122 to make her more cruise-friendly. Having then thrashed around those options, it still didn't feel right, so the search for a new boat was back on.

"Enter the new J/45! Now here's a boat that would do what we wanted", said James and Sally. "Off the plan she had enough similarities to the J/122 that we knew she would perform really well, both on and off the wind. She'd be fast in light airs, and stable in strong winds. Coming from a reputable, high-end production boat shipyard, we knew would eliminate many of the nasty surprises that can be attached to a bespoke yacht."

"Additionally, our experience with J/Boats meant we could rely on all the components being properly specified to suit their purpose: the balsa-cored scrimp infused hull would be light and strong, the deep single blade rudder would give effortless control and nimbleness, and the option of a carbon rig with the rod rigging would provide the benefit of reduced pitching and heeling in a seaway, and less rolling at anchor. Importantly, she'd be forgiving, and have that J/Boat feel we like so much."

"The J/45 meets our criterion of being under 50-feet to enable ease of use by two people in all conditions, whether at sea in a gale, or manoeuvring into a marina berth (slip). We would not need to rely on electronic or hydraulic systems. Equally, she would provide the living space for those planned weeks and months at sea, and also at anchor, as we explore Australia and the Pacific. She can cater for family and friends without being crowded, but still give that pure joy of the sailing."

In conclusion, they said, "Finally, having a beautiful-looking boat that is an evolution of the best of J/Boats designs would enhance the experience. We will be taking delivery early in 2022 and can hardly wait!"

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please use the search window at the top of the website's home page if you are after something specific, as only the latest news appears as you scroll down. We enjoy bringing you the best stories from all over the globe.

If you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the Sail-WorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

Finally, stay safe, and ready for all that 2022 will offer.

John Curnow
Global Editor, SailWorldCruising.com

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J Composites 2020 - FOOTER