Bob Hughes, owner of the Farr 40 Heartbreaker (for sale in our classifieds – ed) did something that we should all do…
Figuring it was not worth it to drag the Farr 40 all the way to Key West for a seven boat fleet and the Melges 20 class that we just bought a boat for does not participate, we were in a quandary what to do for 2013 KWRW. Willem Van Waay suggested returning to the J boat roots and charter a J70 as they had a 40 boat fleet registered. I had no idea what to expect but had plenty of preconceived ideas that almost all turned to be wrong. First the Johnstone’s came out with a great boat to sail! She goes up wind very well and is plenty of fun to sail downwind. She feels and sails like a dinghy with a keel. Our only complaint with the boat is the winches that are not needed and tend to beat up the crew. Hopefully they will allow them to be removed in the future. Otherwise we loved sailing her and we never put the engine on her the whole week, sailing her to and from the slip. They are still experimenting with the crew weight so it was unlimited for this event but only two could have legs out.
Our team consisted of British Laser sailor Nicki (Minaj) Thompson, Willem ( Creature) Van Waay and college sailor Venezuelan Victor, The Dictator, and myself. Four people is a big advantage in the corners with a extra pair of hands for maneuvers and upwind as you can only have two people hiking so the third can sit in and trim the mainsheet and back stay(traveler with Helmsman). The boat goes upwind much better than the typical sport boat. Sail development and rig tune are all in their infancy with the class so the sailmakers are working with a blank canvas. I am sure the sails will look much different in a year and hopefully the class will allow a plastic jib that will last longer than the Dacron. Southern Spars put a very nice rig on her. The boat is planes easily downhill in the breeze and has plenty of power in the light air.
For $50K in the water sailing I think J Boats have hit the market at the right price point allowing lots of great sailors to get in and play the game. Besides many established Pro Sailmakers like Dave Ullman, Mark Plough, Jud Smith and winner Tim Healy one of the best things about this boat was that I saw younger teams just a few years out of college able to buy and race the heck out of the boat. Sailing needs something to get younger people in it and I think this boat will bring plenty of them into the game. Over the years we have competed in KWRW in a M 24, 1D35, Farr 40 and M 32. This fleet was just as competitive as all of those, similar to the 60 boat M24 fleets of the late 90’s. I have heard people say it is the right boat at the right time and I could not agree more. Well designed, quality build, affordable price and J Boats marketing have kick started to almost 400 boats already sold. We liked it so much and figured what else would we rather do KWRW next year that we better buy a boat. The boats are really fun to sail both upwind and down and everyone is trying to learn how to sail them fast. Like all one design classes we will be sailing this boats much different with established tuning guides in a year. With the shrinking fleets we have all seen the last few years this boat has a chance to make a huge impact on our sport.
I would encourage you to go for a sail to better yet race the J 70 as the racing is plenty tough and lots of fun. This is the way it is suppose to work, American entrepreneurship creating solutions. Well done Johnstone Family! More pics here.
– Robert Hughes/Heartbreaker Sailing Team.