Boat Reviews

Blue Jacket 40: a fin-keeled, twin-wheeled performance cruiser

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We sail the Blue Jacket 40, a fin-keeled, twin-wheeled performance cruiser from Island Packet Yachts

If you were asked to sum up any boat you sailed in just two words, it’s a fair bet that some of them wouldn’t be “family-friendly.” Thankfully, the phrase that stuck in my mind after our test sail of the new Blue Jacket 40 was this: sailor-friendly. Given the boat’s unusual but impeccable design pedigree, it could hardly have been anything else.

 

Tim Jackett, the longtime chief designer at Tartan/C&C, knows how to design a fast, sweet-sailing performance boat. Bob Johnson, owner and chief designer at Island Packet Yachts, has his own well-proven ideas about how a cruising boat should be built and designed.

I stood behind one of the twin wheels while the Blue Jacket 40 steered itself to windward, its wake an arrow-straight line across Long Island Sound, and reflected that in this boat the noble art of compromise between two philosophies had been exercised to fine effect; Jackett likes fin keels and spade rudders, Johnson is a champion of long keels and attached rudders, and here I was sailing a boat that tracked like a long-keeler but had the legs of a fin-keeler.

 

In a breeze that peaked in the low to mid teens, the Blue Jacket displayed no vices but plenty of charm. The working jib set on a jib boom made for effortless tacking and was equally effective dead downwind, where it goosewinged easily. We did not hit record-breaking speeds—low 8s—but I was left with the impression that the recently commissioned boat had more to give. Just for kicks, we unrolled the 150 percent lightweight genoa and found it pulled like a draft horse. The only hassle was tacking this big sail through the narrow gap between the stays, an exercise that we all agreed would be better accomplished by first rolling it up.

In the first-impressions department, I was first of all impressed with the cockpit, which somehow manages to be bigger than it looks—there were eight of us on board, and yet all of us managed to move about freely and work the boat without getting in each other’s way. It takes a more than a little experience to get the ergonomics so right, not only in the cockpit but below decks as well.

Look out for a full review of the Blue Jacket 40 in the August issue of SAIL

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