Boat Review: J/112e

A family boat that is fast, and then some

A family boat that is fast, and then some

_bestboats2017-winnerOver the years J/Boats has created designs that range back and forth in terms of performance and creature comforts, with some boats offering a minimum of the latter, while others venture more toward the cruising end of the spectrum. The J/112e is the latest of the company’s boats designed to appeal to cruisers as well as racers. But don’t be fooled, this is still a boat that has plenty of get up and go.

Design & Construction

The third in J/Boats’s “E” series, in which the E stands for “elegance” and “evolution,” the J/112e boasts a sleek, carefully sculpted cabintrunk that combines with the hull’s blunt ends and somewhat springy (for a modern performance boat) sheer to create a very nice look. There’s even something about the boat that reminds me a little of the high-performance cutters of old that dominated the racing scene in England during yachting’s Golden Age.

In terms of build, the J/112e follows in the J/Boats tradition with a carefully crafted, SCRIMP resin-infused deck and hull, in which the hull includes an end-grain balsa core and a vinylester barrier coat in its layup to prevent blistering. A fiberglass “floor stringer grid” is also infused to promote stiffness and help support the rig and keel loads, while the deck laminate includes a foam core to help lower the center of gravity. All intermediate bulkheads are glassed to both the deck and hull to make the structure stiffer still.

Below the waterline, the J/112e features a trademark high-aspect, semi-balanced spade rudder and fin keel with a ballast bulb drawing 6ft 11in. Topsides, the rig and deck arrangement are also trademark J/boats and include a slightly fractional, double-spreader tapered aluminum mast with a minimally overlapping blade jib; a retractable, offset carbon bowsprit; rod rigging; and all the requisite sail controls, including a hydraulic backstay adjust, moveable genoa cars and fine-tune for trimming the main.

As evidence that this sport-cruising “family” boat, as J/ Boats calls it, means business, the jib and main halyards are both low-stretch Dyneema. A carbon mast is available as an option, as is a shoal-draft keel drawing 5ft 9in.

On Deck

J/Boats has long-since mastered the art of creating well-laid-out, ergonomically sensible cockpits, and the J/112e is no exception. On the one hand, there’s plenty of room for a full racing crew to swing its elbows. On the other, the cockpit benches, which end just forward of the wheel, are plenty big for lounging.

The sidedecks are wide and unobstructed. And while the fact that the chainplates are set outboard means you have to swing below the diagonals to make your way forward, they also allow the genoa cars to be set well inboard for nice, tight sheeting angles. The large single wheel is recessed into the cockpit sole and allows the person at the helm to sit far enough outboard to get a good view of the entire rig.

The main traveler is both long and set into the cockpit sole, right where it belongs. Similarly, the primary and secondary winches are placed so that they can be reached from the hull when necessary, but the crew still has space to grind like maniacs during, say, a hectic mark rounding.

The cockpit also includes a locker for a liferaft to starboard and another large storage locker to port. A removable stainless steel swim step comes standard. Although an integral bulwark-style toerail runs the length of the deck, it’s low enough and wide enough that it’s not too tough on the legs when hiking.

Belowdecks

A little extra woodwork makes life all the more pleasant belowdecks

Accommodations

Belowdecks, the arrangement is a fairly standard one, with a double berth and hanging locker/storage in the forepeak; a pair of straight-line settees to either side of a folding dining table in the saloon; an L-shaped galley to starboard of the companionway; a head and shower to port; and a double quarterberth to starboard.

As with any layout, the devil is in the details, and J/Boats gets the details right aboard the J/112e. First and foremost, the settees are plenty long to serve as good sea berths for a 6-footer—a must-have for any true seagoing vessel. There are also plenty of handholds (including a pair of nice robust grab rails to port and starboard in the deckhead) and plenty of places to store your gear—two other vital considerations that are missing from all too many modern designs.

I especially like to see this kind of galley positioned close up against the companionway, as it is aboard the J/112e because it gives you something to lean against when preparing meals in a seaway (at the same time leaving an escape route in the event you spill any hot stuff). The overall finish, which is done in cold-molded solid and laminated walnut, is nicely executed and provides a nice warm look belowdecks. Large windows in the cabintrunk and a pair of small hull windows make life in the saloon more inviting still.

Under Sail

My sail trial for the J/112e consisted of the stormy and extremely fast 2016 Chicago to Mackinac Race aboard a boat called Mary Gail, owned by Chicago-area sailor Ben Lumpkin. Suffice it to say, we finished second in our section, regularly clocked speeds in excess of 16 knots while flying the chute through a seemingly never-ending series of squalls and once even maxed the speed out at 18.2. Yes, the boat moves. (For all the gory details, as well as the usual lies we sailors like to tell, see “Endeavour to Persevere” in the November 2016 issue.)

Even more impressive was the way the boat moved in the light stuff at the very beginning of the race. Sailing away from the line, we hoisted a Code 0 and it promptly had us doing windspeed on a close reach in 7-8 knots wind: that and pulling away from our competition. Even when the surrounding water became glassy smooth, the combination of Mary Gail’s powerful rig and slippery lines kept us moving along in a way that was hard to believe.

Following the first squall, during which we shifted down to a genoa, the boat tacked with confidence as we wended our way through the shifty slop that the storm left in its wake. Late on Day 2 the boat’s well-balanced helm and spade rudder were also more than up to the task of controlling the boat in a following sea as the wind faded in the home stretch. Bottom line: the boat is an absolute joy to sail in a wide range of conditions.

Under Power

The J/112e’s slippery hull and powerful rudder make it a pleasure to maneuver under power as well. The boat’s somewhat restricted fuel tankage is a testament to the fact that this is a boat that only needs to motor in the truly light stuff. Once you reach the marina, getting in and out of even the tightest slip is a piece of cake.

Conclusion

J/Boats has been making fast, sea kindly boats for a long time, and it’s good to see that even after decades of continuing success the company isn’t resting on its laurels. If you absolutely must have the maximum amount of living space for a given LOA, fine. But if you want a boat that is both comfortable and an absolute gas to sail no matter what the wind gods decide to dish out, then this is the boat for you.

What do the ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

jboats.com

April 2017

  • LOA 36ft
  • LWL 31ft 9in
  • Beam 11ft 7in
  • Draft 6ft 11in (std.); 5ft 9in (shoal)
  • Displacement 11,300lb
  • Engine 30hp Volvo with saildrive
  • Fuel (GAL) 18
  • Water (GAL) 53
  • Sail Area 699ft2
  • Ratio SA/D Ratio 22 D/L ratio 157
  • Designer Alan Johnstone/J/boats
  • Builder Builder J/Boats Inc., Newport, RI, 401-846-8410
  • Ballast 4,200lb
  • Ballast Ratio 37
  • Price at time of publication $295,000