Best Boats 2013: J/70
There’s nothing more disappointing than test sailing a high-octane sport boat in a drifter. But that wasn’t a problem with the new 22ft, 9in J/70.
For our sail trial we had a steady 20-knot southerly, gusting over 25 knots and kicking up a sharp chop off Bristol, Rhode Island. Because J/Boats was only about a week into its boat trials at the time, company president Jeff Johnstone decided it might not be prudent to fly the A-sail, but it didn’t matter.
Beating out toward Popasquash Point, the boat proved both nimble and manageable. It accelerated in the puffs and had an easy helm, even when we buried the lee rail. At one point we overshot a tack, and the boat was momentarily knocked down. But we never felt we were completely out of control, thanks to the boat’s ballasted keel large transom-hung rudder. The fairly high boom and spacious 11-foot self-draining cockpit made getting from one side to the other while tacking a piece of cake—a far cry from the 24-footer that first put J/Boats on the map.
Then it came time to bear away.
“Let’s see if we can get up on a plane with just the main and jib,” Jeff said, and next thing we knew the boat was hissing over the water leaving a wake that bore an incredible resemblance to that of a Volvo Ocean Race 70 at speed. Even more impressive was how easy it all was. Not only did the helm feel light, providing just enough feedback to let me know what the foils were up to, but there was never any question of wiping out. There we were, sailing up in the double digits, and I wasn’t worried a bit. All I wanted was to try and make the boat go as fast as possible.
Complementing the boat’s effective foils and efficient hull form, with its sharp bow and flat planing sections farther aft, are a deck-stepped carbon-fiber mast, boom and retractable sprit, all built by Southern Spars. Deck hardware on our test boat was mostly Harken, but with Ronstan jib tracks and cars. The J/70’s double-ended backstay purchase system will play a central rolling in fine-tuning the powerful fractional rig. Twelve-inch stanchions with padded Dyneema lifelines provide back support when your feet are inboard and keep you out of the drink when hiking. There’s a kelp cutter on the keel and a substantial toerail on the foredeck. Construction quality is excellent throughout.
The J/70 is equipped with a vertical lifting keel, which is raised and lowered with a removable worm-gear crane. This is J/Boats’ first ramp-launchable keel boat, and in addition to creating new options for the racing set, it opens up a world of possibilities for daysailers. And, yes, this boat is a legitimate daysailer. The same qualities that make it easy to handle in a blow also make it a stable platform for taking out the kids. J/Boats has even included a small cuddy so they’ll have a place to get in out of the weather.
Expect big things from this great little boat.
LOA 22ft 9in
BEAM 7ft 5in
DRAFT 4ft 9in
SAIL AREA 226 ft2 (100% FT)
ENGINE 2.5hp outboard
DESIGN/MARKETING J/Boats Inc., Newport, RI; 401-846-8410; jboats.com
DESIGNER Alan Johnstone
U.S. BUILDER CCF Composites, Bristol, RI