J/35 Winner under IRC & PHRF Plus, Easy-to-Sail Qualities of Family Cruising Sailboat
It is probably safe to say that no racer-cruiser in the annals of fiberglass sailboat production elevated the self-esteem of sailors as dramatically as the J/35. When it was introduced in the spring of 1983, it was the closest thing ever seen to instant gratification in an offshore handicap racer and one-design. If it is an exaggeration to say that new owners stepped aboard, raised the sails and began winning races, it is a small one.
What made the J/35’s dazzling performance so accessible to sailors of varying experience and ability? Primarily it was its pure hull form, a sweet easily driven shape free of the rating rule-induced exaggerations that made other handicap racers of the 1980s cranky and difficult to sail. With its light weight and long sailing length, big but uncomplicated rig and sensible deck layout, the J/35 was graced with a responsive yet forgiving nature over a wide range of conditions.
These endearing characteristics gave the J/35 a parallel life as cruising boat. Easily handled by a family, it offered plenty of space below for accommodations that were plain but practical.
The J/35 was created in response to a downturn in the U.S. economy. To attract buyers in the offshore racer-cruiser category, the brothers who ran J Boats, Bob Johnstone, who handled marketing, and Rod Johnstone, designer of the J line, decided to modify one of Rod’s earlier designs, the J/36. With a slightly shorter hull, improved keel with a lower center of gravity and a masthead, instead of fractional, rig and cost reductions realized by eliminating wheel-steering and making some cabin amenities optional, the new 35-footer, offered at a base price $49,500 ($30,000 less than its predecessor), was an instant hit. More than 170 boats (built by TPI) were sold in the first three years; there are 330 sailing today. One-design racing activity has been strong since the J/35 debuted-as many as three dozen of the powerful 35-footers have been on the starting line for class championships.
The fact that the field is more level in J/35 class racing because of the boat’s forgiving nature has not deterred some of the world’s top sailors from competing in class events. The boat’s greatest impact, however, has been in handicap racing. How ironic that this boat designed with a conscientious disregard for any handicap rule is one of the most successful handicap racing boats ever. It has taken honors in major offshore races around the world, including even the singlehanded transatlantic race. It is the most popular racer-cruiser rated by the IMS. In spite of a challenging PHRF rating more common to 40-footers, the J/35 remains a perennial winner in club racing.
Mainly, though, the J/35’s appeal endures today for the same reason the boat was immediately popular when it was introduced 16 years ago-because, in the words of Bob Johnstone, it is “a magical boat that turns good sailors into great sailors.”
-Bill Schanen, Sailing Magazine
The American Hall of Fame Standard
A boat that has earned lasting recognition by fostering new enjoyment and growth in the sport of sailing through excellent design and production ingenuity.
Built to: Hull #330
Last Model Year: 1992
Articles & Reviews
J/35 Design Brief
“1st to Finish Speed, Without the Costs”
Until J/35 came along, the costs of spectacular sailing performance were high. Cost in dollars, time, comfort, relaxation, even friends. Because, 1st-to-finish speed usually meant large, expensive, difficult to manage 40 footers. Intimidating rigs. More crew, and not always those you’d choose to cruise with. “Why seek performance, if freedom to enjoy sailing on one’s own terms is lost?” Thanks to the J/35, however, this very real problem has become academic.
Faster Than Grand Prix
Now, you can take a quantum leap in sailing performance, with increased sailing enjoyment, without the costs. The J/35 design starts with the fastest hull shape possible, disregarding bumps used to get a good “rating”. An anomaly of sailboat racing is that Grand Prix, contrary to auto racing, encourages a “low rating” rather than “maxi¬mum speed” for a given size. It gets worse. Manufacturers, trying to create a performance image, then promoted “warmed over” Grand Prix handicap racers as family cruisers. That’s why a Beneteau 42, Swan 44, C&C 41 or custom, carbon/kevlar 1 tonner (39-41 ft) is no faster than a stock J/35. PHRF rates the J35 an average of 72. Among the most popular 100 designs sailing PHRF across the country, J/35 is the fastest boat you can buy. One owner reported after a two week cruise with his wife, “No other sailboat of any size passed us. We had the only Indy 500 car on the highway.” If you get serious, here’s what J/35 can do; 1st Overall MHS Chicago-Mackinac and Block Island Race Week 1984; 1-2-3 Overall PHRF Monhegan Race 1985; Best Boat Under 40 Feet 1984 Bermuda Race MHS; Double-handed Champion New England 1986; Ist Overall Miami-Montego Bay 1986. Under IMS (x-MHS), J/35 is considered to be the most competitive boat you can own.
Speed is worthless without seaworthiness! Tony Lush, veteran of 45,000 miles of open ocean sailing and 7 trans-Atlantic singlehanded crossings, chose the J/35 for the 1984 OSTAR. He beat all multi-hulls in his class except one. “A faster crossing is a safer crossing, because there’s less exposure to low pressure gales and frontal systems. Less fatigue. And, I liked J/35’s rugged construction and structural engineering.
On the way to the start in England, I beat to windward for 5 days in 35-50 knot gales. Seas were larger than those which destroyed my 54 footer in the BOC.
There are few boats of any size that can perform in such weather! Soloing trans-Atlantic in 22 days, upwind to Newport must be some kind of record, tool”
Good freeboard, hull flare and reserve buoyancy in bow sections prevent submarining when surfing before huge storm seas or under spinnaker when racing. One owner reports sustained 17 knots of speed, under control, in 35 knots of wind!
By minimizing weight in the ends, lowering center of gravity with a deep lead keel and avoiding hull line distortions, J/35 sails fast comfortably … with minimum pitching and rolling. When the boat behaves better, so does the crew. Increased resistance from either is slow!
The fact that J/35 is the choice of people sailing shorthanded, also says that it’s well suited for cruising. Mostly, cruising is with two people, which means that one has to sail while the other gets some sleep. A 35 footer still qualifies as “manageable” for a family crew. But, J/35 is even better because a fast 35 footer is less work than a slow one. Less sail area is needed to attain acceptable speeds. A J/35 under mainsail alone (controlled by a 6 part Harken Hexaratchet, Hall Quik-Vang, and Navtec Hydraulic Backstay) is faster than a Pilot 35 under full sail. With small jib and main, a cruising couple on a J/35 can sail circles around a Frers 36 with full racing crew using a large genoa. If it’s blowing over 20 knots, it’s a lot easier to drop or roll up the jib to sail with full main only, than it is to have to fight the jib and reef the main.
Other keys to ease of handling and seaworthiness are balance and control. To feel J/35 accelerate in a puff of wind with hardly more than small pressure on the tiller, is one of the ultimate joys of sailing. And, so your pleasure is not interrupted by a clump of weeds or a crab pot, both keel and rudder leading edge angles (& folding prop) are designed to shed underwater snares.
Cruising Yacht Interior
Most are amazed that such a fast sailboat has any interior at all, let alone one with extensive teak cabinetry, teak hull sidings, and radiused cold-molded trim. The new standard J/35 comes complete with quarterberths, 8 Bomar opening ports, large head with shower, spacious forward V-Berth cabin, built-in icebox, cabinets and storage behind main settee berths, and a 28 hp diesel engine.
J/35 – From the Experts
Sailing World Magazine- By Andreas Josenhans
Keelboat champion Andreas Josenhans shares his high-speed techniques and rigging details for this quick offshore one-design. Sailing Photographs by Sharon Green.
Read more about Andreas Josenhan’s commentary and recommendations on sailing a J/35 fast– good advice for ANY masthead rigged high-performance boat!
The J/35 – Practical Sailor Used Boat Survey
Go-fast racer/cruiser from the fabulous Johnstones
The “J” stands for Johnstone and the “35” stands for 35 feet. Straightforward-a characteristic of both the boat and the company that sells them.
Read more about Practical Sailor’s perspective on why J/35 remains a great used boat value on the market today.
- ft/lb m/kg
- LOA 35.50 10.82
- LWL 30.00 9.14
- Beam 11.80 3.60
- Standard Draft 6.90 2.10
- Standard Ballast 4,400 1,996
- Displacement 10,500 4,763
- Diesel Aux. Engine 28 hp 28 hp
- 100% SA 632 58.67
- I 46.40 14.14
- J 14.70 4.48
- P 41.50 12.65
- E 14.00 4.27
- SA/Dspl 21 21
- Dspl/L 174 174