While classic in profile and layout, J/42 steps into the future when considering structural strength performance, ease-of-handling, stability and sailing comfort. This progress is now available to the cruising sailor in a boat that handles like a 35 footer with the solid feel and motion of a 50 footer. When a gust of wind hits the J/42 it’s as though someone pushed forward the throttles on a Concorde jet. Slicing though waves, there’s little fuss. A slight lift of the bow over a wave is rapidly dampened. There is none of the three-dimensional pitch and roll often accepted as a rigor of cruising.

The patented SCRIMP process pulls triple the normal vacuum-bagging levels to draw all the air out of cored hull & deck laminates and to draw a slow-curing resin into every void in a single step. It’s a better and healthier way to build boats because toxic styrene emissions are eliminated. It offers higher strength (65% vs. typical 40% glass content) and a void-free laminate far superior to hand lay-up or chopper gun construction. The savings in weight is added to the bottom of the keel in the form of a lead bulb, shaped as an inverted wedge with a tapered tail aft. This is why J/42’s center of gravity (CG) is so much lower than other cruisers.


The Cruiser’s Choice- Superior Performance & Handling

While classic in profile and layout, J/42 steps into the future when considering structural strength performance, ease-of-handling, stability and sailing comfort. This progress is now available to the cruising sailor in a boat that handles like a 35 footer with the solid feel and motion of a 50 footer. When a gust of wind hits the J/42 it’s as though someone pushed forward the throttles on a Concorde jet. Slicing though waves, there’s little fuss. A slight lift of the bow over a wave is rapidly dampened. There is none of the three-dimensional pitch and roll often accepted as a rigor of cruising.

The patented SCRIMP process pulls triple the normal vacuum-bagging levels to draw all the air out of cored hull & deck laminates and to draw a slow-curing resin into every void in a single step. It’s a better and healthier way to build boats because toxic styrene emissions are eliminated. It offers higher strength (65% vs. typical 40% glass content) and a void-free laminate far superior to hand lay-up or chopper gun construction. The savings in weight is added to the bottom of the keel in the form of a lead bulb, shaped as an inverted wedge with a tapered tail aft. This is why J/42’s center of gravity (CG) is so much lower than other cruisers.

A low VCG means greater stability, which means better sail carrying ability. The greater sail area dampens the motion of hull/deck/rig in waves. Pitch & roll create resistance to water flow around the hull and air flow past the sails. By reducing resistance, the J/42 sails faster and more comfortably. Seakindliness, how a boat handles the sea, also relates to how it handles the crew at sea and how the crew may subsequently enjoy interior amenities when arriving in port.

Sailing J/42 is easy for one person, thanks to superb wheel response and a common-sense sailplan. J/42-balances well and sails upwind faster under mainsail only (over 6 kts) than some cruisers using both main and large genoa. Since a mainsail is the easiest of any sail to operate: there’s less need for expert crews no need to reef when it blows 25 kts; and, visibility is greatly improved. A 100% jib is all one needs for cruising upwind at 7.2 knots. You get an added bonus of better visibility and there’s little need for grinding of winches. When you sail a J/42 you soon learn that progress in yacht design and construction makes a big difference in your sailing enjoyment.

The Ideal Cruising Interior
The J/42 interior is designed to fulfill two goals: Privacy for each of two couples when cruising or ample space and convenience for one couple living aboard for an extended period of time.

From bow to stern: A self-draining deck anchor storage locker, behind the standard Lewmar electric windlass, is big enough for an anchor rode and cruising spinnaker, ready-to-fly in a ”snuffer” sock. A forepeak bulkhead separates this locker from a spacious owners stateroom with twin berths (convertible to an over-size double) and ample drawer, bin, cabinet & hanging locker space to store a permanent onboard wardrobe. The forward head /shower combination is private to the forward stateroom. The aft head serves multiple needs: it’s ideally located for use at sea; as a wet hanging locker; as a private head for guests; and as a “separate shower” when there are no guests. Interior styling features bulkheads with exceptional joiner work in varnished cherry with cold-molded fiddles and door trim – a detail that’s rarely seen, because of the tooling expense, in “one-off’ custom construction. Hull lining slats, cabinets and drawers are also in varnished cherry.

Two 6′ 6” main settees double as sea-berths and are pitched outboard 5 degrees for secure sleeping at anchor. Stainless overhead grab rails are excellent handholds, drying racks and lee-cloth anchors. The cherry drop-leaf table is ruggedly built for security in a seaway. It’s arranged away from the bulkhead, so guests aren’t “trapped” during dinner. An optional bulkhead fold-down table is also available. The “J” galley is well ventilated next to the companionway and features a recessed, deep, double sink. Unique is the combination cutting board, serving tray and drop-in galley seat for easier meal preparation at sea. A Force 10 stainless LPG range has both broiler & oven. There is flip-panel access to a tall trash bin.

The navigation station features an over-sized table with chart storage, pencil/divider/reading glass rack, overhead panel for flush instrument mounting and a book/binocular/hat/cellular phone storage bin outboard. The aft double stateroom has four opening ports and hatches, a changing seat, hanging locker bureau with cabinet, three storage drawers and a bedding storage shelf. Five deck hatches over interior living spaces are mounted on the cabin trunk to permit use when sailing. Exceptional ventilation throughout is provided by 4 Dorade intakes, 10 opening ports and the dodger-protected companionway.

Introduced: 2001
Built to: Hull #35
Last Model Year: 2005

Articles & Reviews

Performance Cruising Parameters

By Rod Johnstone

What is a performance-cruising sailboat? Positive responses to each of the following questions define the answer. (1) Is the boat seakindly- or does it have an easy motion in a seaway? (2) Can one person or a couple handle the boat and achieve good performance without the weight of a lot of crew on the rail? (3) Does the boat perform well enough so that its crew will prefer to sail rather than power or motor-sail?

When considering any performance-cruising boat, it’s worth asking two questions: Will I feel safe and comfortable going to sea in this boat? Am I going to have fun sailing this boat in the cruising mode? Speed is desirable when cruising, simply because going from point A to B under sail is what it’s all about. If you tack up a shoreline at the same speed as those plodding under “iron genoa” into the wind, waves, and current offshore, then you have a performance cruiser. If you enjoy the serenity of broad-reaching down the coast at nearly the same speed as boats that are motor-sailing, then you are on a performance cruiser. But if you have to crank up the engine, even when there is breeze, to make a decent day’s run, you are on a slow powerboat that happens to have sails – in my opinion.

Where does performance come from? Length is most important. Average speed in knots for the typical sailboat is roughly equivalent to the square root of its waterline length. Hence a boat with a 36-foot waterline length should sail at about 6 knots under “cruising canvas”; a performance-cruiser should be able to exceed this pace in all but very light winds.

True performance-cruisers most often have fin keels and spade rudders. This underbody configuration provides many performance advantages, including less wetted surface (and thus reduced drag), greater efficiency sailing to windward (in the form of better pointing), and greater steering control and maneuverability. Reduced drag means the boat does not need as much sail or as large a rig to achieve speed under sail, and upwind efficiency means faster passages.

Traditional heavy-displacement cruisers with full-length keels can overcome their speed disadvantage only with a much larger sail plan. More sail requires heavier deck hardware for the higher rig loads and more hands on deck in heavy weather-just what cruisers don’t want. A sail plan that can be handled by one or two people in any conditions is crucial not only to passage-making performance but to crew comfort-otherwise sailing can become an unwanted chore. On most performance-cruising boats under 60 feet in length, a sail area-to-displacement ratio of 16 to 22 can usually provide the required power and an easy to handle sail plan.

A cruising sailboat’s performance also depends on stability, or “stiffness”-the ability of the boat to resist the heeling force of the sails. Good all-around speed is possible only if the boat is stiff; a stiff boat can carry more sail and heel less in a breeze than a tender boat. Stiffness can be achieved through a wide beam at the waterline or through a low vertical center of gravity (VCG). If stiffness comes from a wide waterline beam, the boat’s motion tends to be bouncy and abrupt in waves; as soon as this type of boat heels, it usually exhibits excessive weather helm and may be difficult to steer. Because such a boat tends to have a high center of gravity, good speed can be achieved only by placing crew weight or movable ballast, such as water, to windward to reduce heel.

The most important characteristic of a performance cruiser is that its stiffness be derived from a low center of gravity. This is indicated by a simple ratio of righting moment (RM) at 1 degree of heel to the cube of the greatest beam at the waterline (B). The RM/B^3 ratio indicates whether the boat derives its stability more from its low VCG (RM) or from its large beam, or waterplane inertia (B^3). The greater the number yielded by this ratio, the greater the stability, seakindliness, sail-carrying ability, and potential performance of the boat. Boats with a high RM/B^3 tend to be longer, narrower, and faster than boats with a lower RM/B^3. Based on a sample of 219 different IMS-rated cruising boats in the United States from 22 to 81 feet in length, the median value of RB/B^3 for the stiffest 50 boats is 1.7. The median value of RM/B^3 for the most tender 50 boat is .89. The average length/beam (LWL/B) ratio for the top group is 3.82, and only 2.96 for the bottom group.

A high or low rating on this index is independent of a boat’s displacement/length (D/L) ratio. The 50 boats highest on the RM/B^3 scale have a D/L ratio ranging from 55 (light) to 339 (heavy). (In modern terms, a D/L ratio of less than 180 is light, 180-280 is moderate, and above 280 is heavy.) Thus, 16 of the top 50 boats on the RB/B^3 scale are heavy, 16 are moderate, and 18 are light. At the bottom of the scale half of the bottom 50 are heavy, 19 are moderate, and only 6 are light.

The preponderance of heavy-displacement boats at the low end of the scale reflects a modern trend in cruising sailboats toward increased accommodations and decreased ballast/displacement ratios-a trend that has raised the height of the center of gravity of this type of boat. Forty-two of the 50 stiffest boats on the RM/B^3 scale, (but only 22 of the less-stiff boats), have sail area-to-displacement ratios of over 16 – what I consider to be a minimum for performance cruising speed under sail.

Finally, the RM/B^3 ratio is an excellent predictor of “big-boat feel” and motion in any size boat- the quality is just harder to achieve in a smaller lighter boat. Whether light or heavy, a narrow boat with a low center of gravity will have a rock solid feel, an easy motion, and positive control-the unmistakable aura of power, stability, and passage-making speed.

J-Belles Storm Story

I spent more than a year and sailed more than twenty different boats before I decided to buy a J-42. Our family took delivery in August of 2000. We named our boat J-Belles after my daughter, Julie. I have owned several sailboats, but spent the last twenty years sailing a Tartan 37 from my home base in Erie, Pennsylvania.

I chose the J-42 for several different reasons. I liked her pedigree as the cruising version of the J-40. The extra two feet added to the stern made the J-42 an ideal boat to have my children, Robbie who is eleven and Julie who is thirteen, spend their adolescent years behind the helmsman where we can spend many hours of leisurely sailing and conversing. We also belong to an active sailing fleet where we can spend Wednesday evenings and some Saturdays competing in the JAM fleet.

The J-42 is an excellent light air sailboat, even with our shoal keel of 5’6”. With the wind blowing just 6 knots, the boat easily sails in the 5.5 knot range and at wind speeds of 8 or 9 knots, “J-Belles,” sails at 7 knots. Her seakindliness in heavy weather was the safety feature that was most appealing to me since I would be sailing her in Lake Erie, the most dangerous of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes have a reputation for bad weather that appears with little warning. Lake Erie, the most shallow of the Great lakes, has the propensity for rapidly developing large waves, closely spaced which have been responsible for more shipwrecks anywhere except Cape Hatteras. J-Belles consistently sails in this weather in the spring and fall. Her stability from her low center of gravity and carbon fiber mast is such that we never reef the main unless the wind is blowing in excess of 30 knots. The J-42 is mostly driven from her large main sail, not the Genoa, so when the wind is 17 knots or more and we are feeling lazy, we often sail just tacking the main sail and achieve speeds of 7 plus knots.

We bought our boat from Paul Mikulski, at JPort in Annapolis. Paul is one of the largest J Boat dealers on the East Coast and his experience in outfitting the boat was invaluable. We outfitted J Belles with a main sail, a 100% Jib, a 140% Genoa, and an asymmetrical spinnaker. We also put two electric winches onboard to raise the main and trim the Genoa in heavy weather. We cannot use them during a race.

Paul Mikulski never seemed flustered no matter what our request when ordering the boat. His typical response was “Uh huh” followed by expeditiously doing exactly what we wanted. As an example, the boat was built in Newport, shipped to Paul in Annapolis where, after full commissioning and a beautiful dark blue Awlgrip paint job, she underwent complete sea trials on Wednesday through Sunday, derigged, packed, shipped overland to Erie, unpacked, rerigged and was sailing in Erie the following Friday. Paul was also in Erie to meet the boat; an exceptional dealer.

Over the course of a year, we got to know Paul, his wife, Sue, and their Portuguese water dog, Maggie. At the spectacular christening of J-Belles that Paul, Sue, and my wife, Patty, organized with old sea hymns and Cristal champagne, we invited Paul and Sue to join us for a race in 2001. Paul said, “Uh huh.”

We chose the Multiple Sclerosis charity race on Labor Day. It is the largest race in our area with 85 boats entered. It’s a short 5-mile race around the bay. There were two racing spinnaker fleets filled with Heritage One tons, Shock 36’s, J 24’s, 35’s and 36’s, Tripp designs and a few custom designed boats. We chose to sail in the cruising fleet with several C&C 40’s, 41’s and a 50, a Baltic 42, a Tartan 42, and a NM 50 ‘Champosa’. The NM 50 has a PHRF of 0; J-Belles has a PHRF of 87. The NM 50 had just finished the Lake Erie Race and wanted to sail the cruising class. Ours would be the third start; the first two starts of the racing spinnaker fleets would be separated by 5 minutes.

It was a sunny day and the wind was blowing 22 knots at the start. Paul and Sue had joined us, and being a charity event, we had a boatful of ten people. We were fourth off the line on our start, but soon moved to second behind the NM 50 at the first buoy. On the downwind leg, we put a whisker pole to leeward, and closed on the racing fleet in front of us and the NM 50.

We carried a full main and the 140% Genoa. Clouds were rapidly closing in from the west. By the time we rounded the second mark and were on a reaching leg, the weather had turned foul. The wind was now blowing 30 knots and the rain was in sheets, stinging our faces. Sunglasses were mandatory despite the clouds to protect our eyes from the driving rain. At the turn of the third mark, we had sailed through half of the racing fleet in front of us and were only 30 seconds behind the NM 50. J-Belles loved this weather. She had very little helm and still had not dipped her rail. On the finishing, up wind leg, the wind had increased to 40 knots, J-Belles still had her full yard of sails up with no reef and was sailing at 9.9 knots. We crossed the finish line only 16 seconds behind the NM 50 and had sailed through the entire second racing fleet and caught two boats from the first fleet!

The wind rapidly increased to 66 knots as later reported by Erie International airport. It became almost a complete whiteout. We had dropped our sails by then. Many of the boats were knocked down, suffered rigging damage, and one even sunk. The Coast Guard rescued the sailors without further mishap. The storm was over in twenty minutes, and the wind settled in the fifteen-knot range with rain. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the yacht club, watching them raise the boat from the bottom of the bay and toasting our victory. J-Belles had the second fastest elapsed time, just 16 seconds behind the NM 50 who owed us 7 minutes and 15 seconds. We enjoyed a beautiful trophy and participated in raising thirty-eight thousand charity dollars. Most of all, we were safe in 66 knot winds and suffered no damage.

It is comforting to know that when the winds blow unexpectedly at that velocity that you will end up on the air-side of the water in a J-42. The boat had excelled in the challenge.

Later when I sent the clipping from our newspaper with the wind clocked at 66mph to Paul and reminisced about the race, I asked Paul if he ever thought the weather could change so violently in Lake Erie. Paul just said, “Uh huh.”

The SAIL Rally for 40′ Cruisers

Wednesday, February 21, 6 PM. The Miami Boat Show has just come to a close. Here I am on the J/42 tied up on the show floats off the Miami Yacht Club on Watson Island, isolated by bumper-to-bumper traffic and triangulated between the Bird Cage on South Beach, a line of cruise ships along the main channel and the amazing architecture of Miami’s downtown. Fortunately the air temperature has returned to normal, pushing into the upper 70’s and 80’s during the day. Nothing like the 40’s of the past weekend. I must be tired, but pleasantly so. 10 days of SAIL EXPO, 5 days of visiting friends and being a tourist with Mary in Savannah, Charleston, Beaufort and Hilton Head. Now, 5 days of the Miami International Boat Show come to end…. and we’re about to depart on a unique odyssey: The SAIL RALLY for 40+/- footers. Incredibly, I’m looking forward to it. Maybe it’s because we can finally go sailing. Get the J/42 in her element. For the first time in a month, I can stand aside and applaud while she does all the talking.

Commissioning J/42 #7 on the fly was quite an exercise. She was the show boat at Atlantic City. We packed her up on Sunday night and she left via truck for Miami, arriving Thursday morning, was commissioned in three hours by Garrett Almeida and his capable Eastern Yacht Sales crew and in the show that afternoon. Meanwhile, I took every opportunity to purchase and equip the vessel with all the galley gear, tools, safety gear, mooring and docking equipment she would need for a five day voyage with two crossings of the Gulf Stream.

J/42 #7 was set up for cruising to the Bahamas, having an aluminum mast and shoal 5.5′ keel with 500 more pounds of bulb weight than the standard 6.6′ keel. How would she differ in sailing qualities from #1 GANNET which had a carbon mast and deeper keel?

Sail Rallies date back a number of years. One eventually learns that this event was ably organized and creatively scripted in progress by Associate Editor Eric Nelson. The way it works in theory is this: Five editors from Sail (Don Abrams, Tom Linskey, Charles (Chip) Mason plus Erik) rotate in one direction taking turns sailing on five boats (J/42, Tartan 4100, Pacific Seacraft 40, Island Packet 40 and Freedom 40/40) while five sailing “panelist” couples rotate in the opposite direction so each gets a chance to live and sail on one of the boats for a day. A factory representative remains with their own craft the whole time. Skip Brown, photographer, rotated as the “5th” crew on a different boat each day. Prior to changing to the next boat, SAIL required each of the panelists to fill out a rather lengthy questionnaire. These are then reviewed and mixed with the editors comments to create a feature article which will appear in SAIL MAGAZINE’S October 1996 issue. In practice, you can imagine that there were a few variations!

I knew from the start that we were in for some surprises, unique challenges or Machiavellian hurdles thrown in our path – depending on one’s outlook. From the size of the provision carts that came trundling down the docks as the boat show folk were departing, test one was going to be storage capacity. SAIL wasn’t going to let us dehydrate, but did they consider the risk of scurvy? 5 cases of beer, 4 gallons of milk, 5 cases of soda pop, 8 gallons of spring water, 4 gallons of apple & cranberry juice, 1 gallon of wine. Liquids totaled 1.6 gallons each per day, including nearly a 6-pack of beer plus a 6 pack of pop. But, where’s the orange juice? – in Florida, yet!? That’s why I go there. I turned back 3 gallons of milk. I could have done the same with the water, but didn’t. The Seagull Purifier on the J/42 does wonders to any marginal water supply and it’s a lot easier to get at. All this gallonage fit nicely under the aft quarterberth, outboard of the aft section of the starboard settee and under the 3 sinks. Most of it was still there after the Rally, including 4.5 cases of beer.

The fresh produce was all stored in the starboard forward locker over the settee in the main cabin and the 5 dozen donut holes, 5 boxes of Oreos, Nutterbutters, Fig Newtons, Creme Sandwiches all adding up to over a box each it seems per day fit in the port forward locker.

Frozen and refrigerated food planning was also different. Four frozen coffee cakes, 4 packages of frozen bagels (to supplement the donut holes), frozen dinners, tons of cold cuts and cheese, several forms of butter, huge mayo and mustard with lots of bread. Five things were apparent from this exercise: We weren’t going to starve. This diet would not prolong life on earth. Erik will pick another provisioner next time. The J/42 has storage capacity to spare as only half the dry goods locker over the galley counter was used. And, the J/42 was going to sail even better by comparison because of all the added weight. J/42’s long waterline and buoyant U-shaped canoebody has plenty of reserve buoyancy. It would not sink as far down in the water as the diamond-shaped wide-bodies.

The Rally officially started with a reception that night at the Miami Yacht Club where we met a delightful and competent group of sailors who would become our crew for the next five days. If one had to characterize the panel’s sailing life-styles or the life-style they pictured themselves in, most seemed to look at the boats as though they were fulfilling the dream of retiring and living on the boats as a couple, year-round. Yet, this was not generally the current reality. Little mention was made of family or children in use of the boat. SAIL selected the panelists from resumes submitted by cruising sailors. Of the 10, all but two, were currently living on Florida’s east coast and 6 of these were semi-retired or retired.

They did not currently represent a great many seasonal sailing owners -who’s current agenda is an extended 6 month summe sailing season, living aboard for 2-4 weeks at a time or on weekends, and daysailing with friends- then putting their boat up for storage during the winter.

This day set the tone for the week as far as sailing was concerned. Mission one was to get our Bahamas and return paperwork completed with US Customs near the cruise ship terminal. My next mission, with Chip Mason and Warren & Donna Higgons aboard, was to top out with fuel. Chip ingratiated himself with the captain right off by finding a source of orange juice. I had already smuggled in a private but ample supply of Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, brown sugar, a bottle of Mt. Gay to preserve the traditions of Her Majesty’s Navy and some Sandemann’s Port for after-dinner stories around the wardroom table. With still some fuel in the tank, we added 34.8 gallons – yet claim only 31 on the brochure. Nice bonus! Then it was out Government Cut in light air for a photo shoot: sailing shots, then a choreographed shot of all the boats sailing together in a chorus line for the October SAIL cover. Catching thermals in his hang glider must be a piece of cake for Skip Brown compared to the gyrations he went through getting this group lined up and framed in a single shot.

The J/42 performed an early rescue mission, circling in her own length while rolling up the jib to hand the dinghy operator a tow. The mother ship had failed to give him the kill switch device to plug in. In late afternoon we sailed the 8-9 miles upwind in 7-9 knots of air to the Biscayne entrance channel and to No Name Harbor. This turned out to be quite revealing in terms of light air sailing ability. J/42 sailed from behind and between the Tartan and Pacific Seacraft and doing over 6 knots moved out to a 1 mile lead by the time we reached the Biscayne Channel. This was with a 100% jib. The Tartan was next, holding pretty much the J/42 line only slower, the Pacific Seacraft about a mile behind the Tartan with about 5 degrees moreleeway, the Freedom seemed 10 degrees lower on pointing angle and much slower, while the Island Packet motored – after performing yeoman service with the Rally’s dinghy. We popped the asymmetrical chute to sail all the way up the channel, dropped the mainsail, and ghosted into the very narrow harbor entrance of No-Name jibing the spinnaker,then up to our anchorage, snuffing the chute and dropping the hook. It wasn’t necessary to wake up the Manatees with our engine. Every now and then those standing ovations are nice to get.

Erik announced the plan was to depart at midnight with the idea of arriving in North Bimini, 49 miles away across the Gulf Stream by noon. A crew change and sailing were planned for the afternoon. The Jacketts on the Tartan 4100, having celebrated a birthday party and the J/42 crew figured we could average over 7 knots under sail and/or power on the voyage and got permission to leave at 4 AM after 6 hours of sleep rather than loose sleep at the outset by leaving at midnight.

That plan seemed to be working well as the Tartan 4100 and J/42 motorsailed in company at 7.7 knots in light following breezes toward a beautiful tropical dawn. I was so excited about making a landfall at sunrise over Bimini with the light coming though those low puffy clouds, that I called Mary on the cellular phone at 7 AM back in Boothbay to describe the scene and to say everything was going well here in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Famous last words! When all of a sudden, WHAM, black smoke! The smell of burning rubber! I said, “Just a minute dear, there’s something wrong with the engine”. She hears, “Turn it off. Oh, my God! Look at the smoke. Let’s get the ladder off. Oh, no! The waterpump pulley casting has disintegrated and the drive belt’s burned up!”. I get back on the phone to say, “Darling, it doesn’t look too good I’ll have to get back when we get this sorted out.” I’m sure Mary left with visions far worse than the tropical dawn which had inspired the call.

So much for the motor. We called the Tartan to transfer the crew so at least they could get to Bimini and continue the Rally. We weren’t sure at that point whether the J/42 would have to be scratched. Chip Mason, the first-rate shipmate that he is, volunteered to make the sail back to Miami with me with the objective in mind of getting the engine repaired by midnight, then returning to Bimini to join the fleet for Day 4 of sailing. As it turned out, the J/42 was the only boat to sail on this day. And, it was quite pleasant under the circumstances. We had a 12 knot Norther and were making 7+ knots by GPS on a close fetch toward Government Cut. Chip steered and I analyzed the engine and made phone calls. Then the wind dropped to “0” two miles out. Oh, no! The Gulf Stream could take us to Bermuda. I hailed one small fishing boat in Spanish and offered them $50 for tow into the Cut. They responded that they hardly had any fuel themselves. Fortunately it wasn’t long before the wisps of a building sea breeze permitted us to set the large asymmetrical and we ghosted through Government Cut under spinnaker.

This was not easy considering all the sportfisherman, Donzi’s and Cruise Ships blasting out at 3/4 throttle. The last of the flood helped into the entrance of South Miami Beach Marina. We snuffed the chute, dropped the main and glided into a slip to begin our repair program. It was noon. It had taken us 3.5 hours. We were getting good at making moorings without auxiliary power.

Needless to say, my cellular bill had climbed to astronomical heights in efforts to line up a slip in a Marina that was “absolutely full”, in locating the local Miami Yanmar repairman who shut off his beeper as a courtesy to the client he was then working for, and to convince Mack Boring and the Yanmar distributor in St. Petersburg that here indeed was one of those rare opportunities to demonstrate Yanmar’s superior service capabilities in front of 5 of their largest boatbuilding customers, the Sr. Editor of SAIL and 200,000 devoted readers. Certainly, the very least they could do was dismantle another engine and drive with its sheave and water pump 8 hours round trip from St. Pete to Miami. And, there would be cause for celebration, if the job were completed by midnight. We were grateful to get this exceptional Yanmar service and a complete pit-stop turnaround in the time allotted: midnight. Mary was elated when I finally got back to her to say we’d arrived in Miami Beach safely and were following a plan to depart again by midnight in order to enjoy another Bimini sunrise.

The explanation for the water pump sheave casting failure was “too tight a drive belt”, placing an inordinate amount of pressure on the offset bell-shaped casting which is the supporting framework for the water pump sheave. The sheave is one of three on the main drive belt, including the main drive sheave and the alternator sheave. We’ve advised Yanmar that we don’t think a tight belt should break a pulley after 12 hours of use, that either the casting should be heavier or that there may be a defect in the casting. In the meantime, we’d advise everyone to keep their main drive belts on the loose side. Ours was the second to go in the Florida area in the past year.

Chip and I cleared Miami Beach Marina in the J/42 at midnight and headed out the Cut into the Gulf Stream once again, motorsailing in much the same light, following breeze of the night before. Target was to arrive off Bimini at 7 AM, making contact with Erik at that time via VHF to rendezvous with the Fleet.

Our double-handed routine was an hour on, an hour off. This made the time fly and kept the biorhythms functioning at a non-fatiguing pace. Our nap times were averaging 20-40 minutes after deducting navigation and eating. We were approaching Bimini for the second sunrise in two days and our third crossing of the Gulf Stream in 24 hours.

A comment about these crossings is instructive. Instrumentation was set up with 5 KVH dual displays on deck. 3 across the companionway slider in a pod, then 1 on either side of the helm station in a deck pod. The 4 pages of info in each display (8 rows of data) could be flipped by the keypad installed next to the starboard aft pod. Reading across the top, we had in (1) Wind Direction and Wind Velocity, (2) Boat Speed and GPS Speed Over the Ground as a check (3) Compass Heading and GPS Course Over Ground (4) Bearing to Waypoint and Depth. By matching up Bearing to Waypoint and GPS COG, we found that we would be steering as much as 30-40 degrees to the right of our course in order to go to Bimini in a straight line. Makes sense. 50 miles at 7.75 knots equals 6.5 hours. 6.5 hours in 2.5 knots of Gulf Stream is 16,25 miles which is 10% of the circumference of a 50 mile circle. 10% of 360 degrees is 36 degrees. A comment about the KVH instruments. We plugged them in right out of the box, with no calibration, and they were spot on – even boat speed and wind angles. That was a first in my experience in dealing with instrumentation.

The narrow passage to North Bimini harbor, which creeps along just a stone’s throw from the beach was made particularly treacherous in appearance by the very obvious grounding of a 40 foot sportfisherman, so high and dry on its deep-V keel on top of a rock at low water, that it looked as though it would tip over if the owner rolled out of his bunk. Chip and I enjoyed cruising around just beyond the shoals with jib only watching the sunrise and waiting for the fleet to depart.

It was a beautiful spinnaker run down to between Gun and Cat Cay. J/42 once again slid way out front with her raspberry asymmetric cruising chute. Nancy Stead and Jody Smith at the helm, the only New Englanders among the panelists, had a great time mastering the apparent wind angle/ boat speed trade-offs under the casual tutelage of Tom Linskey. We learned that the rest of the fleet didn’t have the wind to get out sailing on Day 2, so the J/42 was still in the hunt and had not let down the Rally organizers.

The delay in arriving at the Bahamas meant that, after a cooling swim (1st of the year!), Chip Mason and I had to clear customs at Cat Cay for a combined cost of about $60 – to tie up, then pay the Customs agent overtime on Saturday. The captain was able to get Chip cleared with his Massachusetts Driver’s License, one of the least convincing forms of certification and citizenry issued in the Western Hemisphere.

The waters over the Bahama banks were amazingly beautiful with each cloud and change in depth putting forth an aurora of pastel colors from yellow to deep blues and greens. Even having a 5.5 foot draft keel and seeing the fathometer reading 7-11 feet, it looked more like a foot or two of depth. We anchored off the beach, on the North side of Gun Cay for the night, changed crews and enjoyed the sunset. Once again the plan was to take off at an early hour, 4 AM, so that the fleet could make it back to Biscayne Bay by mid-afternoon for another crew change and second sail. Erik didn’t have the heart to insist that the J/42 leave then also, it would have been my third all-nighter.

The J/42 crew for the night included photographer Skip Brown, Bonnie Shedd, Irv Halper and Don Abrams. We awoke a daybreak and with a 7-9 knot Southeasterly, hoisted mainsail and asymmetric spinnaker after clearing the lighthouse and, accompanied by several flying fish, headed into the Gulf Stream. A glorious sail for nearly two hours. It seemed we went faster than the wind, outrunning this finger of air off the Bahamas into a glassy mirror where the reflection of the clouds seemed to carry right down on the surface of the water. The major event of late morning was the landing of a warbler on the wheel. This was the second time offshore that a J/42 received such a visit. The accompanying picture of the author aboard GANNET off the New Jersey coast in October records the first.

Motorsailing once again, we caught sight of our fleet ahead on the horizon and trailed them in to Biscayne Bay for another crew change and afternoon sail. Fortunately the afternoon thermals kicked in and we were able to generate a little sailing excitement with Bob & Carol Harris plus Erik Nelson. We went through the normal upwind sailing through the fleet with 100% jib, closing fast upwind on a Melges 24 which was tuning up a race crew. Setting the asymmetrical we demonstrated how easy it was to jibe for one person. While demonstrating the quick, emergency take-down, Bob accelerated the process a bit – but we managed to snuff the spinnaker in a boat length, tack through 180 degrees and go in the opposite direction with mainsail only.

The following morning after a final gathering on the dock, Dave Olson from Eastern Yachts joined Donald & Gail Amesbury, Michael Tamulaites and I for a spin around Biscayne Bay then a sail all the way to McArthur Causeway. Our bright pink spinnaker had all the fake flamingos turning green with envy. Michael did an excellent job steering one leg, coming from behind and way higher than the Tartan 4100 with spinnaker set on a broad reach, he played the apparent wind and boat speed angles just right to roll down and out front to a commanding lead along the city waterfront.

How did the J/42 do? When it came to the fun of sailing, upwind or downwind, and ease of handling, the panelists seemed to like the J/42 very much. In fact, the J/42 was the only boat that every panelist had the opportunity to sail. Because of its clean functional layout and ease of maintenance (no teak on deck), the J/42 seemed to get high marks for seasonal family cruising, where many daysails and weekend cruises were combined with 2-4 weeks of extended cruising.

J/42 #7 interior decor was in the classic Herreshoff style with white bulkheads and varnished cherry trim and cabinetry, but without the cherry hull lining strips, which I prefer, in the two staterooms. Her upholstery was forest green Sunbrella with white piping and matching throw pillows. The pillows doubled as storage bags for bed pillows and fleece sleeping bags. With an “as is in the Rally” Miami boat show sailaway price of under $225,000, J/42 was the best value in the fleet. Had she been built with the optional all-teak or all-varnished cherry interior with sculpted, wrap-around ultrasuede settees,the J/42 would also have scored high on the “just like home” index. I got the impression from some of the panelists that the most significant redeeming quality of the other boats was interior styling, the all-wood decor and living-room like upholstery. The majority of the panelists seemed to be of the opinion that this interior styling was more suitable for a couple planning to move out of their house and live aboard for a long period of time.

More than likely, the conclusion of the Rally in the October issue of SAIL will be that all the Rally boats did an admirable job of fulfilling the mission for which their designers and builders intended. The editors of SAIL under the direction of Erik Nelson should be congratulated for their organization, flexibility and good humor under challenging circumstances. Skip Brown’s photography should be outstanding and everyone should get a copy of October SAIL to get the complete story.

My own personal observation (unbiased, of course) is that the J/42 made a significant and surprising impact on the panelists when it came to sailing qualities. For the most part, they had not experienced anything like it. And, secondly, there was no question the panelists on the J/42 welcomed each morning with better health and more vigor, thanks to the captain’s private stock of Old Fashioned Quaker oats and brown sugar.

Performance Cruising.. try J/42

by Thomas A. Norton

She looked good at the dock, clean, all business. How would she handle? I couldn’t tell about the wind out on the Bay, but in here, at the marina in Melville, it felt brisk. It was a late fall day, clear, sunny, and cool. There were only two of us. Could we handle this 42 footer, and how would she perform?

Jim Johnstone hopped about getting things ready: sail cover, sheets, winch handles, instrument modules. Ah, youth! I tried to look helpful. “Start the engine” he instructed. I was standing at the helm and found the controls down by my calf. I slid the small Plexiglas panel aside and turned the starter key. The diesel fired up at once. I felt useful.

We dropped our lines. Jim backed her off the dock and turned around to motor out of the harbor. Outside, I steered while Jim hoisted the main. He was doing all the work, it seemed. The sail filled and we bore off down the Bay. I killed the engine. The log was showing 7 – 7½ knots, close reaching under full main with practically no heel. The wind was from the west-southwest about 15 to 20 knots. We were in the sheltered waters of East Passage of Narragansett Bay, heading towards Newport, Rhode Island. The sea was calm, just a slight chop. “The jib?” asked Jim. I nodded and he unfurled the 100% working jib and trimmed it. Our speed jumped to 8 something with practically no increase in heel. I looked back at our wake and liked what I saw. No lumps, no churning, just a little foam. I had two fingers on the big leather covered wheel. This was turning out to be fun. Jim lounged at the forward end of the cockpit, under the blue dodger. “It’s better than the office”, I suggested. He just grinned.

We were out to test sail the J/42, the newest design from the board of Rod Johnstone, Jim’s uncle. What’s unusual about her is that she’s a complete redesign of an older model, specifically for “performance cruising.” Most sailors know about the commercial success of a long line of J/boats and of their outstanding racing performance. They expect a J/boat to perform well, but believe that some performance must be sacrificed in order to produce a good “cruising boat.” The perception is that good cruising boats are comfortable but slow, and that good racing boats are fast and uncomfortable because they must be light in order to go fast. Light boats tend to toss you about uncomfortably. One’s understanding of “comfort” varies, but what most sailors have in mind I believe, is generous accommodations coupled with easy motion. Racers will accept a spartan boat that bounces around providing it gets them to the finish line first. In the design of the J/42 Rod Johnstone set out to combine speed with comfort. He used a proven hull form, updated to include the latest speed inducing technology, plus seagoing niceties developed from many miles of offshore sailing and cruising. Any designer would jump at the chance to improve an earlier design. There’s always something one would like to change to make it better.

I had talked with Bob Johnstone, another of Jim’s uncles, who lives in Maine. He handles the marketing for J/Boats. I asked him how the J/42 came about. “Well”, he said, “we wanted to reach out to the cruising couple. We saw an opportunity in the 40 to 42 foot range to be better than. . . .” (some well-known designs).
They looked at their J/40 designed in 1985. It was a good design, that had a good layout with two heads. It was a popular model with 80 sold. They felt they could improve the design. The options were to redesign an old hull with known, low resistance, characteristics, or to design a new one whose performance might not measure up. They opted for the J/40 hull form and decided to lengthen it by 2 feet, and then to add “state of the art” keel and rudder. Rod added the extra 2 feet aft leaving the bow and mid-sections pretty much the same. This permitted longer lines and a better run. Extra width at the deck aft, as well as the extra length, allowed a storage space for the raft, jerry cans, drinks, or whatever. It also provided deck space clear of the helmsman where, I noticed, Jim perched in comfort while I steered.

The keel they decided to use is similar to the one on their hot J/130, a deep fin with a flattened bulb extending aft of the trailing edge, with a rockered bottom. Draft is 6.6 feet, and there is a shoal version drawing 5.5 feet with 500 pounds more lead in the bulb. The balanced spade rudder is larger and has a higher aspect ratio than the one on the J/40. The mast is also 18 inches higher. This means a bigger, more effective, high aspect ratio mainsail. The jib dimensions remain the same, but the spinnaker is set at the masthead so it, and the “snuffer sock” whicht houses it, stays well clear of the headstay. These changes to the mast, underbody and appendages are partly responsible for the superior performance of the J/42, as well as her carbon fiber mast option and her weight. The hull is laid up using the “SCRIMP” process that infuses the laminations with resin so that 60% is glass fiber and 40% is resin, instead of the other way round. The result is a stronger hull that weighs less. The weight thus saved is used for better accomodations and more lead in the keel to produce more stability. That’s just what you want in a fast cruiser. You notice the added stability as soon as you get out on the water. She feels and acts like a much bigger boat.

Gannet, (hull No.1), the J/42 we were sailing , did extremely well in the no spinnaker class of the New York Yacht Club cruise against a respectable fleet. She won all five races she entered ~ handily. She was sailed by a crew of three in moderate to light air which averaged 10 to 15 knots.

I asked Bob what he liked best about the boat. “The sense of control”, he said, “the ease of handling, her predictability and solidity. She has a low center of gravity. She’ll do 7.2 knots upwind with just the main and the 100% working jib. For cruising, you don’t need an overlapping genoa which restricts visibility and is a pain when tacking.” I also asked him what kind of problems he was running into, if any. “Well, he told me, in terms of marketing, we have a communications problem. We have trouble convincing potential buyers who haven’t seen or sailed the boat that, while she’s fast, she’s not meant to be a ‘racing machine.’ I suspect that’s because of our record with other models we’ve produced.” He’s right, of course. You look at her, and you sail her, and you say to yourself: “Ha, I can win with this one!” But then you go below, and see all that cherry and stuff, and you’re amazed that a boat that performs so well can have such an outstanding interior. I’m sure the truth will come out when she’s better known.

There’s nothing radical about the J/42 layout below, just a lot of well thought out details. Take a look at the accommodation plan forward, a private stateroom has its own head and lockers. Note that the mast is stepped out of the way in a corner of the head. Amidships, in the main cabin there are two settee berths, navigation station, a very well laid out galley, and another head with hanging space for foul weather gear. Note the space between the drop leaf table and the bulkhead which avoids anyone being trapped at dinner. In the galley the cook is braced at sea by the sink counter. He does not have to hang from straps in front of the stove. A piece of the counter between the sink and the ice box lifts down to form a seat for the cook facing aft, within reach of stove, sink, and ice box; a nifty arrangement. Aft, another stateroom with double berth, lockers, and seat is tucked under the companionway and cockpit.

Finishes below are classic with teak and holly cabin sole, off white Formica vertical surfaces, and varnished cherry trim with molded corners and oval door trim for a custom look. There are many operable ports and skylights as well as a couple of “dorades” for excellent ventilation. Small but important details, such as the vertical stainless steel pipe at the corner of the galley give you a place to hold on to. The stainless steel grabrails are strong and practical. These kinds of details demonstrate familiarity with life at sea. It’s a very attractive, seamanlike interior.

When I talked with Bob Johnstone, he remarked that there was no wood on deck to maintain. This surprised me, because I hadn’t missed it. Normally I would expect a teak toerail instead of a perforated aluminum one, and a little teak trim here and there, like you find on most other J/Boats. Naturally not having to maintain any wood means more time for cruising.

The deck layout is pleasing and practical. When cruising, I can visualize two popular spots other than at the wheel steering the boat. One is in the forward corners of the cockpit sheltered by the dodger. The other is the one I mentioned earlier on the deck aft of the steering position. A main instrument console is located over the companionway and there are two instrument pods angled into the cockpit coamings for better visibility for the helmsman from his own cockpit. Again, nothing radical, just all very well worked out.

Jim Johnstone and I continued to close reach till we were able to tack west between Prudence and Conanicut islands. Gannet came about with ease as Jim sheeted the jib on the new tack. It was now blowing closer to 20 knots and we were really moving. You wouldn’t have known it however unless you looked at the steam gauge. She heeled only slightly and was easy on the helm. I tacked back and forth a few times to get the feel of how she turned. In fact, I got so absorbed that I didn’t notice we were sailing way off the wind. Jim called it to my attention and I got back on course. It was getting late, so we eased sheets and headed back. We rounded the bell off Melville and headed up into the wind to furl the jib and drop the main. Again Jim did all the work. All I had to do was fire up the engine and hold her steady, not a difficult task. We motored back to our berth and tied up. I was allowed to help him straighten things up, which gave me a chance to poke around on deck and down below. We went ashore and I thanked Jim for the sail before heading home.

As I think about this trial of the J/42, I realize how easy everything was. I need not have had any concern about the two of us handling the boat. Jim could have managed by himself. Although spry, I am no youth and yet I could see myself taking a J/42 offshore with the help of a less experienced wife, or perhaps a teenage grandchild. In case of trouble or injury, one of us could easily bring her back. If a boat will do that, and be comfortable at 7 or 8 knots sailing almost straight up, and capable of more when racing, then you’ve got a real “performance cruiser.”

Tech Specs

Tech Specs

  •   ft/lb m/kg
  • LOA 42.00 12.80
  • LWL 35.10 10.70
  • Beam 12.20 3.72
  • Standard Draft 6.60 2.01
  • Standard Ballast 7,000 3,175
  • Displacement 18,500 8,392
  • Diesel Aux. Engine 47 hp 47 hp
  • 100% SA 790 73.36
  • I 50.50 15.39
  • J 14.70 4.48
  • P 46.50 14.17
  • E 18.00 5.49
  • SA/Dspl 18 18
  • Dspl/L 191 191

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