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All Set To Pull Out The Code ZeroOffshore Shorthanded Speedster

By Katherine Stone

All set to pull out the Code 0 before dousing the jib.


It was a very cold and wet beginning to the summer and we never thought it would arrive in Southern Ontario. Doing a 100 miler race on Lake Ontario (billed as the COOLEST race on the lake) with my 8 layers of thermal clothing, woolen ski toque and ski mittens, along with a neck warmer kept me on the edge all night, just out of frostbite reach. I shouldn’t have complained, as we also had wind!

July and August arrived, and it has certainly warmed up, in fact, its too warm, AND we don’t have wind. We are now counting 5 Wednesday nights in a row without wind to race. So, when we arranged to go out for a sail on Linda and Patrick Sweet’s brand new J/99, I was praying for just a little bit of wind. Sure enough, it was howling – with gusts up to 25 knots. As they had only had the boat for five days, we were all a bit jittery about taking her out. With the forecast for the wind to abate later on, we took the time to take pictures and talk to the owners about the boat before heading out of the Port Credit YC harbour.

A Two Handed SpeedsterA two-handed speedster sets the mark.

Although I own and race on earlier models of J/Boats, I was a bit skeptical about the new one and all the wonderful things that I had read about it. Where they all true? Would the boat meet expectations? The owners had been to the Newport Boat Show and talked with the designer, Alan Johnstone about the boat, made in Les Sables d’Olonne, France by J/Composites. They had also had numerous conversations with Pat Sturgeon, J/Boats dealer in southern Ontario. How did the owners feel about moving from a Shark to a Hanse 411, to a J/88 and now a J/99? As the primary helmsperson, Linda wanted a fast, high performing boat that had headroom below. She also has some problems with balance creating challenges with the tiller on the J/88, so the option of a wheel was a must. The Standard boat comes equipped with a tiller and the option of a double rudder version.

Floor Boards Lift UpFloor boards lift up easily with the suction cup and don't get your fingers stuck.

We headed out to the lake, with the wind out of the north, fairly flat seas and gusts down to just 20 knots. To put it mildly, I was unexpectedly surprised and delighted with the J/99 performance and ease of handling. Billed as a “Shorthanded Offshore Speedster – A next generation 31-footer (actually 32.9’) easily handled by friends and family” it lived up to its billing. She cut through the water and we all felt as if we were on a hydroplane skimming across the top of the water and not on it. When the puffs hit, she heeled over and then settled in becoming comfortable and steady without a lot of weather helm on the single rudder, easily responding to the wheel with only my two finger touch and an ease of the 4:1 fine-tune, 4:1 mainsheet system. When the puff ended, I took my hands off the wheel and she settled back down to a straight course for a good 15 seconds in the 12-15 knot breeze without rounding up. When we hit some motorboat waves, she sliced through them as if they weren’t there. The boat turned on a dime both coming about and jibing, leaving a trail behind her that resembled that of a power cruiser! Although there were four of us, all mature sailors, we were not out of our league as trimming and depowering were manageable, especially the 8:1 backstay and traveller which were easy to adjust from the helm or crew position.

The GalleyThe galley is small but efficient.

The cockpit is very ample and comfortable, taking up to a third of the overall deck length, with good footholds for both helm and crew. The benches take up about half the cockpit and easily seat four crew. In our case, with the wheel, the skipper could easily sit on the coaming or stand to have an excellent view of the sails, crew and surrounding water. As a short helmsperson, I often must sit on the leeward side to see the ticklers and trim and then be caught off guard with puffs without the crew’s wind velocity input. The Sweets have reworked the backstay so that the lines run through the fairleads along the lower edge of the coaming from the stern to eliminate any tripping hazards. Not only is she now free from any stray control lines behind the wheel but also any stray elbows from the crew.

The jib can be cross-sheeted so that either crew or helm are able to adjust from the windward side. I was easily able to hand-pull the non-overlapping jib with only a slight adjustment with the winch handle for a final tune. There are two primaries next to the helm position and two coach top winches for halyards. Unlike traditional jib cars, the jib is sheeted with a floating eye-ring on a longitudinal track so that it may be positioned fore and after and pinned into place. With the sheet running through the floating eye, the effect of a barber hauler can be attained for further twist in light winds, choppy seas or sailing just off the wind. The boat comes standard with a hanked-on jib configuration, however, the Sweets elected to install a furling system which certainly made it a snap to furl the jib at the end of our sail. The main is attached with cars, using a stopper at the bottom, then hoisted without the hassle of feeding in the slides. The theory behind the custom AG designed alloy-extrusion mast is that it allows the owner to use a mainsail with the slides or bolt rope without any adaption required.

All halyards, main sail controls, and furling line come back to the cockpit, including the boomvang. In a blow, having the boomvang in an easy place to ease makes it even more important for the shorthanded crew. All are easy to adjust without having a gorilla as your cockpit crew.

The SalonThe salon is comfy and inviting.

Although we didn’t put up the 100 m2 - A2 spinnaker, I was able to view the boat going through its paces happily sailing around other boats adrift in a 2-3 knot breeze the day before, and making it appear to the race committee that there was enough wind to sail for all boats! The new fixed carbon fibre bowsprit is rigged with double tack fittings for both the spinnaker and Code 0. With the tack line for the Code 0 at the bow on a jammer, it is easily lowered and furled by only one person on the foredeck. The molded toerails are a great safety feature for anyone on the foredeck. The other tack line is led to the cockpit and used for the spinnaker. The new fixed bowsprit has enough length to use both an asymmetric and symmetrical spinnaker and not carry a penalty rating.

Keeping in line with the J/Boats minimalistic approach to salon décor below deck, the J/99 is no exception. Everything is simple, sparse and basic – no frills, but also less to take care of. A couple of unique features are that there are twin quarter berths of good size, not just for your kids. The forward-facing navigation table, on the starboard side right by the steps, allowing shorthanders to actually talk with one another. The dining table, built around the keel-stepped mast, easily seats 6 people comfortably, and snaps up and down on both sides to allow access forward to the head and large sail storage area. Four ample “pockets” above the sofa berths on both port and starboard allow plenty of room to stow clothing, boat parts and other accessories. The head is spartan but does have a door separating it from the salon. Painting the opaque holding tank on the port side above the toilet might be a good idea.

The CockpitEven with the tiller, the cockpit is spacious.

The galley, albeit small, is functional for weekend cruising with a two-burner propane stove, sink and galley storage. The top-loading icebox has three levels, so your provisions don’t all end up in the bottom (love this feature). There is even a small freezer perfect for a tray of ice. Rather than having handles in the floorboards, a simple suction cup lifts them up and provides a beautiful, clean looking salon floor where nothing can be caught, and cleaning is easy.

Although there is only one forward hatch that opens, there are 2 port holes that open on each side of the boat, one facing aft and the other toward the port and starboard side. A 20 hp Volvo Penta engine powers the saildrive and AGM batteries are standard with a 100 AH for house and 70AH for the engine.

Designed for double-handed sailing, the J/99 would be optimally sailed with 4-6 people for offshore racing. The special features and shape of the hull are optimal for great performance both offshore and around the cans racing. Its rounded hull shape and 3.4m beam, only slightly narrowing at the transom, provides more stability and performance.
Running into Rod Johnstone at Helly Hanson Chester Race Week, we both agreed that the J/99 is a wonderful addition to the competitive racer/cruiser market. Make no mistake, this boat does not claim to have all the creature comforts and is not running on the ticket for extra frills in accommodation. It is just simply a performance rocket ship that will make you look good on the water and at the end of the day’s racing, on the results sheet. The J/99 is priced in US dollars FOB Hamilton, Ontario for a base price of $178,900 with no duty, as it is imported from France.

Specification

LOA: 10.03m (32ft 11in)
LWL: 8.81m (28ft 11in)
Beam (max): 3.40m (11ft 2in)
Draught (std): 2.10m (6ft 11in)
Disp (lightship): 3,900kg (8,598lb)
Ballast: 1,650kg (3,638lb)
Sail Area (100% foretriangle): 58.6m2 (631ft2)

Berths: 6
Engine: 20hp
Water: 100lt (22gal)
Fuel: 50lt (11gal)
Sail Area/Displacement ratio: 24.0
Displacement/LWL ratio: 159
Base price from: $178,900 USD
Design: Alan Johnstone / J Boats

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