J22250Nov2We opened our 1984 Lake Ontario sailing season in early April with a test ride on a J/22 the new, small planning keelboat from J Boats, Inc. of Newport, RI. We discovered a fun, spritely yacht packed with performance. Launched in the United States for the 1983 season, the J/22 has been an instant success, with more than 360 boats sold south of the border in less than a year.

Marketing in Canada commenced in Canada in July, 1983 through dealers located in Halifax, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and Vancouver. Rod Johnstone, with the benefit of Bob Johnstone's marketing savvy and input from the company's large dealer network, has drawn a scaled-down version of the stripped out J/29 and J/35, designed to appeal to the (perhaps novice) sailor who wants a daysailing keelboat.

The J/22 is light and trailerable. Its design has a number of typical "J" characteristics -- most notably a fine entry and a relatively narrow waterline beam flaring to a full eight feet of maximum beam at deck level. Like the J/29, it has an abbreviated cabin trunk and a long expanse of cockpit. Flat midsections encouraging easy planning taper gently back to an upright transom and outboard rudder assembly. These features produce a boat with the liveliness of a racing dinghy, yet with some emphasis on dryness and comfort.

The J/22 is rated to race both MORC and PHRF, but it seems that the greatest opportunity for keen racing fun is in a one-design fleet. J Boats hopes to encourage the same broad penetration that made the J/24 one of the largest and most successful classes in the world. To this end, a strong class association is being actively promoted for one-design racing, including arrangements for North American Championships to be held in Marblehead, Massachusetts, this year.

Angus Sailcraft, the Toronto dealer for the J/22 and other members of the J Boats family, launched and rigged its demonstration model for us virtually as soon as the ice cleared Toronto Harbor. We actually sailed the J/22 around the harbor on two occasions at the beginning of April. The first afternoon's blustery winds gusting from 20 to 30 knots revealed more about the ability of the boat and its gear to withstand heavy weather than about sailing performance. Even under reefed mainsail alone we were heavily overpowered in the gusts. With the working jib drawing as well, we established an important fact-the self-bailing cockpit drains large amounts of water quite quickly!

Several days later, with the wind a mild-mannered 12 to 18 knots and flat water, we had a whale of a ride. The J/22's helm is quick and responsive-distinctly dinghy-like. The boat is fitted with the same rudder assembly as the larger J/24, which results in most positive steering, but the helm is not heavy or difficult even in heavy weather. Because the helm is so light, the boat accelerates well and scorches along downwind. On the other hand, with full main and working jib, we did find the boat a little tender going to windward, with a habit of heeling quickly in the puffs. Under these circumstances, an alert crew shifting weight to the outer edge of the deck helped significantly. The lightness of the yacht itself (only 1,750 pounds) and the unusually wide beam (eight feet) mean that distribution of several hundred pounds of crew can make a difference. For those willing to sacrifice maximum speed, shortening the generous sail area would also restore stability.

We also observed that as the hull heels, leeway increases noticeably. In our opinion, to maximize upwind racing performance it is important to keep the J/22 fairly flat. Class rules permit hiking straps for the helmsman, a useful addition in helping to keep the hull on its feet.

The roomy, seven-foot-long cockpit is comfortable. Crew members can sit on the recessed seats or the deck surround. There's plenty of room behind the mainsheet traveler bridge for the helmsman to steer comfortably, and several crew members can fit in the forward section of the cockpit. Interestingly, the class rules limit crew to a total (unclothed) weight of 550 pounds; the number of crew members is optional! Nevertheless, most J/22s apparently sail with three of four crew members.

Generally, we were highly impressed with the standard of fittings and the deck layout. Most of the hardware is made by recognized suppliers of high quality racing gear. The deck-stepped mast is particularly well-designed and executed by Hall Spars. It is firmly supported belowdeck by a sturdy aluminum column flanked by longitudinal stiffeners in the hull floor. The chainplates are through-bolted into transverse bulkheads, but we observed evidence of a little leaking around the fastenings. The mast has internal halyards with sheaves built into the butt to lead halyards back to the cockpit. Halyards are secured on the cabintop by standing clam cleats that we thought might better be replaced by small throw-action stoppers. Two winches at the aft end of the cabin house efficiently handle halyards, jib sheets and spinnaker sheets. For heavy-weather sailing we discovered that it is preferable to crosshaul the jib sheet to the weather winch so that the crew can trim the jib and prepare to tack while staying well up on the high side.

By taking it out for the first sail in winds up to 30 knots (certainly too much for comfortable sailing in what is still essentially a small boat) we learned that the J/22 lives up to its claims of toughness. We had no gear failures of any sort. We did have a little difficulty with the traveler choking up on its control lines at each end where it is recessed into the cockpit seats, and occasional trouble releasing the cleat on the mainsheet at high angles of heel. Since the J/22 takes on goodly amounts of water when well-heeled and the manufacturer warns that the boat may sink if filled with water, we had to be especially vigilant of the mainsheet and traveler tackle to ensure the ability to spill the mainsail quickly. To be fair, the vast majority of sailors will sensibly stay ashore in such weather conditions, but minor adjustments could easily be made to the hardware to eliminate potential problems.

About 15 J/22s have been sold since its introduction to the Canadian market in July last year. Until its numbers grow sufficiently to constitute a one-design fleet, boats in the Toronto area have been racing under both the MORC and PHRF rating systems. The J/22 has performed well in Lake Ontario regattas, including the MORC Internationals in Toronto last year in which a slightly modified model, Banjo, finished 2nd.

For the racing sailor looking to move up to a small keelboat, the J/22 offers spirited performance and competitive action. Although we didn't have the opportunity to see it launched from a trailer, we are assured that with practice it can be put in the water and rigged in 25 minutes. The boat comes equipped with a lifting eye in case there's a crane handy.

We expect that the J/22, light enough to be hauled easily and small enough to be trailered conveniently, could appeal to a growing number of young Canadian sailors who are looking for competitive excitement but are ready to graduate from a dinghy. J Boats is also promoting the J/22 as a good choice for the inexperienced sailor, especially for the family that's learning to sail. The company points to the combination of sailing comfort, ease of handling, performance and safety. We would certainly concur that the J/22 provides a substantially drier, more comfortable ride than a small dinghy while still being small enough to be responsive and easy to maneuver. The sails and rigging are small enough to be managed by the inexperienced. Nonetheless, the J/22 is a fairly high-performance machine with an above-average sail area-to-displacement ratio. We advise the novice to be careful and reduce sail in heavy weather.

The basic interior of the J/22 is designed with a double V berth atop the forward buoyancy compartment and two fore and aft benches either side of the keel. The interior is clean and bright, with two low windows in the cabin trunk and a cream-colored gel-coat finish. There's also plenty of room for general stowage aft under the cockpit seats and seats and decks. One or two optional quarterberths can replace the benches and extend aft. To accommodate larger crew members, the optional quarterberth is recommended, as the vee berth would not comfortably sleep two adults of above-average size.

The accommodation provides the same service as a good tent -- no plumbing, no galley and no wiring, but a place to shelter the crew and their gear overnight and during inclement weather. Because of its simple, uncluttered interior and practical fiberglass construction with modest use of teak trim on both interior and exterior, maintenance should be quick and easy. The same flat-finish gelcoat used on the interior of the hull and deck continues throughout the bilge. Obviously on a boat this size there are economies in spraying the complete interior with only one type of paint, however, a high-gloss finish in the bilge would make cleaning easier.

The base price quoted for the J/22 is $14,850, not including a mainsail and 100 per cent jib valued at $1,200. However, a number of features that a prospective owner, whether a keen racer or daysailor, will likely desire are optional. For a boat that appeals to sailors with a variety of skill levels and interests it makes sense to have the flexibility to outfit the boat according to individual needs, but that can significantly increase its price.

For example, with the addition of a sternrail, bow pulpit, lifelines, bottom paint, V-berth cushions, a quarter berth and an engine, together with the necessary transportation and commissioning, the J/22 will cost the day or overnight sailor nearly $19,000. The racing sailor who eschews all creature comforts but chooses a trailer, a spinnaker and associated gear, and compass will run up a comparable bill. Admittedly, the trailer accounts for nearly $2,000 of the additional cost, but for the competitive racer we believe the ability to haul the boat frequently and trailer it to regattas is one of the attractive features of the J/22.

It's certainly not the cheapest boat in this size range, but at J Boats the emphasis is on quality and performance, not merely price. You can be sure that the J/22 does deliver lots of sailing excitement and fun.

Specifications

LOA             22 ft. 6 in.

LWL             19 ft.

Beam             8 ft.

Displacement             1,750 lbs.

Ballast             700 lbs.

Draft             3 ft. 8 in.

Sail Area             223 sq. ft.

To see if this boat is available, go to http://www.boatcan.com for listings!

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