You probably thought that J/Boats had used up every number available already, but they've just announced a new one: the J/88. Coming from the same design and build team that launched two recent awards winners, the J/111 in 2010 and the J/70 in 2012, this new model is a a 29-footer designed to be a "mid-size family speedster with stability, style and sailing comfort."
Given the success of the J/70 (hull #200 ships next week, less than a year after the first one went sailing) it's not surprising that the family-owned company would follow up with another smaller model. But it does beg the question: How many models are too many? So I asked J/Boats President Jeff Johnstone for his thoughts:
"The goal when creating a new model is to sustain its model life for as many years as possible. We've been fortunate to have had longer than normal product cycles, so it's rare (if at all) that we introduce a new model that occupies the same market space as one still in production. The new J/70 is the first boat under 25' we've done in 30 years and the first ever J with lift-keel - so it's helped create a new market for us. The J/111 was the first boat in the 34'-37' size range we had done in 11 years. Now the J/88, will be the first boat in the 26-29' range in 20 years.
"Tooling up a new design is extremely expensive and can take a year or more of steady production to fully cover the start-up cost, so the longer you can build a model the better for everyone. While most well known bigger company brands are bringing 3-4 new model per year, we average about 1. Between 20 and 55 feet there are 20+ distinct market segments broken out by size, price, purpose. Even with a life-cycle of 5 years (which is really long for industry standards) you could have 3-4 models per year and still not repeat something in the same market segment before the life-cycle had expired of the prior model.
"Longer answer than you probably wanted, but as you can tell, this is a something we feel strongly about."
While the J/88 has a fixed keel and therefore will not be ramp-launchable, it will be small enough to be single-point lifted, owner-trailered and stored, which means fewer yard bills than a larger boat. And in contrast to the dinghy-spartan interior of the J/70, this bigger cousin has an inboard diesel, overnight interior, and head.
J/Boats has also kept the rig and sailplan simple. The mast will be carbon fiber, double-spreader, and deck-stepped, which will simplify rigging and also keep the main cabin drier. The sailplan will be classic J/Boats, with non-overlapping jibs on an in-deck jib furler, and a retractable carbon bowsprit for the asymmetrical ride downwind. A T-shaped cockpit with backrests will make it possible to "lounge" in the cockpit, and the optional V-berth could make this a bit more comfortable pocket racer/cruiser.
Another J/Boat model may not be a surprise, but the turnaround time is a bit of a jaw-dropper. In contrast to the "good old days" when new model announcements were a few years old before the first boat was seen, J/88 hull #1 is projected to launch in June 2013. Stay tuned for more details.
Read more about the J/70
J/70: Hitting the High Notes
European Yacht of the Year 2013: The Winners
For more info, visit J/Boats.