If you go back to the roots of the J Boats group, you will find the J/24. The 24 is not a remarkable boat by today's standards (unless you consider that one-design fleets today are still going strong and may represent some of the best racing available nationwide). In fact, the J/24 is almost ordinary when compared to the current small racing sloops. But go back 12 years to a time when a 24-foot racing sloop meant an IOR Quarter Tonner.

A photo of a JBoats J/105 sailboat.

The J Boats J/105.

Quarter Tonners were wonderful little beasties. Like all IOR boats, their ends were pinched while beam was exaggerated. Stability was reduced to optimize CCF, and rigs were tall. Many of these boats were rockets upwind in light air but lacked the power for heavy air. True to their IOR nature, they were notoriously difficult to manage downwind in any breeze over 20 knots. Sill, they were our chosen weapons in fleets ruled by the then optimistically simple IOR that we loved.

The problem was they were not very much fun to sail. The importance of reducing the ends of the boat under the IOR resulted in a short sailing length and boats with very small cockpits. There was a move by the New Zealanders to introduce light Quarter Tonners. While fast in a breeze, the lighter boats did not have the sail area to wetted surface ratio to keep them competitive in light air — it took a stalwart racer to stay with the Quarter Tonner fleet.

This is when J Boats got its start with an initial move that spit in the eye of the reigning style of small racing sloop. The J/24 was a big 24-footer with lots of boat in the ends, plenty of sail carrying power and a good solid feel to it. The first J/24s were almost as fast as IOR Half Tonners. They bucked the trend and put J Boats on the map.

J Boats now produces cruising boats and IMS boats. They have even tried their hand at IOR boats. They also build dinghies. The common thread throughout the entire J Boats line is still "bucking the trend." The perfect example of this approach is the new J/105. Why 105? It's the metric LOA, and it may be J Boats' attempt at Euro-styling. The U.S. equivalent LOA is 34.5 feet, but you would have a tough time finding a similar 34-footer for comparison.

You've got to read the brochures and sales materials. Intelligent people sit around for hours trying to decide exactly which words they will put together to describe the new project. Where do you think "mega yacht styling" came from?

J Boats promotes the 105 as the boat designed for how people really sail. The idea being that while dreams of extended cruises are pleasant, they are seldom realized. Most of us just blast around the bay on Saturday and Sunday afternoons or grab long weekends at best. Therefore, you don't need an offshore deck layout, large tanks, interior volume or standing headroom.

In fact, they say, what you really need is an entirely new type of boat. A new boat designed to be very fast, very easy to sail and just roomy enough for camping-style accommodations. They may be right. The new 105 is certainly the most interesting boat I have seen in some time and may be the type of boat that I really need. But, a purely logical approach to sailors' needs may have some problems. We don't sail for logical reasons. I did not come from a sailing family, although I did spend a month on an old liberty ship making a passage from Australia to Vancouver when I was 12 years old. When I was 14 years old it was like a biological implant went off inside me. I was suddenly drawn to sailing and my life became focused on it.

There is more than logic at work here. Even the most familiar harbor can seem exotic and distant as you spend a relaxing Saturday cruising with the family. It's a state of mind, a private place where we relax and do something different for a while. We all do it in our own way, exercising the Walter Mitty within us. Sailboats are an expression of a world of imagination within us and the variety of types of boats out there gives room for all of us to express that world uniquely.

There's a part of me that I could easily exercise in a J/105. Let's start with the hull. This is pure excitement. Moderate beam is coupled with a very narrow BWL and a 14-degree deadrise angle for absolute minimum wetted surface. The bow is near plumb and there is enough overhang aft to keep the stern clean. The D/L is 127 and ballast to displacement ratio is 47 percent. Standard draft is 6.5 feet and that keel has a large bulb that extends well beyond the trailing edge.

The huge rudder is more than half the size of the keel fin and is not reduced at the root at all, as it extends as far aft as possible. The plan view shows the beam moderately distributed with a fairly broad transom. The low freeboard will contribute to speed as well as the overall good looks of this design. In terms of hull shape, there is little to this design that will slow it down.

The focal point of the rig is the asymmetrical spinnaker. Cruisers generally will find this hard to understand, but the object in downwind sailing is not to go wing and wing. Wing and wing is slow and to do it for a sustained period, you have to sail too close to the lee to make it safe from an accidental gybe. Let me put it this way: Don't sail dead downwind.

Racers know that the fastest way downwind is to gybe back and forth with the wind seldom getting farther aft than 140 degrees. To do this very effectively, you can use an asymmetrical chute that is far easier to handle than a standard symmetrical chute. J Boats calls this sail the asymmetrical gennaker. You might know it as the cruising spinnaker. It comes in a snuffer so you can hoist and douse it quickly and with control. These sails have become standard gear aboard BOC and Whitbread boats in addition to the America's Cup class.

High-speed dinghies like the Ultimate 30s and International 14s use no other chute because they are always close reaching. The objective is to optimize your downwind VMG the same way you work at optimizing your upwind VMG. There are no tricky pole balancing gybes to maneuver because you gybe by just trimming the other sheet. The pole stays fixed. A conventional chute can be flown if conditions dictate. The fractional rig makes for small headsails and no running backs are shown on the drawings, although I would suspect that they will be there. The SA/D is 24.

The interior layout features V-berths and forward head. Galley and nav areas are minimal but there are comfortable settee berths in the main cabin. Headroom is 5 feet 5 inches but you can put up the dodger and gain standing headroom in the companionway. There are no teak louvered doors, and a dried plant in a macramed whiskey bottle would be way out of place here.

The 105 is a sailor's boat on deck. The cockpit is long and divided by the mainsheet traveler within easy reach of the helmsman. Halyards are led aft and the sheeting angles are very tight with only a short length of track that indicates that no big overlapping headsails will be carried. This is an ultra-clean deck layout.

Construction techniques for the 105 include vacuum bagged composites using pre-impregnated biaxial woven fiberglass and CK57 aircraft-grade balsa core. Balsa cores got a bad rap from the early days, but if you look hard you will find that today, balsa is the core of choice with a lot of builders. This construction results in a very lightweight hull and deck and allows for the high ballast to displacement ratio.

The J/24 was almost Everyman's boat. If numbers mean anything, it just may be. I owned one for a while. Now I can easily imagine motoring out of the marina in my J/105 being pushed along effortlessly by the 20-horsepower Yanmar diesel. It's a beautiful day, wind blowing a steady 15. Five minutes later, I have the 105 under sail and I point the bow north.

Boat Specifications
Draft Standard6.5'
Displacement7300 lbs.
Ballast3400 lbs.
Sail Area557 sq. ft.
AuxiliaryYanmar 20 hp
Fuel12 gals.
Water20 gals.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.