J/88: Best One-Design
The sweet spot for J/Boats has always been the 30-foot range, and in years past they’ve had great runs with models like the J/29, the J/30, and the J/105. To meet the demands of owners today to be able to haul and store themselves, the team at J/Boats has come up with a design that’s more versatile than any like models before it. It’s not revolutionary, the judges say, but when it comes to practicality, it’s perfect. At roughly 5,000 pounds, the J/88 has a deck-stepped rig and a single-point lift so it can be hauled with a hoist and parked in the driveway—or put on the interstate for the occasional class championship.
The J/88 was originally conceptualized as a daysailer, says J/Boats president Jeff Johnstone, but that market got overpopulated so they seized an opportunity to revisit their range with a design that Johnstone says is a “family boat with high-performance traits.”
“The stability and sailing comfort are right there,” says Chuck Allen. “They really got this one right. It’s big enough, yet small enough, to do a lot with. For a boat its size, there’s a big interior, a really comfortable cockpit, and there’s nothing intimidating about it. Upwind, the thing just locks into a nice groove. It practically sailed itself.”
Tom Rich praised the quality continuing to come out of Bristol’s CCF Composites (also the J/70 builder). “I think it’s an incredibly well built boat,” says Rich. “There’s nothing negative we can say about it.”
Greg Stewart agreed, noting that the helm has great feel upwind and downwind. The interior, he adds, has plenty of sitting headroom, a lot of volume for a family to weekend, and the construction, right down to the finish, is excellent.
With a Hall Spars carbon rig and a low vertical center of gravity, the boat is plenty stiff. The cockpit is set up for shorthanded sailing and efficient buoy racing. To get the ergonomics right, they built a plug and fussed over hardware placement so the T-shaped cockpit is obstacle-free and uncluttered with lines.
Johnstone’s philosophy is to not immediately promote a new model as a one-design, but they were at hull No. 39 in the order book as of press time, and one-design class rules were in development.
“One-design doesn’t happen out of the box,” says Johnstone. “For us, it’s about matching a boat to people’s lifestyles, and right now that’s primarily beer-can racing. At some point soon, however, we will have J/88 racing happening.”
The boat will ideally be raced with a crew of five, or three couples, he adds, and the provisional PHRF rating of 87 seems like a reasonable starting point.