The J/70 looks like it will be a real success. Once in a while a new design of raceboat comes along that has the potential to gain a huge following. In the UK there's a sense of a gap that has been waiting to be filled by a bang up-to-date small and easily handled, but fast and rewarding, sportsboat.
There is a sense in which a number of older designs have been filling this gap until this season, including the SB20 (launched as the Laser SB3 in 2002, see The SB20 is born: Laser SB3 class changes name and builder) and the J/80 (from 1993). Both are still attracting good-sized fleets and some very skilled sailors, however there is certainly scope for an updated design that gets everyone excited.
Key attributes of the J/70
Taken together, a number of key factors distinguish the J/70 from other boats on the market. Firstly, it is a lightweight, powerful 23-footer designed to be trailable and easily launched from a slipway. Simplicity is also a factor that extends throughout the boat – the hassle factor of sailing has been eliminated as far as possible. However, that does not mean compromises have been made. J-Boats is very experienced at specifying the deck gear needed for high-performance boats of this size and took time to ensure they got it right before bringing the boat to market.
In addition, high stability combined with a big rig and easily handled asymmetric spinnaker ensures plenty of fun for less experienced crews, without the risk of undue embarrassment. The J/70 however will also appeal to the most highly skilled of racing sailors, who will relish the challenge of squeezing the last one or two per cent of speed out of the boat.
On deck and performance
The carbon spars certainly look the part and help separate her visually from older competitors. However, nothing on this boat is there for show – it's been carefully thought about. The carbon rig is important in both helping to minimise weight and increase stability thanks to the significantly reduced weight aloft.
We had ideal conditions for our test sail on Southampton Water with enough breeze to get the boat planing. She accelerates quickly, and is responsive to the helm with good control, even when well pressed. The narrow cockpit makes it easy for the driver, and mainsheet trimmer if necessary, to brace in position, while other crewmembers have a well padded hiking line.
Controls are well placed, with adequate power and are led to both sides of the boat. This includes the Dyneema backstay, which gives easy control over the amount of power in the mainsail. When we dropped the asymmetric and unfurled the jib to turn upwind a quick tweak of the backstay helped de-power the mainsail in an instant, allowing the boat to drop into an easy groove, again with a lovely positive feel to the helm.
Equipment and options
J-Boats spent three years optimising the layout and systems of the J/70. When combined with the one-design nature of the class, this limits the options needed to optimise performance – which helps reduce costs and keep boat preparation to a minimum. There’s an open choice of sailmaker, preventing a single company getting a stranglehold on the class and inflating prices, while strict measurement and fabric rules will ensure a closely matched fleet.
Although this is clearly a design that’s all about the on deck experience, it's not an open boat. The small cabin, while offering minimal comforts, has space for stowing spare kit and sails, can provide some respite from the elements between races and even has a cosy double vee berth forward.
What the J/70 does best
As a boat that maximises the fun and excitement of sailing, while minimising both hassle and expense, it's easy to understand the rapid growth of the class to date. Top-notch one-design fleets are already forming in locations around the globe, although initially mostly focused in Europe, including a strong following in the UK, and in North America.
J-Boats has been selling to this sector of the market for a long time and understands it better than many other boat builders. As a result, most potential owners will be happy with the compromises they see – more comfortable accommodation, for instance, would only detract from the sailing experience the boat offers.
In Europe there are a number of recent designs that have the potential to make a viable alternative to the J/70, including the Open 7.5, the Bavaria B/One (see Bavaria B/One: Sportsboat with Weekend Potential) and both the Seascape 18 and 27 (see Seascape plans 27-foot cruiser-racer). However these have yet to gain traction in the UK, where the J/70 is already selling well.
Clearly past and present owners in the SB20 and J/80 fleets will also be attracted to the J/70 however these classes remain strong enough that they can be expected to continue in good numbers. The new boat may also entice people out of more traditional one design classes such as Etchells, Dragons and XODs, which account for a large amount of very competitive UK keelboat racing. Find out more about the J/70 at Key Yachting.
Sail area Main 18sq m
Jib 9.3sq m
Gennaker 46sq m