When the top 24 US yacht clubs meet again at the New York Yacht Club in Newport, from September 4-8, to contest the 2012 NYYC Invitational Cup US Qualifying Series, they will be racing in the good old Sonar, but also in the brand-new J/70 that is about to be introduced in the US. It is the first lifting keel boat from J/Boats and could usher in a new era, not just at the NYYC, but in organised sailing in general. The boat is easy to trailer and ramp-launchable, has a large cockpit, a small cabin, a carbon fiber mast and a simple sail plan that includes a square top main, a roller furling jib and a gennaker on a retractable bow sprit. A small 2.5 horsepower outboard can be clamped onto the stern as an auxiliary engine.


The boat should challenge experienced racers while remaining fun for less ambitious sailors who want to cast of for an easy spin with friends or family. Hence, the boat will be offered to clubs to extend or upgrade their existing fleets and offer their members modern equipment. “In these times fewer people can afford to own a boat, so clubs and other organizations develop programs around keelboat fleets they own,” J/Boats president Jeff Johnstone explains. “It’s a shift in strategy that requires boats that are fun to sail and robust enough for program work. Hence we are introducing the J/70 that aims to satisfy both requirements. We expect it to position us in the trailerable boat and inland sailing markets.”


The J/70 is being built at CF Composites in Bristol, Rhode Island and is expected to hit the water shortly. It also will be produced in Europe, but details have yet to be released. In the company newsletter, J/Boats says fleet discussions are taking place in “nearly every major sailing region in America and Europe.”

But back to the qualifier for the Invitational Cup and the rather diverse types of boats that will test the sailors’ versatility: The Sonar is a traditional displacement boat with a crew of three and a symmetrical spinnaker, while the J/70 is similar in size, but wants to be sailed very differently with its planing hull and gennaker. The top three teams will qualify for the 2013 NYYC Invitational Cup, which will host the top club teams from around the world and will be sailed in the NYYC Swan 42, which according to the statement, should be similar to the J/70’s concept.


In the 2010 USQS, 24 yacht club teams from the U.S. competed. Eastern Yacht Club won, followed by Annapolis Yacht Club and Newport Harbor Yacht Club (California). The second biennial Invitational Cup presented by Rolex in 2011 saw 22 yacht club teams from 16 nations from six continents compete. The winner was the team from the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

This article was re-published with kind permission of YACHT, Europe’s largest sailing publication.