Has racing-orientated J Boats produced a yacht that will appeal to cruisers?
What’s she like to sail?
Cruising sailors think of racing yachts as being nothing more than stripped-out hulls – crammed with pipe cots, sweaty gorillas and soggy sails – which can’t go very far. Thankfully in the case of the J/122E this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the original versions have competed in events such as the ARC or AZAB.
I was expecting her to be flighty, even cantankerous, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. She was well mannered, graceful and majestic to sail. Pushed to the limit I have no doubt she could bite, but it would be a braver man than me to go that far. The helm wasn’t as harsh as I expected, instead being light and responsive.
The wide cockpit gives plenty of space to wield winch-handles and pull lines without chinning your nearest and dearest. The low coaming doesn’t offer great shelter, but it’s so comfortable to sit on that the wide seats become footrests.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
There is a fair distance between the saildrive and the rudder, so port manoeuvres need a bit of forethought. If you prefer to avoid this by anchoring you’ll need the optional bow roller. This is taken to port of the through-deck Harken roller furling. A low-profile vertical windlass can be fitted forward of the anchor locker hatch. Cockpit seating is long enough to lounge on, and the addition of a cockpit table would make the cockpit a very good place to be.
Down below, the vast 1.1m (3ft 6in) by 1.2m (3ft 11in) saloon table makes it easy to sit three along the 1.6m (5ft 6in) seats on each side. Lack of stowage aside, the galley is both practical and well thought out. The splash-back at the sink is good to see, but it might be grabbed by accident when sailing.
The heads is small for a 40ft yacht. The trade-off is the saloon size and second aft cabin. Remove the latter and you keep the saloon and gain a heads and vital cockpit stowage for cruising.
Ventilation below could be improved. Opening hatches are good when someone is aboard and the sun is shining, bad when they’re not or it’s raining: a dorade vent of some type wouldn’t go amiss.
Would she suit you and your crew?
If you’re a traditional cruising yachtsman with a set idea of what a proper cruising boat is, someone who is happy to just get to their destination eventually, the J/122E clearly isn’t going to light your fire. But, if you are attracted by her stylish and elegant looks on the outside, J Europe have produced an interior to match on the inside. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it was to mine and I’m sure many others who had never set foot on a J Boat before.
This was hull number one, and was therefore showing some boat show scars and rough edges as pre-production boats usually do. But having looked at some older J/122s, they have survived more than the average cruising yacht ever experiences with aplomb.
If you’ve dismissed J Boats because of their racing heritage or image, do so no more. This is a model that has clearly evolved to take on established performance cruisers with speed and style. Her ease of sail handling, especially with the retractable bowsprit, makes her a joy to sail. She doesn’t require lines to be constantly tweaked to make her perform. She’ll be as at home crossing to Cowes as she would crossing the Channel. And if you add a conventional spinnaker and pole for trade wind sailing, she’d make a fast, enjoyable ocean passage-maker, too.
You can read Graham Snook’s full review of the J/122E in the July 2014 issue of Yachting Monthly…
Her ease of sail handling, especially with the retractable bowsprit, makes her a joy to sail...