Shifting gears

The first new J/121 has arrived in Australia and its combination of great looks and potent sailing performance is set to make an impact.

22 May 2018


Here at Sails we’ve been fans of the J/121 since the first hulls were taking shape one year ago on Rhode Island, north of New York.

We especially liked the idea of a water-ballasted 40-footer that can be handled by a small crew, with a suite of furling headsails on halyard locks, along with asymmetric spinnakers.

Obviously a number of other people did too, because as of March 2018 J/Boats had orders for 22 hulls, with hull five being readied for its discerning Melbourne owner.

The J/121 has been described as a “bucket list” choice, aiming to meet the desire for what is euphemistically termed “short-handed adventure sailing”. The Rolex Fastnet is apparently in this category, so one could hazard a guess the Hobart would be in there too.

“We thought that if we could eliminate half the crew on a 40-footer that’s purpose-built for point-to-point racing but still pass the beer-can and daysail test, we’d have people interested,” said J/Boats President, Jeff Johnstone.



We would be more than happy to subject this specification to rigorous scrutiny in Australian conditions, and to verify the finding of one review that in 15 to 20 knots,

“the boat is really fast and stable, with or without the ballast. The rudder never loses its grip.”

The J/121’s sail inventory is designed for racing with a crew of five. The main has a 10 percent first reef, then a deeper second reef. The primary jib is 105 percent, and a heavy-weather inner jib is about 85 percent. For off-the-wind work, there’s a Code Zero and an A2 all-purpose running kite.

The potential 380 litres of water (380 kilograms) per side is a stability and of course performance bonus – the equivalent of four large crew on the rail who don’t have to be excused for any personal activities. Just what hit that would means in terms of IRC rating remains to be seen.

The interior reflects the J/121’s racing intentions; there are proper passage-making berths, synthetic flooring, moulded furniture and mahogany trim – all extremely well finished, while capable of absorbing day-to-day race abuse.

Priced from AU$502,000 plus sails and instruments from the owner’s choice of sailmaker and brand.


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