J/122 Sea Trials - Hamble, UK
After 12 months of design and construction and a dedicated effort by the staff at J/Europe, the new J/122 successfully debuted at the Paris boatshow in early December to rave reviews from J/Owners, dealers & show goers. By the end of the show twenty J/122s were on order with several destined for the US and UK.
The original schedule was to launch and sea-trial hull #2 in February in Florida but with momentum for the J/122 building quickly out of the show it was decided to launch and test sail hull #1 during the short 9-day window between the Paris and London Boatshows in mid-December.
The J/122 was shipped directly to Hamble, UK from Paris and immediately rigged by our UK distributor Paul Heys and his team. What followed was a rare three days of sun, moderate temperatures & 6 -20 knot winds on the Solent in December, a respite from the 50-60 knot winds of the previous weekend and the record fog that blanketed the area just following the sea-trials and prior to the Christmas holiday. The weekend weather simply could not have been any better, and so the several J/owners and local sailors who were able to join us on the new J/122 had a double treat.
Day 1: Rod Johnstone & I arrive at Hamble after a delayed flight from Boston and 90 minute ride from Gatwick to Hamble. We quickly change into sailing attire, and are picked up by J-UK’s Marie-Claude Heys for the quick drive down to the yard to meet the crew for the first day of sailing. The J/122 sits in her slip floating perfectly level on her lines…soon the entire crew is onboard and we set off from the dock.
The 122 manages the tight quarters of the docks in expert fashion responding quickly to each movement of the helm. It’s about a mile run down the river under power and there are no installed instruments on board but the Volvo engine with saildrive & geared folding prop purrs quietly as the boat slices through the chilly December water.
As we reach the convergence of the Hamble River with the Solent we throttle down and the crew makes quick work of hoisting the main. Wind is 6-8 knots, flat water, and sun is shining with blue sky. The boat accelerates when the large 110% jib is unfurled and we set the sheets. The motor is shut down. Everything gets quiet and the boat is slipping through the water with barely a sound. The boat goes through her first tack and quickly accelerates with a 10 knot puff … How’s she feel? I ask Rod… “She feels great!”…. After about 10 minutes I ask for the helm and Rod relinquishes. There is a familiar light touch and response on the wheel that I’m used to feeling on every J/Boat and she seems to accelerate quickly in the puffs. After a few more minutes and a tack, I offer up the helm to another crew member.
We sail back and forth in the narrow channel at the mouth of the river for the next 2 hours in 8-10 knots of breeze with each crew member getting a turn on the helm and then we hoist the small J/124 A-sail and head back toward the dock for lunch. For the afternoon session we’ll have several more local J/Boat owners on hand, more wind, as well as a photo boat.
The afternoon sail is in a bit more wind with a somewhat consistent 10 knots and puffs to 14. The boat moves through the water without effort and we take several pictures to later publish on the J/122 web site. The non overlapping headsail makes tacking very simple and the unique Furlex TD furler allows for maximum luff length while preventing the need for a large hole in the foredeck as is the case with most below-deck furler installations. This is a cool piece of hardware. The borrowed J/124 asymmetric spinnaker was a bit small for gauging downwind performance, but the handling of the boat downwind is smooth and easy. With the comfortable interior accommodations and the optional dock box to close off the transom, I can easily imagine extended cruising with my family aboard this boat.
Day 2: It looks like perfect October sailing weather in the middle of December, 50 deg. Wind 12-16 out of the southwest. After a morning of careful measurements to document the rig set-up, mast butt location, freeboards etc, the rest of the crew meets us on the dock at 11:00 AM. No photos to take, no schedule, just pack lunch and go for an extended sail. Today, rather than short tacking up the busy channel outside the Hamble River, we decide to set the A-sail and head out into the Solent. The main goes up and then the spinnaker and we quickly make tracks as the strong current helps to push us to the east. It’s a long starboard tack reach with A-sail and we trade crew positions along the way. It’s noon time and the sun is very low in the sky and stays at this elevation most of the day moving slowly east to west.
The question arises from one of the owners, “We’ll be sailing our boat double handed. Is the A-sail really manageable by a crew of only two?” For the next five minutes Rod & I demonstrate several jibes without additional help. Then we trade positions for a few more.
The long reach and jibe demonstration then ends with a spinnaker douse in 15 knots of wind and we turn upwind. The boat again behaves and balances very well as we test different sail trim settings and make minor rig adjustments on each tack. The helm position works perfectly with large foot rests on each side of the molded pedestal. We hit some big chop from a passing powerboat and the boat slices through it and recovers quickly. The breeze comes up and we pump the easy-to-reach pedestal mounted handle for the hydraulic backstay to depower the rig. Not much in the way of boats to speed test against and we have no instruments so it is all about the feel, and there is consistent, positive feedback from all. As we get closer to the river the wind dies down to 4 knots and with each puff the boat ghosts along smartly to the entrance.
More dockside photos and some coffee on the dock wraps up another day of test sailing with the new J/122. Later that afternoon our builder and project partner Didier Le Moal of J/Europe arrives after a well deserved weekend of rest and we share with him the CD full of sailing photos from the day and our first hand experiences sailing the boat. Didier manages the J/Europe facility in France, and is responsible for executing a fantastic result.
A special note of thanks to Paul & Marie-Claude Heys and their team for making this successful trial sail weekend a reality.