J/125 PHRF/Sportboat of the Year

Over the last five years, sportboats have evolved into highly refined sailing machines that offer incredible performance with a touch of offshore capability. This year, the competition in our PHRF/Sportboat category included the J/125 the One-Design 35, the Van Gorkam Mount Gay 30, and the Quest 33. All are remarkable boats rampant with innovation, but the long, lean, and mean J/125 simply blew away its competition. We all agreed that the J/125 offered the best bang for the buck with speed, thrills, and absolute sailing excitement.

What J/Boats has done is taken the typical 30-foot sportboat and created what I'd call a maxi-sportboat. The hull form is a radical departure-it's noticeably long, narrow, and light with only 10.5 feet of beam. It's built by TPI, using its patented vacuum resin-infusion molding process (SCRIMP), and the hull and deck materials include a carbon-fiber inner skin, Kevlar/E-glass outer skin, and Pro-Set epoxy. The advanced technology doesn't stop there, though. The keel is composed of a cast bronze alloy strut with a lead bulb. It weighs over 4,600 pounds, which gives the J/125 a ballast-to -displacement ratio of over 50 percent and positions the vertical center of gravity well below the bottom of the hull. To complete this technological tour de force, the mast, boom, and bow pole are all carbon.

We sailed the J/125 in 10 to 15 knots of wind and flat water with a full main and No. 1 genoa. The straight-line speed was awesome, and the low freeboard enhanced the speed sensation. All of the judges were equally impressed with how easily the boat settled into its groove, not to mention how responsive it was to helm and sail controls.

The cockpit stretches to over 16 feet, so don't expect any problems with crowd control at the weather mark. Clearly, much thought went into making the boat as easy as possible to sail efficiently and eliminating any unnecessary weight and equipment. 

The only complaint we had was that the traveler controls were hard to use - a problem that J/Boat's Bob Johnstone assured us was being corrected. The Harken winches, tracks, and other sail controls all worked perfectly, were positioned correctly, and were big enough to handle the loads of the highperformance rig.

The narrow beam and high ballast-to-displacement ratio allows the boat to heel a bit more than a more conventionally proportioned boat, but even though we pushed the boat hard, the big rudder maintained its bite and hung on like a junkyard dog. Everyone agreed that the beautifully molded carbon-fiber steering wheel made the boat even more fun to steer. It was quick, positive, and gave superb control, especially when spinnaker reaching with the huge asymmetric.

I checked our boatspeed when the kite went up. In 12 knots of wind we were beam reaching at 9.5 knots-fast enough to slap grins on all who held the helm. J/Boats has plenty of experience with asymmetric- spinnaker systems, and they've refined them to the point of being easy to handle. With minimal practice, any crew would be able to sail the J/125 downwind nearly as deep as a conventionally rigged boat.

Belowdecks, the J/125's small proportions are clearly evident. There's just enough accommodations for a crew of four. The living accommodations are positioned in the middle of the boat to minimize the effect on the boat's pitching moment, while the ends of the boat are empty. The galley includes a two-burner alcohol stove, a small sink, and a plastic ice chest. The enclosed head is just forward of the main bulkhead-the J/125 simply does not pretend to be anything but a racer.

On paper the J/125 looks boxy and not too stylish, but on the water the almost extreme proportions of the boat-the huge asymmetric spinnaker, stealthy black carbon rig, and low freeboard give the boat a distinctive and almost visceral sense of speed and power.

-LEIF BEILEY