November 7, 2003- by Chuck Allen
The new 43-footer from J/Boats is quite simply a breeze to sail. We tested the J/133 in 15 knots of wind with six people on board and were able to handle it with ease. From sailing upwind, fully hiked, to pulling off a bunch of jibes in a row, we never missed a beat.
The first thing that pops out when stepping aboard the J/133 is the deck layout. You expect a 43-footer to have lines running all over, but the 133 has has the simplest of plans; the two halyard winches are forward, just aft of the mast, and their placement makes a ton of sense. No lines for the crew to trip on when crossing the cabin house from side to side, a nice feature. There’s plenty of room to walk around the shrouds while heading to the bow for takedowns, jibes or anchoring. The cockpit seems a little small when you first see it, but after going through the full workout, we discovered that it’s quite accommodating. The only things not high on my list were that the wheel was a touch undersized when standing up to drive, and the mainsheet sometimes hung up on its winches through jibes—but they’re in the perfect location for short-handed sailing (the driver can steer from a sitting position and trim the main at the same time). Overall the cockpit is set up nicely for crossover spin sheets and cross sheeting if you need to do this while racing; everything seems to be led cleanly.
Need to get below quickly? It’s not a problem; the companionway is the best of all the boats that we reviewed. The J/133 has a sturdy and safe platform to operate on; you have the room to maneuver yet there’s a feeling of security while heeling over under sail. Down below your eyes are drawn to the cherry wood throughout the cabin, which has a nice finish. The J-shaped galley to starboard and the nav station to port both have ideal setups for offshore sailing-whether you’re racing to Bermuda or cruising to Maine. There’s plenty of room for entertaining and dozing off. The interior of the J/133 is a 9 out of 10, but could be more up to speed in the areas of light fixtures and the electrical panel—areas where the European boats we reviewed have some really cool products installed.
Sailing the J/133 is easy and a ton of fun. I always start off boat tests with the stop-and-go drill, to see how the boat will handle in a starting-line scenario. It wasn’t a problem to go from full speed to a complete stop, holding in the luffing position for a while, sheeting in and getting up to full speed again. The 133 has remarkable acceleration for a boat of its size, and great feel. Upwind is much the same, we had it locked in at 7.6 to 7.9 knots upwind, and you had to really work to get it to fall out of the groove. The rudder never really stalled out, even when bearing off sheeted in with 15 knots-this is a good thing. The 133 has real nice follow through while tacking, getting back up to targets in just seconds, critical if you have one of those "must tack two to three times off the line" bad starts. I like to run the 360 degree turn maneuver to simulate hitting a mark, the 133 cut the mustard by turning inside itself, meaning within a boat-length.
Downwind is even better than upwind— the kite is huge. It takes a while to ring the bell (get the sail fully hoisted) but when you do, look out! The kite fills and the boat takes off, jumping into the 10- to 12-knot range quickly. It has a nice groove to drive to, with the speeds holding steady, and will definitely surf in waves, which well help you obtain the "go low" numbers we all look for when driving down with asymmetric spinnakers. Jibing may be trickier than the hoist, as with all asymmetric spinnaker boats. During our test sail, we were able to pull off jibes with ease; but as on any asym boat this will be the maneuver you’ll need to practice the most, besides the takedown.
The J/133 is my pick for the 2004 Sailing World BOTY. It seems a bit on the pricey side, but considering what you get it really isn’t: Hall Spars carbon mast and bowsprit, North 3DL sails, asymmetric spinnakers, and the well known J Boats Customer Service Policy. This boat seems like a perfect step-up boat for those J/105 and J/109 owners already in the family.