SAILING Review- Bob Perry

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Bob Perry on Design:   J/160 Performance Cruiser

When I was a kid almost all the design reviews of cruising boats would say something like, "Speed was not an issue in the design of this serious cruising vessel." Boy, those days are gone. Today most designers will focus the new design on obtaining the best boatspeed for a given volume and layout. The new J/160 addresses a size range that is very popular today. I'll warn you ahead of time that this is precisely my type of boat.

I love the profile of this boat. Note the strong sheerline and clipped overhangs coupled with a shapely cabintrunk. Side decks are very wide and the cockpit is big. The cockpit coamings are cut away aft to open up the entire deck area for the helmsman. All dimensions and proportions are on the svelte side, promising a boat that will sail extremely fast.

Why is this size so popular today? Look at the 26,200 pound displacement of this boat (D/L of 123). The designer can pack that weight into a 40 footer or stretch it out into a 52.7 footer. The beauty of stretching out the displacement is that LOA buys you more interior volume for a given displacement. LOA of the big J/Boat gives room to put in three staterooms with more than adequate privacy. You could eliminate the lazarette and chop off 6 feet, but that wouldn't be doing anyone a favor. The difference in handling requirements between a 44 footer and a 53 footer of the same weight is not enough to have any bearing. Once you get over 24,000 pounds of displacement, you can't muscle a boat around anyway. A greater LOA helps the layout and does wonders for your boatspeed.

Are there drawbacks to the longer, lighter cruising boat? To be fair, I should mention that with this speed potential and reduced canoe body rocker, you may have a boat that will pound from time to time. But, just about any boat capable of sailing quickly will reward you with a pound or two in some sea interval/boatspeed situation. The longer boat should be more directionally stable and will have a bigger working platform under the rig.

You've got to love this type of hull. The beam is reduced to 14.5 feet, the ends are cut off for maximum DWL and freeboard is moderately low. The rudder has been pushed as far aft as possible without going to an outboard rudder. This allows the rudder stock to get out from under the cockpit sole and enough height to get the rudder bearings spread apart for strength. It also helps separate the prop and the rudder for good control in reverse. "Wheeee! Look at me. I'm, backing up!"

The deck plan shows toerails forward changing to flat tracks past the second stanchion. While some cruisers swear by gunwales 6 inches high, other seasoned cruisers don't want toerails at all. Halyards are led aft to winches adjacent to the companionway. The wheel and traveler are far enough aft to allow a reasonable dodger to extend over the forward part of the cockpit. I can't see from the drawings where the mainsheet goes, but it may go forward and come back to one of the dual purpose halyard winches.

I puzzled over the dropped headstay until my own client reminded me that it was to make room for the spinnaker sock. The spinnaker is hoisted to the masthead. I love spinnaker socks but they always look like someone's coat got caught in the halyard shackle. Runners are shown along with swept spreaders. This small amount of sweep will help stiffen the mast. There is an option of a carbon fiber mast. I like the forward position of this mast and the big mainsail. You could cruise this boat very quickly with a 97 percent working jib that would behave almost as a self-tacker. Cruisers who have only had experience with overlapping genoas tend to think that a headsail has to be self tacking to be easy to handle. Truth is, any nonoverlapping headsail is a joy to trim compared with a genoa. The SA/D of this design is 25 in sailing trim.

If you prefer slow cruising boats with cramped interiors, you probably won't like this boat.