1997 Sailing World Boat of the Year

J/160 Review by Peter Wormwood
March 1997 issue of Sailing World

Long and low, with a shear too straight to be called anything but purposeful, the 52-foot J/160 was clearly created to take knowledgeable sailors offshore. Its short overhangs, long, straight waterlines and moderate beam indicate a quest for speed and sea kindliness in open ocean conditions. Unlike many boats on the market today, the J/160 is not designed simply for daysails and overnight trips down the coast. It is solidly, almost ruggedly, built to take its crew down island or world cruising.

The reasons for the J/160s success as a dual-purpose boat can be found with an examination of the structure, joinery and systems. A close look reveals an almost custom level of quality in the workmanship. While J/Boats is known for the performance of its designs, its exciting to see them deliver custom yacht quality with this, the queen of the line. The J/160s fiberglass components are molded using the patented SCRIMP resin-infusion process. This allows the major structural elements such as stringers and keel reinforcements to be laminated as part of the hull or deck.

Separating this boat from many so-called cruisers on the market is that there are enough sea berths for an off watch to get much-needed rest on either tack. Although the double berths in each of the three staterooms are not ideal sea berths, they are at least aligned with the centerline to provide one person in each a good rest. The settees and pilot berth in the main saloon will provide berths for a larger crew offshore.

One of the features that all of the BOTY panelists appreciated was the separate sail locker in the forepeak, accessed by a large deck hatch. This should keep sails, and the water they bring below, from encroaching on the living area. Another remarkable feature was the extremely large opening ports in the main saloon, giving the interior an airy feeling that sailors in hotter climates will appreciate.

Like all current J/Boats, the J/160 comes equipped with an integral telescoping spinnaker pole for asymmetric spinnakers. This is probably not for everyone, but properly managed, can be an asset in the shorthanded sailors quest for performance.

The deck hardware seems adequate and well-placed, although personal preferences and sailing styles led to some interesting discussions. For example, as with some of its other large models, J/Boats leads the mainsheet from a winch just forward of the traveler directly to the blocks on the traveler car; and, after making the rounds of the purchase system, to another mainsheet winch on the other side. This keeps the system simple, lightweight and close to the helm. J/Boats has created a well thought out and executed cruiser/racer. The J/160 has the waterline length (45 feet) and strength to be a blue-water performer; yet its size and simplicity make it a viable coastal racer.