J/34c Sailing World Boat of Year

As Eric Goetz says, "J-Boats' construction and detail are hard to beat?” Very hard this year, as the J/34c tops a mixed group of tough competitors. In the construction area alone, the boat is another example of J-Boats' commitment to toughness, with a superior hull/deck joint, heavily reinforced keel/hull junction, strong (GRP) bulkhead, and hand-laminated hull and deck. Tillotson-Pearson is even offering a 10-year builder's guarantee against blisters. But construction quality alone wouldn't have put the boat so high in the rankings. She's popular among the panelists because she accomplishes the goal her designer set for her; namely, to be a simple, well-finished, comfortable cruising boat with a serious turn of speed.

Part of the J/34c's appeal stems from the consistency of Rod Johnstone's designs: Their long waterlines, straight sheers, big sailplans, and low, squarish cabintops make them easy to identify from a distance. The rapidity at which they move is also a good clue. This boat, with the familiar knife like bow and almost vertical transom, has an underwater profile unlike the IOR Three-Quarter Ton J/34. Most noticeable is the Johnstone-designed UFO (Underwater Flying Object) keel, a bulb/wing affair that gives this J true shoal-draft capability. The boat also combines several winning features from other Johnstone designs, notably the J/40 (BOTY winner two years ago), from which she gets an excellent single-hander's cockpit layout and, when the bulkhead doors are shut, a big-league forward stateroom.

The cockpit features a traveler just forward of the pedestal, with oversized self-tailing winches set at either end for the mainsheet. This arrangement, unlike those that have the mainsheet rigged mid-boom and led to the cabin top, allows the helmsman to play the main as in days of old, and frees up the rest of the crew (usually one other person, figure the Johnstones) to handle the jib, halyards, reefing lines, and so forth. Or to get some rest. Since many helmsmen like to see the main played more or less constantly, this set-up will keep a lot of nerves from being frayed. And it does make real single-handing possible.