J/35 - From the Experts

Sailing World Magazine- Andreas Josenhans

Keelboat champion Andreas Josenhans shares his high-speed techniques and rigging details for this quick offshore one-design. Sailing Photographs by Sharon Green.

Designed by Rodney Johnstone in 1983, the J/35 has since become one of North America's most popular 35-footers. There are now 275 boats built, and at least 100 sail actively at one-design regattas. Not only is it one of the fastest boats in its size range, but a growing class organization has helped promote one design competition in the Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, and both the East and West coasts. It's a great arena for racing, and the class association helps maintain the value of the boat. The result is solid competition at one third the price of an IOR boat, with little sacrifice in speed.

Laying Down the Basics
While it's obviously best to have a light boat, race results don't indicate that-the interior configuration of the boats make a significant difference. In fact, newer boats with full interiors have won the North American and East Coast championships in 1989. Still, there are a few areas that deserve scrutiny if you want to be sure you're "playing on the same field" as the competition.

We all know that a well-prepared, smooth bottom is faster than a rough one. While it can be an unpleasant job to prepare the bottom of any boat, the return in performance is significant. Sand the surface of the hull so it is smooth, fair, and ready to accept your favorite paint. Fair the keel and make it symmetrical, but don't bother with fairing it down to the class minimum. There have been a few keels that were fully minimized, but we don't think the cost-to-gain ratio was worth it. It is, however, worthwhile to fair the rudder and make it symmetrical with a perfect trailing edge - an asymmetrical rudder will cause a lot of helm on one tack and none on the other.

For accurate boatspeed information, the speedo's paddle wheel location on the hull is critical. It should be 3 to 4 feet ahead of the forward point of the keel at the root. The centerline location creates equal speed readings on both tacks, and the fore-and-aft position is reasonable given keel wash and waves.

Our rule of thumb regarding extra gear is, unless you use whatever you bring on board, or rules and safety require it - don't bring it. Remember, just like car racing, our sport is based on power-to-weight ratios that are hard to overcome without a gas pedal. The horsepower, crew, and sails are reasonably controlled by the class, so don't let extra weight control the outcome of your race! We have found that the J/35 floats in its best fore-and-aft trim with all gear within two feet of the mast, as low as possible. Two other things to remember: 1. If it's required to have a raft, make sure you can get it top-side in 15 seconds. 2. Don't take anything off the boat after 2100 the night before the race (IYRU rule 22.2).

When you hook up your shrouds to the chainplates, install the upper shroud on the aft outside hole, the lower shroud on the forward hole, and the diagonal shroud on the inside hole (see photo). Since we want to encourage the mast to bend forward down low, we put the lower shroud on the forward hole to allow that. We put the upper shroud on the aft hole to help keep it as tight as possible.

We have developed two ways to set the mast up: one for light air, using a softer headstay; and one for heavy air, with less sag in the headstay, to produce less helm and a stiffer mast. For our mainsail, we've been working with 1.5" of pre-bend, which requires blocking the mast all the way aft in the partners. This also opens the slot between the two sails and makes it easier to generate more tension on the headstay with the limited amount of backstay adjustment allowed by the class.

In light air the headstay length should be 48'11" measured from the pin where the headstay meets the spar to the pin at the stem. In heavy air we shorten this to 48'9" by tightening a turnbuckle on the bow. You can duplicate these settings by keeping a piece of Kevlar string with the two measurements marked in it tied to the bow, so you can quickly make the adjustment before the five-minute gun. Here's all the other things we adjust for different wind conditions again, check with your sailmakers for more specific info on your sails.

0-6 Knots True
Headstay length: 48'11"; backstay tension 30-50 percent of maximum depending on the sea state (less for rough water provides a rounder entry on the genoa to punch through the waves). Heel the boat 12-15 degrees for a light windward helm. The genoa foot should be 4" off the shroud at the chainplate, and the same off the top spreader. The main should have the top batten parallel with the boom to accelerate, and over-trimmed 2 or 3 degrees to point. The runner should be loose, and the outhaul should be just tight enough to close the foot shelf. The priority in these conditions is to keep the telltales flying on the jib, and achieve your target speed.

Use the .5 oz. runner downwind - make sure it is absolutely dry. Position the crew with the skipper and guy trimmer in the cockpit, with the rest of the crew forward and the spinnaker trimmer near the windward guy block. Keep the crew weight low, near the shrouds, and spread athwartships so any rolling will be slow, timed with the waves,

through a wide arc. On a very light reach it pays to heel the boat 2-4 degrees to give the boat a groove and let gravity help shape the sails. Once the wind is visible on the water and the boats peed is over 3 knots, speed will plateau unless you level the boat. A light sheet and the crew spread out low and forward helps stabilize the spinnaker, so you can fly a bigger curl and sail a lower angle. Take the slack genoa halyard to the bow and pull it hard to prevent rig bounce, and trim the foreguy hard to steady the pole.

Finally, in underpowered or bumpy conditions, it really pays to put the non-string pulling crew down below ("the dogs in the house") to concentrate the center of gravity. If the boat is pitching or rolling, the motion of air molecules over the surface of the sails is erratic - sometimes fast, sometimes slow - which makes accurate sail trim impossible. Since you have control over roughly 15 percent of the weight on the boat, you can minimize these flow variations by keeping the crew weight down low. Also, move the weight forward if the waves start to slap the underside of the bow forefoot.

12 Knots True
Headstay length: 48'11"; backstay should be 70-90 percent of max load; heel 12-15 degrees, light windward helm. The genoa should be just touching the chainplate, and the leech should be 1"-4" off the top spreader, depending on the sea state or your ability to hold target speed - looser to accelerate or for waves.


The mainsail top batten should be 5 degrees to windward of the boom, and the boom should be 8"-12" above centerline. The foot shelf of the main should be closed.

Trim the runner very hard to shape the main with I" wrinkles in the luff. Depending on the type of 12 knots you are in (steady or puffy), you could be nearly overpowered. If you are, make sure you don't heel more after reaching your target speed - hike harder, flatten out the sails, and point.

You also might shorten the headstay if your crew is light (under 1600 lbs.). Sail the boat flat 5-8 degrees heel is fast. We use the .5 oz. for the runs, until the No.3 is in use or the boat heel exceeds 15 degrees. Set the pole height to generate a 4'¬6' curl - short enough to be controllable and long enough to let the sail breathe. Once the pole height suits the trimmer, we pull the leech down hard with the twing to make the leech mirror the luff.

If you're not sure when to twing, look back at a competitor's sail and look for asymmetry. Also, make sure the boat isn't heeling, and watch the speed carefully.

When sailing dead downwind, heel the boat to windward and keep the weight forward, just like light air. The .75 oz. does a great job reaching. Move the crew weight back to control heel and keep the rudder immersed, and pull the pole back as far as possible - but don't let the lower part of the spinnaker luff sag aft and to leeward. Adjust the power with the mainsheet and vang tension, and try to keep a slight windward helm.

17 Knots True
Tighten the headstay to 48'9". The genoa foot should be hard on the chainplate, and the halyard should be tensioned to remove most wrinkles. The leech should be 6"-10" off the top spreader (more or less depending on the sea state). Control the backwind in the mainsail by easing the lead aft.

The runner should be at maximum load, or enough to position what little shape is left in the mainsail at 50 percent back. The outhaul should be at maximum to help minimize backwind, and a tight cunningham will also help keep the draft at 50 percent. The top batten should be open to spill power and help accelerate. Don't let the boat heel more than 18 degrees.

22 Knots True
Keep the headstay at 48'9", and sail with a full main and No.3 with the backstay at 70-90 percent. The range of the No.3 is 18-28 knots, which requires backstay and runner adjustment from 70-100 percent. The boat should heel 17-22 degrees.

Position the sheet lead for the No.3 so the telltales break evenly. Its top batten should be pointing 5 degrees to leeward from the centerline. Remove wrinkles on the luff with the halyard, and make the entry round with a straight exit. The bottom of the sail should be flat, and it helps to keep the tack of the sail as low as possible.

Using the. 75 oz. spinnaker you can push dead downwind with the same windward heel - the only scary part being an unintentional jibe broach. Prevent this by carrying all the crew to leeward and aft with a small curl in the spinnaker, tight vang (top batten 5 degrees above parallel to the boom) and the spinnaker on a short leash (don't ease the sheet out too far). Ease the backstay 50 percent when running. While pumping is all but illegal now, it still pays to steer very aggressively to stay under the 'chute and roll down the face of the waves. Success or failure on the 22-plus reach is knowing when you will broach and staying under the threshold at all costs. Keep the backstay on all the way, move the crew aft to keep the rudder immersed, and ease the vang when necessary.

The J/35 is a unique boat - it's half the price of a One Ton, but has the same speed in moderate conditions. The class crew weight limit of 1600 lbs. requires 8 to 10 people to be near the legal limit. There is no maneuver that needs more than 6 or 7 people, as long as the crew practices a few evenings prior to each event.

Starting at the bow, it's terrific to have a light bow person who won't disturb the boat's motion each time the genoa is lowered and turtled downwind. When the bow person is not hiking between the chainplates and the second stanchion, he's responsible for getting the sails up and down, for handling jibes, flaking the sails correctly, and helping prevent collisions by looking around the forestay while seated.

Another key person is the "seeing eye dog." This crew is in charge of calling the waves, big puffs, and lulls loudly (and early enough) to the helm and sail trimmer. When this is done properly, the boat maintains target pace through rough spots, lulls, and won't get tipped over in the gusts. Also, long-range scans upwind predict big wind shifts that might otherwise catch you unaware. The name of the game is anticipation, and the seeing eye dog provides it.

The genoa trimmer on our boat releases the sheet just in the last second as we tack, and eases the runner on the new lee side as he crosses over to grind in the last two feet of the sheet. When it's windy, once the trimmer has the sail in correctly, or even close, he hops to windward and the mainsail trimmer finishes the job.

The mainsail trimmer is really the speed mechanic because he's near the helm and all the power controls. Tactically, the main trimmer has time to keep partial track of the lifts and headers, and reports on the other boats to leeward and ahead. The speed mechanic role can be time consuming since a two-knot change in windspeed dictates adjustment of the traveler, backstay, mainsheet, runner, jib lead, and sheet. A larger change may require halyard, cunningham, and outhaul adjustment.

The helmsman usually steers to a target speed, which could be a boat next door, or a narrow lane between boats. The driver also does boat-on-boat reaction tactically, as well as the final execution of the start - which is when the preparation and practice you've put into your J/35 program all comes together.

Andreas Josenhans is the Manager of North Sails East, and has been racing on Tom Stark's J/35 Rush since October 1988. Rush has won the J/35 class at the Manhassett Bay YC Fall Series, the American YC Spring Series, Block Island Race Week, the Audi Sailing World NOOD Regatta, and finished second at the North American Championship. Josenhans is also well known as a two-time winner of both the Soling and Star world championships.