Performance Cruising Parameters
By Rod Johnstone
The most important characteristic of a performance cruiser is that its stiffness be derived from a low center of gravity. This is indicated by a simple ratio of righting moment (RM) at 1 degree of heel to the cube of the greatest beam at the waterline (B). The RM/B^3 ratio indicates whether the boat derives its stability more from its low VCG (RM) or from its large beam, or waterplane inertia (B^3). The greater the number yielded by this ratio, the greater the stability, seakindliness, sail-carrying ability, and potential performance of the boat. Boats with a high RM/B^3 tend to be longer, narrower, and faster than boats with a lower RM/B^3. Based on a sample of 219 different IMS-rated cruising boats in the United States from 22 to 81 feet in length, the median value of RB/B^3 for the stiffest 50 boats is 1.7. The median value of RM/B^3 for the most tender 50 boat is .89. The average length/beam (LWL/B) ratio for the top group is 3.82, and only 2.96 for the bottom group.
A high or low rating on this index is independent of a boat’s displacement/length (D/L) ratio. The 50 boats highest on the RM/B^3 scale have a D/L ratio ranging from 55 (light) to 339 (heavy). (In modern terms, a D/L ratio of less than 180 is light, 180-280 is moderate, and above 280 is heavy.) Thus, 16 of the top 50 boats on the RB/B^3 scale are heavy, 16 are moderate, and 18 are light. At the bottom of the scale half of the bottom 50 are heavy, 19 are moderate, and only 6 are light.
The preponderance of heavy-displacement boats at the low end of the scale reflects a modern trend in cruising sailboats toward increased accommodations and decreased ballast/displacement ratios-a trend that has raised the height of the center of gravity of this type of boat. Forty-two of the 50 stiffest boats on the RM/B^3 scale, (but only 22 of the less-stiff boats), have sail area-to-displacement ratios of over 16 - what I consider to be a minimum for performance cruising speed under sail.
Finally, the RM/B^3 ratio is an excellent predictor of "big-boat feel" and motion in any size boat- the quality is just harder to achieve in a smaller lighter boat. Whether light or heavy, a narrow boat with a low center of gravity will have a rock solid feel, an easy motion, and positive control-the unmistakable aura of power, stability, and passage-making speed
The Perfect Cruising Sailboat for Our Trans-Atlantic Tour
"We've sailed JAYWALKER 3,200 miles during the past two summers, all on the Great Lakes. In addition to daysails, we cruise 3 weeks, race Wednesday nights and do a few distance races like the Queens Cup from Milwaukee to Grand Haven. The boat has exceeded all our expectations.
Chances are that Bill and Judy Stellin, owners of the J/42 JAYWALKER, had a lot more fun than you did last month—and the month before that, too. The Stellins, from Holland, Michigan, took their long-distance cruising dream across the Atlantic in 2000, where they’ve been exploring the Med before they plan to head home and close their extended Atlantic circle in 2002. We asked the Stellins about the cruising life, living aboard, and what makes a good cruising boat.
What is your sailing background, and how did it lead to long-distance cruising?
How does the J/42 differ from the average cruising boat?
JAYWALKER is lighter, and sails a whole lot better, than the cruising boats we see every day. Most boats in the Med are in the 44- to 46-foot range and carry everything the owners own (many cruisers have no home on land, so everything they have is onboard). We still have a home, and because of our racing experience we have kept our boat light—she is still on her lines. JAYWALKER is equipped for crossing the Atlantic and cruising the Med, not for a circumnavigation. We don’t have a watermaker, miles of chain, or a lot of heavy anchors. We spend a lot of time in marinas, where it’s easier to go sightseeing and meet people, than anchored out. Still, we anchor out about 40 percent of the time.
Our passage times are much shorter than those of the average cruising boat—we sail and motor faster than most boats. We also sail much more than does the average cruising boat. Our Lake Michigan pattern of 60 percent sailing, 40 percent motoring holds true here in the Med. We sail in lighter wind and in stronger winds than most boats. Many cruisers expect to motor between ports, and if the conditions aren’t right for motoring they don’t go. We sail—which includes going to windward!
This is possible and enjoyable because JAYWALKER does it well. We are not afraid to go out in force 5 and 6 conditions. The J/42 surfs better than most cruising boats, does not hobbyhorse as much, and seems stiffer—I’m convinced that the SCRIMP process contributes to a stiffer hull in rough conditions. Because the J/42 is lighter and more easily-driven than most cruising boats, our fuel economy is better and we carry less diesel (we could have crossed the Atlantic with the standard fuel capacity and not the optional extra tank).
What has passagemaking been like in the J/42? What sails are onboard?
Passagemaking has been very pleasurable. The autopilot does all the work and we just trim sails, change sails every once in a while, and catch up on regular maintenance. We get plenty of sleep, and Judy’s meals are marvelous. We have a SeaFrost fridge so we have lots of fresh food and a big variety of menus. Navigation here in the Med is fun and takes up quite a bit of free time. The rest of our time is spent reading or sleeping. Our in-harbor berth is the V-berth, but during passages we use the aft cabin because the motion is easier and we can stay close to the nav station and in easy communication with the person on watch in the cockpit.
Because of the speed of the J/42 and the length of our coastal passages, we’ve only had a few overnight sails in the Med. We leave about 0900 and sometimes don’t get to the next port until after dark, but still early enough to avoid getting overly tired. If we only have to go 35 to 50 miles between ports, we will wait until the wind builds around noon do we can sail and not have to motor.
On JAYWALKER we carry a storm jib, 100% jib, 130% and 155% genoas, two mainsails (old and new), and two spinnakers. The jib and genoas are roller-furling, and all the working sails (with the exception of the storm jib) are made of laminated fabric. The idea that a cruising boat must be heavy and that cruising sails should be made out of sheet steel is very antiquated—and almost impossible to argue with those who have heavy boats and sails. We don’t even try anymore. We just say, “Eat your heart out!” as we sail by them and reach our destination hours earlier and in more comfort.
What have been the highs and lows of your voyaging thus far?
The Atlantic crossing was wonderful, especially the night watches, which were a great time to be alone with the environment. The stars and moon—or lack of both—made for unforgettable watches. It was grand, scary at times, and humbling.
The sightseeing and anchorages in the Med are also stupendous. Every new port is full of history and adventure, and the coastline is spectacular. The sailing is difficult, due to confused seas and unpredictable winds which can go from zero to 45 knots and back again in seconds. But by far the most memorable part of this cruise has been the people we’ve met. Somewhere we’d read that cruising is about people, and we can certainly confirm that.
As for lows, I can honestly say they have been few and far between. Early on, when Judy broke her arm on the passage to Bermuda and we had a rudder stuffing box leak, morale was very low. But that only lasted for a day or so. Every day since has been an incredible high. (By the way, the rudder stuffing box leak was our fault for not putting the stuffing in correctly. Since then everything has been fine, although the steering is a bit stiff—due to a possible overabundance of flax in the box and an overly tight clamp.)
What features of the J/42 have made living aboard fun or convenient?
Standard equipment on our J/42 included a SEAGULL water filter (made by General Ecology) and a Par shore-water inlet. Both have made living aboard much easier. Drinking water in the Med, especially on the islands, has been of very questionable quality, and the filter makes anything except salty water drinkable. We’ve never gotten sick from bad water, nor had our tank water taste bad. The shore-water inlet also makes life more convenient—we don’t have to fill our tanks and our water pump doesn’t have to run. The shore-water also goes through the SEAGULL filter.
The J/42’s big cockpit is very welcome—we spend a lot of time in it. The dodger and bimini give us about all the sun protection we need (only a few times during the height of the summer did we need the sun awning). Judy likes the aft head, which is hers, and we both like the Force 10 stove, the ventilation and screens of the cabin, the big V-berth, the brightness of the interior, the angle of the companionway steps, the handholds belowdeck (Judy is short, but the handholds are easy to reach), the port and starboard settees (great for stretching out), the deep sink (you can hit it with a beer can from the cockpit and the can stays in), the layout belowdeck, the deck layout, and the mainsheet location.
Did we leave anything out? In short, we like just about everything about our J/42. One last thing—the big, deep anchor well allows chain and rope to drop straight down from the windlass without getting tangled. The locker is big enough to hold not only the anchor rode but our folded-up 8 ½-foot Zodiac and some fenders.
Do you have any advice about choosing a cruising boat?
The best advice we can give to anyone considering a cruising boat is to, first, carefully and seriously ask themselves what kind of sailor they are, what is important to them, and where they expect to sail (what will the conditions be, most of the time). Acquire lots of experience sailing in all kinds of conditions so you know firsthand what is important to you and what is not. Only then begin looking for boats that satisfy your needs. Forget the hype and the advice of others who don’t share your concerns and priorities.
Second, buy a performance cruising boat. Think modern when it comes to construction and design. Heavy boats (aka “lead mines”) don’t sail when the wind is light—and that can be a lot of the time when you’re cruising the Med, Chesapeake Bay, or Great Lakes. If you want to motor a lot, buy a motorboat. Sailing is all about the sport of making a boat go with the wind, not avoiding it as many cruisers do. Avoid boats that require lots of maintenance or upkeep—exterior teak in sunny climates is a time, work, and money hog.
Finally, realize that many cruising boats today are designed and built for the charter market, where needs are much different from those of liveaboard cruisers. Avoid the kind of boats that are fine for one-week holidays but have no value for cruisers who will be making ocean passages and spending months, if not years, living aboard. A cruising boat is a big expenditure. Make the most of it by buying a boat that will do what you expect of it without a lot of fuss. Make sure that the boat meets all offshore insurance requirements, and buy the best quality and design you can afford.
If It Blows 66 MPH, You Will Be Glad You're On A J/42
I spent more than a year and sailed more than twenty different boats before I decided to buy a J-42. Our family took delivery in August of 2000. We named our boat J-Belles after my daughter, Julie. I have owned several sailboats, but spent the last twenty years sailing a Tartan 37 from my home base in Erie, Pennsylvania.
We chose the Multiple Sclerosis charity race on Labor Day. It is the largest race in our area with 85 boats entered. It’s a short 5-mile race around the bay. There were two racing spinnaker fleets filled with Heritage One tons, Shock 36’s, J 24’s, 35’s and 36’s, Tripp designs and a few custom designed boats. We chose to sail in the cruising fleet with several C&C 40’s, 41’s and a 50, a Baltic 42, a Tartan 42, and a NM 50 ‘Champosa’. The NM 50 has a PHRF of 0; J-Belles has a PHRF of 87. The NM 50 had just finished the Lake Erie Race and wanted to sail the cruising class. Ours would be the third start; the first two starts of the racing spinnaker fleets would be separated by 5 minutes.
It was a sunny day and the wind was blowing 22 knots at the start. Paul and Sue had joined us, and being a charity event, we had a boatful of ten people. We were fourth off the line on our start, but soon moved to second behind the NM 50 at the first buoy. On the downwind leg, we put a whisker pole to leeward, and closed on the racing fleet in front of us and the NM 50.
We carried a full main and the 140% Genoa. Clouds were rapidly closing in from the west. By the time we rounded the second mark and were on a reaching leg, the weather had turned foul. The wind was now blowing 30 knots and the rain was in sheets, stinging our faces. Sunglasses were mandatory despite the clouds to protect our eyes from the driving rain. At the turn of the third mark, we had sailed through half of the racing fleet in front of us and were only 30 seconds behind the NM 50. J-Belles loved this weather. She had very little helm and still had not dipped her rail. On the finishing, up wind leg, the wind had increased to 40 knots, J-Belles still had her full yard of sails up with no reef and was sailing at 9.9 knots. We crossed the finish line only 16 seconds behind the NM 50 and had sailed through the entire second racing fleet and caught two boats from the first fleet!
The wind rapidly increased to 66 knots as later reported by Erie International airport. It became almost a complete whiteout. We had dropped our sails by then. Many of the boats were knocked down, suffered rigging damage, and one even sunk. The Coast Guard rescued the sailors without further mishap. The storm was over in twenty minutes, and the wind settled in the fifteen-knot range with rain. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the yacht club, watching them raise the boat from the bottom of the bay and toasting our victory. J-Belles had the second fastest elapsed time, just 16 seconds behind the NM 50 who owed us 7 minutes and 15 seconds. We enjoyed a beautiful trophy and participated in raising thirty-eight thousand charity dollars. Most of all, we were safe in 66 knot winds and suffered no damage.
It is comforting to know that when the winds blow unexpectedly at that velocity that you will end up on the air-side of the water in a J-42. The boat had excelled in the challenge.
Later when I sent the clipping from our newspaper with the wind clocked at 66mph to Paul and reminisced about the race, I asked Paul if he ever thought the weather could change so violently in Lake Erie. Paul just said, “Uh huh.”
The SAIL Rally for 40 Ft Cruising Sailboats
DAY 1- INTRODUCTION
The J/42 performed an early rescue mission, circling in her own length while rolling up the jib to hand the dinghy operator a tow. The mother ship had failed to give him the kill switch device to plug in. In late afternoon we sailed the 8-9 miles upwind in 7-9 knots of air to the Biscayne entrance channel and to No Name Harbor. This turned out to be quite revealing in terms of light air sailing ability. J/42 sailed from behind and between the Tartan and Pacific Seacraft and doing over 6 knots moved out to a 1 mile lead by the time we reached the Biscayne Channel. This was with a 100% jib. The Tartan was next, holding pretty much the J/42 line only slower, the Pacific Seacraft about a mile behind the Tartan with about 5 degrees moreleeway, the Freedom seemed 10 degrees lower on pointing angle and much slower, while the Island Packet motored - after performing yeoman service with the Rally's dinghy. We popped the asymmetrical chute to sail all the way up the channel, dropped the mainsail, and ghosted into the very narrow harbor entrance of No-Name jibing the spinnaker,then up to our anchorage, snuffing the chute and dropping the hook. It wasn't necessary to wake up the Manatees with our engine. Every now and then those standing ovations are nice to get.
Erik announced the plan was to depart at midnight with the idea of arriving in North Bimini, 49 miles away across the Gulf Stream by noon. A crew change and sailing were planned for the afternoon. The Jacketts on the Tartan 4100, having celebrated a birthday party and the J/42 crew figured we could average over 7 knots under sail and/or power on the voyage and got permission to leave at 4 AM after 6 hours of sleep rather than loose sleep at the outset by leaving at midnight.
DAY 3- SURPRISE
So much for the motor. We called the Tartan to transfer the crew so at least they could get to Bimini and continue the Rally. We weren't sure at that point whether the J/42 would have to be scratched. Chip Mason, the first-rate shipmate that he is, volunteered to make the sail back to Miami with me with the objective in mind of getting the engine repaired by midnight, then returning to Bimini to join the fleet for Day 4 of sailing. As it turned out, the J/42 was the only boat to sail on this day. And, it was quite pleasant under the circumstances. We had a 12 knot Norther and were making 7+ knots by GPS on a close fetch toward Government Cut. Chip steered and I analyzed the engine and made phone calls. Then the wind dropped to "0" two miles out. Oh, no! The Gulf Stream could take us to Bermuda. I hailed one small fishing boat in Spanish and offered them $50 for tow into the Cut. They responded that they hardly had any fuel themselves. Fortunately it wasn't long before the wisps of a building sea breeze permitted us to set the large asymmetrical and we ghosted through Government Cut under spinnaker.
This was not easy considering all the sportfisherman, Donzi's and Cruise Ships blasting out at 3/4 throttle. The last of the flood helped into the entrance of South Miami Beach Marina. We snuffed the chute, dropped the main and glided into a slip to begin our repair program. It was noon. It had taken us 3.5 hours. We were getting good at making moorings without auxiliary power.
Needless to say, my cellular bill had climbed to astronomical heights in efforts to line up a slip in a Marina that was "absolutely full", in locating the local Miami Yanmar repairman who shut off his beeper as a courtesy to the client he was then working for, and to convince Mack Boring and the Yanmar distributor in St. Petersburg that here indeed was one of those rare opportunities to demonstrate Yanmar's superior service capabilities in front of 5 of their largest boatbuilding customers, the Sr. Editor of SAIL and 200,000 devoted readers. Certainly, the very least they could do was dismantle another engine and drive with its sheave and water pump 8 hours round trip from St. Pete to Miami. And, there would be cause for celebration, if the job were completed by midnight. We were grateful to get this exceptional Yanmar service and a complete pit-stop turnaround in the time allotted: midnight. Mary was elated when I finally got back to her to say we'd arrived in Miami Beach safely and were following a plan to depart again by midnight in order to enjoy another Bimini sunrise.
The explanation for the water pump sheave casting failure was "too tight a drive belt", placing an inordinate amount of pressure on the offset bell-shaped casting which is the supporting framework for the water pump sheave. The sheave is one of three on the main drive belt, including the main drive sheave and the alternator sheave. We've advised Yanmar that we don't think a tight belt should break a pulley after 12 hours of use, that either the casting should be heavier or that there may be a defect in the casting. In the meantime, we'd advise everyone to keep their main drive belts on the loose side. Ours was the second to go in the Florida area in the past year.
Chip and I cleared Miami Beach Marina in the J/42 at midnight and headed out the Cut into the Gulf Stream once again, motorsailing in much the same light, following breeze of the night before. Target was to arrive off Bimini at 7 AM, making contact with Erik at that time via VHF to rendezvous with the Fleet.
Our double-handed routine was an hour on, an hour off. This made the time fly and kept the biorhythms functioning at a non-fatiguing pace. Our nap times were averaging 20-40 minutes after deducting navigation and eating. We were approaching Bimini for the second sunrise in two days and our third crossing of the Gulf Stream in 24 hours.
A comment about these crossings is instructive. Instrumentation was set up with 5 KVH dual displays on deck. 3 across the companionway slider in a pod, then 1 on either side of the helm station in a deck pod. The 4 pages of info in each display (8 rows of data) could be flipped by the keypad installed next to the starboard aft pod. Reading across the top, we had in (1) Wind Direction and Wind Velocity, (2) Boat Speed and GPS Speed Over the Ground as a check (3) Compass Heading and GPS Course Over Ground (4) Bearing to Waypoint and Depth. By matching up Bearing to Waypoint and GPS COG, we found that we would be steering as much as 30-40 degrees to the right of our course in order to go to Bimini in a straight line. Makes sense. 50 miles at 7.75 knots equals 6.5 hours. 6.5 hours in 2.5 knots of Gulf Stream is 16,25 miles which is 10% of the circumference of a 50 mile circle. 10% of 360 degrees is 36 degrees. A comment about the KVH instruments. We plugged them in right out of the box, with no calibration, and they were spot on - even boat speed and wind angles. That was a first in my experience in dealing with instrumentation.
The narrow passage to North Bimini harbor, which creeps along just a stone's throw from the beach was made particularly treacherous in appearance by the very obvious grounding of a 40 foot sportfisherman, so high and dry on its deep-V keel on top of a rock at low water, that it looked as though it would tip over if the owner rolled out of his bunk. Chip and I enjoyed cruising around just beyond the shoals with jib only watching the sunrise and waiting for the fleet to depart.
DAY 4- BAHAMA BEAUTY
The delay in arriving at the Bahamas meant that, after a cooling swim (1st of the year!), Chip Mason and I had to clear customs at Cat Cay for a combined cost of about $60 - to tie up, then pay the Customs agent overtime on Saturday. The captain was able to get Chip cleared with his Massachusetts Driver's License, one of the least convincing forms of certification and citizenry issued in the Western Hemisphere.
The waters over the Bahama banks were amazingly beautiful with each cloud and change in depth putting forth an aurora of pastel colors from yellow to deep blues and greens. Even having a 5.5 foot draft keel and seeing the fathometer reading 7-11 feet, it looked more like a foot or two of depth. We anchored off the beach, on the North side of Gun Cay for the night, changed crews and enjoyed the sunset. Once again the plan was to take off at an early hour, 4 AM, so that the fleet could make it back to Biscayne Bay by mid-afternoon for another crew change and second sail. Erik didn't have the heart to insist that the J/42 leave then also, it would have been my third all-nighter.
DAY 5- FLYING WITH THE FISH
Motorsailing once again, we caught sight of our fleet ahead on the horizon and trailed them in to Biscayne Bay for another crew change and afternoon sail. Fortunately the afternoon thermals kicked in and we were able to generate a little sailing excitement with Bob & Carol Harris plus Erik Nelson. We went through the normal upwind sailing through the fleet with 100% jib, closing fast upwind on a Melges 24 which was tuning up a race crew. Setting the asymmetrical we demonstrated how easy it was to jibe for one person. While demonstrating the quick, emergency take-down, Bob accelerated the process a bit - but we managed to snuff the spinnaker in a boat length, tack through 180 degrees and go in the opposite direction with mainsail only.
DAY 6- CONCLUSION.
How did the J/42 do? When it came to the fun of sailing, upwind or downwind, and ease of handling, the panelists seemed to like the J/42 very much. In fact, the J/42 was the only boat that every panelist had the opportunity to sail. Because of its clean functional layout and ease of maintenance (no teak on deck), the J/42 seemed to get high marks for seasonal family cruising, where many daysails and weekend cruises were combined with 2-4 weeks of extended cruising.
J/42 #7 interior decor was in the classic Herreshoff style with white bulkheads and varnished cherry trim and cabinetry, but without the cherry hull lining strips, which I prefer, in the two staterooms. Her upholstery was forest green Sunbrella with white piping and matching throw pillows. The pillows doubled as storage bags for bed pillows and fleece sleeping bags. With an "as is in the Rally" Miami boat show sailaway price of under $225,000, J/42 was the best value in the fleet. Had she been built with the optional all-teak or all-varnished cherry interior with sculpted, wrap-around ultrasuede settees,the J/42 would also have scored high on the "just like home" index. I got the impression from some of the panelists that the most significant redeeming quality of the other boats was interior styling, the all-wood decor and living-room like upholstery. The majority of the panelists seemed to be of the opinion that this interior styling was more suitable for a couple planning to move out of their house and live aboard for a long period of time.
More than likely, the conclusion of the Rally in the October issue of SAIL will be that all the Rally boats did an admirable job of fulfilling the mission for which their designers and builders intended. The editors of SAIL under the direction of Erik Nelson should be congratulated for their organization, flexibility and good humor under challenging circumstances. Skip Brown's photography should be outstanding and everyone should get a copy of October SAIL to get the complete story.
My own personal observation (unbiased, of course) is that the J/42 made a significant and surprising impact on the panelists when it came to sailing qualities. For the most part, they had not experienced anything like it. And, secondly, there was no question the panelists on the J/42 welcomed each morning with better health and more vigor, thanks to the captain's private stock of Old Fashioned Quaker oats and brown sugar.