The first 30 days in the life of J/42 #12
by Bob Johnstone
Putting a new boat together in two days is a very complex job, like that of being an orchestra conductor having to know the score as well as the talents of all the musicians, calling on them to perform at the right moment in the schedule and motivating all to place a high enough priority on their time so everyone's on stage (boat) and not pulled in another direction at a busy time of the year. This was not easy with about 200 other boats needing some form of fitting out or tuning prior to the Bermuda Race and the start of the cruising season.
On Tuesday, June 11th, George Borges was spraying the dark blue Awlgrip on the J/42 hull in a booth in Providence. His plan was to put on the gold cove stripe Wednesday morning and truck the boat to New England Boatworks that afternoon - to be launched directly off the trailer. Hall Spars was delivering the carbon fiber mast to the launch site on Wednesday, fully rigged and ready to step at 5:30 pm. Still to be done was the glasswork for the radar pole socket, installation of the autopilot ram bracket, 12 volt outlets, running the halyards, connecting instruments and mast electronics, fill the propane and fuel tanks, bend on the sails, stock the boat with all its gear, install secondary winches on the cabin top, install line bag organizers and snaps for helmsman cushions, tune and tape the rig and lifelines, get a US Sailing measurer to check floatations, enter them in the computer and receive a certificate to be submitted to the NYYC Race Committee before Friday at 3 pm . Some details needed tracking down. Where were the spinnaker sheets, how was Thurston doing with the helmsman's bimini, would the storm trysail and heavy weather jib arrive from the sail loft in Maine, the name and hailing port were to be put on the transom and many more details, already forgotten. I must have made 10 trips to the Ship's Store. I'd already made two last minute graphic changes: the cove stripe from white to gold about an hour before there were going to paint it, then the name from white outlined in gold to just plain gold at 6 pm Wednesday night.
Thursday evening provided a welcome break as Mary and I celebrated our 40TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, ALLELUIA, PRAISE GOD with a dinner at the adjacent marina restaurant with daughter-in-law Hadley and two grandchildren Nick (3 1/2) and India (3 mos). Son, Pete stopped bye earlier for lunch. Nick wanted to sleep aboard that night with Grandpa and was finally persuaded, or should I say, carried off. He has an infinite raincheck.
On Friday, after nephew Jim Johnstone's help and the timely arrival of crew Chip Mason, SAIL Magazine's Executive Editor and first class shipmate, we cleared port at about 2200 hrs. for the hour long motoring trip on a calm Narragansett Bay night to tie up at our mooring off the New York Yacht Club's Harbour Court in Newport .
It hardly seemed possible that the following morning at 0700 we were in at the NYYC dock talking to friends and hosing off the last of yard residue - welcoming crew members Nick Brown, Bob Cooper and Eric Braitmayer aboard. We departed at 0915 to fill the fuel tank at Goat Island and make a 1030 first gun for the start in Rhode Island Sound . There were still some unanswered questions, such as would the sails fit? Never hoisting them before arriving at the starting line of the first race is a real test of confidence in one's sailmaker, to say the least. But, since they were to be duplicate's of last year's on J/42 #1, problems should be minimal.
Handicap Rule Measurement Background
Perhaps a flashback is required here to complete the picture of what had been accomplished. On Friday, May 17, I was trying to anticipate what was needed in terms of sail measurements, etc. for the New York Yacht Club's Annual Regatta which we had entered in the Club's cruising rule. The NYYC Technical Committee indicated that the Club wanted to encourage the J/42 to enter IMS Non-Spinnaker because, "No one else had a chance of beating a J/42. Its presence in the NYYC Cruising Rule division was discouraging other participants." Part of their rationale was that J/42 #1 had won all five races she'd entered by an average margin of 40 seconds per mile even though the number of crew had been 3-5 people rather than the normal 10-12. This may be the first time in NYYC History that a yacht has been asked not to race because it was too fast!
Rather than create waves, I agreed at this late date to support their plan providing either an experimental or club certificate would be accepted at the last minute, since my new boat was being launched just several days prior to the event. Since no IMS certificate existed on the design, we had little time to move mountains. This required doing in-water inclination of GANNET 1 at Cove Haven in the next 48 hours, changing my itinerary, getting the mast measured at Hall Spars and having either Hull #11 or #12 with rudders and keels completely measured in the factory as they were being completed, then taking the freeboards of #12 when launched just before the event. The weather didn't cooperate on Sunday evening, May19. So improvising, I slept aboard until a dying wind awakened me to call measurer Andy Williams for a 5 am session with the sticks and weights. A miscommunication with plant personnel and a very busy measurer on Monday delayed the hull measurement for two weeks. All was finally done with an experimental rating certificate in hand by June 7.
A call to the NYYC Race Office momentarily seemed to make all for naught. I was informed that the J/42 could not race in IMS Non-Spinnaker because it did not have a full IMS Certificate and that all boats for the Annual Regatta had to be each fully measured as it was an IMS National Championship. What was I going to tell the crew? Several calls to Dave Pedrick and Race Committee Chairman Robin Wallace got the original agreement back on track - so all seemed in order. That is until Nick Brown said we weren't on the Scratch Sheet as an entry when he picked up the Sailing Instructions at registration the night before the first race on Saturday, June 15.
Arriving at the Starting Line.
It was with some trepidation that we approached the Race Committee boat on station in Rhode Island Sound that beautiful Saturday morning just prior to the start. Nick was steering. We were under power, the sails still not hoisted for the first time. I was standing at the port shrouds to converse with the RC. When within several boat lengths, the entire race committee from the flying bridge and from inside the cabin of the RC yacht filed from their respective stations to line up along the starboard side deck, doffing their hats in greeting. Somewhat surprised and with a large smile of appreciation, I said, " Good morning, just stopping bye to ask whether our entry was all in order." They replied in kind, saying, "Yes, fine. Everything's all set. Good luck." As we peeled away, I turned to the crew and commented on the new, hospitable attitude of the RC, saying that in all my years of racing that had never happened before. At the dinner party that evening, Bill Waggoner, the Chief Race Officer of the day came up and asked, " Bob, I suppose you wondered why the entire committee lined up to greet you today." "Yes," I replied. "I did wonder about that. First time it's ever happened!"
"Well," Bill grinned, "You had such a spiffy-looking yacht, we thought you had to be the Commodore! And, it's customary for the RC to doff their hats when the Commodore first approaches the committee boat prior to a race."At the time, those words were most gratifying. I didn't care how we did on the race course. The week was a huge success! Now, all we had to do was see if the beauty sailed.
New York Yacht Club's Annual Regatta
IMS Non-Spinnaker was not a large class, but the other three boats were huge: friend David Brodsky's Bristol 47 ODYSSEY, Commodore Chip Loomis' Alden 52 AKELA with a crew of Charleston's finest aboard, and Michael Hudner's Little Harbor 60 MOONRACER. We reached down from windward of the starting line across the bow of the RC and MOONRACER going for a pin end start which was achieved after several dipsy doodles.
GANNET-2 with backstay fully extended and lots of power in the genoa from a sagging headstay, punched out with greater speed and height to lead the fleet in moderate to light airs by nearly a half mile at the sea buoy off Pt. Judith. Then the winds became fickle. We chased a streak to the right, but it filled in from the left, taking the Commodore to victory with GANNET in the runner-up spot. What was that adage bout staying between your competition and the next mark, not matter what the wind?
On Sunday, the start was up the Bay, North of Gould Island in a dying northerly. GANNET hit the right shore, held the light breeze, kept out of the strong ebb current, went North of Dyer Island then downhill with the current in almost no wind to finish off Ft. Adams in a solid new seabreeze, leaving the competition over an hour astern - and winning the two race series. Yes, the boat sailed.
Newport to Boothbay in 24 Hours
We topped off the fuel tanks, filled a 5 gallon jerry jug, dropped Nick and Chip off on the NYYC dock and cleared Castle Hill at 1600 hours with a 2230 hours tide gate at the Cape Cod Canal.
Whitney Rugg (who replaced Eric on Sunday), Bob Cooper and I were the crew. The seabreeze was a good 12 knots from the South and it was a close fetch to clear Sakonnet Point and pick up the flood down Buzzard's Bay. Soon the wind moderated, we rolled up the genny and motor sailed at 8.5 knots with the Roberston autopilot in command. Air temperature was mild, the dodger and helmsman's bimini were up, cockpit cushions all in place, perfect for a gourmet dinner in the cockpit of NY strip steak sauteed in olive oil and garlic, cut string beans, bananas fried in olive oil/brown sugar/Mt. Gay and Italian bread. We arrived at the west end of the canal just before 2200. The canal was a piece of glass sliding northward at 3 knots, so we went through in just over half an hour doing 11 knots over the bottom. It was an easy delivery with one whale sighting, five hours of spinnaker work and winds of 8-14 knots from 190-220 degrees. We came abeam of the Cuckolds at the entrance of Boothbay Harbor at 1600 hours on Monday.
Not So Surprising Stability
A side benefit of IMS measurement was to confirm the magnitude of J/42 stability. We've reported the boat feeling like a 50 footer and being able to sail under full canvas with 3 aboard in good wind. The IMS inclination and measurement resulted in a Limit of Positive Stability of 133.2 degrees and a Stability Index of 138.6. Most impressive is the Ratio of Stability Curve Areas, Positive to Negative of 8.512 - Numbers which exceed those of the Naval Academy's training fleet of 44' sloops. There are very few boats in J/42's size range that achieve such high measures of offshore stability - and no other I know of that does so with the cruising comfort, managability and sailing performance of the J/42. Her righting moment compares to larger, heavier boats. With cruising asymmetric spinnaker, attached to the stemhead anchor roller, J/42 is rated faster than the C&C, Baltic, Frers & Swan of similar size with full chutes. On seeing the numbers, Capt. John Bonds, past Director of the US Sailing/Cruising World Safety-at-Sea Seminar program commented, "Any time you want to go Trans-Atlantic, Bob, let me know".
Boothbay to Fox Island Thorofare
July 1, 1100 hours. It was overcast with varying densities of fog. Wind SW at 12-18 knots with a large leftover sea. As Mary and I (two 60 somethings) motored across Boothbay Harbor to top off the fuel tank the day was not inviting us to proceed. Even more discouraging was a comment from the wife of a passing cruising couple, "It's really miserable out there." Not totally daunted, we decided to have lunch motoring up in the lee of Squirrel Island and Southport to evaluate the situation and make a decision to head downeast toward North Haven in pretty good quartering seas and limited visibility. The sky seemed to be lightening and the forecast was not ominous, so we cranked up the Furuno radar, then on a broad reach under main and 100% jib navigated through Fisherman's passage then put the Robertson autopilot to work. The fog lifted so that we saw Allen Island and Monhegan at the same time. By this time, we had the asymmetric spinnaker flying to sustain 8+ knots of speed ...the sun had come out and we were glad of our decision to proceed. The J/42 eased along with the large seas in a remarkably stable manner, building our sense of confidence and allowing us to enjoy the voyage. The wind didn't last and we entered a lingering fog bank from windward as we entered Penobscot Bay on a course to North Haven. A NHYC Casino "Guest" mooring was available near Pete duPont's J/44 GLORY and Doug Coleman's J/40
SKITTERYGUSSET. We had covered 45 miles in 7 hours and were ready for a good tenderloin with garlic and fried banana with brown sugar and Mt. Gay dinner. This was augmented by an impromptu visit and welcoming by Doug, his grandson Owen and their well-behaved poodle. This was cruising.
North Haven to Southwest Harbor
Tuesday morning was sparkling clear with lots of dew on the deck, no clouds and no wind and the cool, crisp aroma of pines mixed with the salt air which Maine seems to produce so well. This was a motoring day with a few moments of sailing between islands as we threaded our way through Merchant's Row off Stonington, encountered Tom & Jane Babbitt in their "cruising" J/35 near Swan's Island, and entered the Western Way approach to Southwest Harbor. What we learned is that the J/42 cruises well and the 47 hp Yanmar turbo diesel hums with little vibration, doing a steady 8 knots under power, at about 3400 RPM, which is 300-400 RPM below max revolutions. We made the 30 miles to Bob Brown's J dealership at Manset Yacht Service in time to do the marketing at Sawyer's and arrive at our mooring off Islesford before dinnertime.
Two More J/42s Being Commissioned in Maine
GANNET 2 arrived in time for the commissioing of Mark and Libbie Cluett's new J/42 MERLIN (for the pigeon hawk) at Manset Yacht Service in Southwest Harbor. Miraculously the fog cleared on Friday, July 5th and the sun shone brilliantly as she was dropped in by the neighboring Hinckley Yard travel-lift. MERLIN's homeport is Blue Hill. On the following Tuesday, the CONNIE D, J/42 #14 was shipped from TPI to Yankee Marine in Yarmouth, ME where she is being fitted out for owners Tom and Connie Drew-Bear from Caracas, Venezuela. She is being commissioned in Maine to participate as one of five J/42s in the New York Yacht Club Annual Cruise from August 16th to 24th which takes place in Maine, starting in Rockland with day races West to Falmouth Foreside on Casco Bay near Portland. The Drew-Bears are teaming up with NYYC member Charlie Shumway to learn some boat handling techniques, sailing side-by-side with other J/42s. The entered boats besides GANNET 2 and CONNIE D. include Jack Birmingham's ADDAGIO from Edgartown, Peter & Chris Gil's STERLING, from Stonington, CT with Designer Rod Johnstone as skipper, and John McColloch's MARUFFA from Rye, NY. All five boats have the standard 6.7 foot draft keel with carbon fiber masts and PHRF legal asymmetric cruising spinnakers which fly from the anchor roller. At this point it is undecided whether the group will sail IMS non-spinnaker or One-Design (with or without the asymmetric cruising spinnakers) which all the boats are equipped with.
Twice Around the Cranberries
While visiting Brown's Hardware in Northeast, J/24 sailor Tom Brown asked whether we were going to sail in the ocean race 3 days hence. "Well, yes, Tom. But, we didn't think it was until July 14th". That conversation resulted in another store customer, a visiting cruiser from Baltimore, signing up their chartered CAL 36. Cracker Barrel race management is just as active as the politics downeast. Holed up by the weather in our island cottage on Little Cranberry in front of a granite fireplace with crackling pine logs, immersed in Dawn Riley's "Taking the Helm" about the Whitbread Race and Robin Knox-Johnston's history "Cape Horn", it's not surprising that when the fog cleared Saturday afternoon at a rather late 2 pm, Mary and I were primed for more than just a run-of-the-mill daysail. It was time to get out of the house and take GANNET on a record setting attempt around the Cranberries. This is the roaring 40's of the North, right? We saw Hal Whittaker on the road to the harbor. He was ready. He recruited his brother-in-law Hugh Smallwood. The crew was now 4. We cleared Can 3 in Islesford Harbor, close-fetched out the Western Way with small jib, set the chute down to the Baker's Gong, jibed and headed into the Eastern Way. The wind died and the tide was against us, but we persevered, making the 13.2 miles back to C3, just after 5 pm in 2:02:06 to average 6.486 knots - submitting the time as the first entry in an Annual Little Cranberry Yacht Club Fastest Round the Island Trophy.
The following day, with the same crew plus Hugh's son Hugh and 3 generations of past Cruising Club of America Commodore Jack Merrill's family (Jack, son-in-law David Pratt and his son Nick) aboard, GANNET did her thing again. This time it was the Northeast Harbor Fleet July Ocean Race. The course was around the Cranberries. The competition was Newbold's Smith's Farr 44 REINDEER (Rating PHRF 54), Tom Brown's 26' sportboat (97), Frank Lawson's Finngulf 391 (105), Gordon Haaland in his newly acquired J/40 EVENTYR (78), and for overall the Class B entries: the Joseph's J/24 WHOMPER (171), Connie Madeira's Alberg 35 BALEIRA(201) and the Mackinnon's CAL 36 LUPINE(156). Taking the start in a building Southwesterly and alone taking advantage of the first strong slant off the Great Cranberry shore, GANNET was never headed in the beat out Western Way against the tide, spinnaker reach to Baker gong and close fetch and beat back to the finish - winning overall on corrected time by 6 1/2 minutes in the 14 mile race. GANNET with 6 seconds of recreational credits (2 roller furling jibs, 1 spinnaker, and no Kevlar or Spectra) a 9 seconds credit for an asymmetric spinnaker tacked on the stemhead (with the sum of luff & leach as well as girth equal to a standard spinnaker) and a 3 second penalty for the carbon rig, sailed with a net rating of 78 equal to the J/40.
These rather informal races underline a quality of the J/42 not matched by conventional cruising boats with large jibs, massive winches and complex conventional spinnaker systems taking as many as 8 very well-coordinted people to manage. No prior crew training is needed to sail a J/42 at peak performance. In both the NYYC and NEHF events, GANNET's crew were learning by doing in the race. Sailors can feel right at home and helpful because the systems are so uncomplicated.