Monday, March 30, 2020

J/99 Pacific Northwest Debut- "She Rides on Rails"!

J/99 shorthanded offshore speedster
(Seattle, WA)- The newest J/99 just got launched this past week for a couple that lives in Seattle, Washington and sails on Puget Sound and points north into Canada. As part of that launching, the Sail Northwest team offered up some of their perspectives on the J/99, thanks to Ben Braden.

"Oh, what to say about the J/99. One word maybe- "rails"! Is that good enough?

Ok, didn't think so.  I've sailed #26 exactly one time now, so I don't have a plethora experiences to share. But, I do have one comparison as I was able to do a demo sail on San Francisco Bay awhile back on the first boat Sail California brought in to the West Coast.

That demo sail was great! From the east Bay in Richmond, CA, we went upwind around Angel Island, leaving it to port. We got some good puffs up by the bridge, then set the chute for the run back downwind towards the northeast Bay.  She maneuvered well and reacted to the puffs, but not so much that you had to scramble to blow something.  

She dug in and sped up in the puffs rather than dropping the deck down and spinning to weather.  This is when I first thought "rails", she's stiff, like being on "rails", she just accelerates forward.

Pop the chute in 16+ kts of wind and she will slide off downwind, pushing 10 kts boatspeed easily.  

The J/99 is simple to drive and smooth to recover when the new guy driving gets excited with things and stops paying attention.  

Cool boat, stiff and responsive was my first impression. 

Here we are in March 2020 doing a mid-distance race on #26 near Seattle; around Blakeley Rock and back in winds ranging from 10 to 18 kts with 2-foot waves. The weather was nothing crazy, or under-powered, just a good mid-range breeze.  

She moved beautifully and was amazingly agile. We started below a First 36.7's bow with a Sierra 26 rocket below our bow, usually a recipe for disaster as we could get squeezed out. Nevertheless, we were able to dial it in and pull out and up on the 36.7, while rolling over the Sierra 26 below us. She just kinda hunkered in off the start and legged out! Cool! Thank goodness!

This being our first sail on the boat against any competition, we began playing with the jib leads and tensions to see how she responded. After some fiddling, trying to set the foot round correctly, and setting the leech better, we found we could really into a good pointing mode with a powered-up groove with some minor tweaks.  

J/99 #26 has the water ballast option. But, with 6 people aboard, and it being our first sail, we wanted to focus on the trim and
tensions first, just taking baby steps to get a feel for the boat.  

We were sitting well at the weather mark, rounding the rock 2nd behind a newer well sailed Wauquiez 40. However, we both lost to the 900 lb. ultralight Sierra 26 on the downwind run; that was to be expected.  The J/99 was very easy to sail low with the A2, probably
too low at times but we're learning the boat still. We were running about 145 to 155 TWA in 10 to 12 knots.

This race ended up abandoned, as the leeward mark wasn't where it was supposed to be when we all rounded it.  

But that's ok, we got to play with the water ballast. A J/109 with genoa up was right behind us, going slightly faster, but on the same pointing angle, paralleling us.  We filled up the starboard (weather) tank, now named "Thelma" (the other one named, of course, "Louise). We did not notice a big change of feel on the boat itself, but when we glanced back, the J/109 was falling behind us and to leeward.  Not that we were pointed higher at the bow, but just slipping less to leeward. In other words, we'd dug in harder on that "rail".

We gave the helm to the foredeck man (yes, I know that can be dangerous), but it was OK this time! He enjoyed driving the boat and being "in the back of the bus", instead of on the "pointy end". We then played around with the ballast tanks to learn how they shifted and filled. We were trying to figure out what to expect in a no-pressure situation. It was really a great first day on the water in a stiff fun boat.

What a great concept! Build a boat that is fast, stable, enjoyable, open, easy-to-sail, cool-looking, comfortable below, and put it on "rails".  She's a big boat in her 32 feet. She reminds me a lot about my first rides on a J/35 way back in the 80's.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the three J/99s coming into the Pacific Northwest will do with themselves- #26 is here, two more coming!"  For more J/99 shorthanded speedster sailing information
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