J/121 Update and Caribbean 600
This past February I had the good fortune of racing in the Caribbean 600 for the first time, and it should be a race at the top of your bucket list. For starters, most boats stay in Falmouth and English Harbors of Antigua, which happen to be the winter destinations of choice for many of the world’s largest and most luxurious cruising yachts. From S/Y Maltese Falcon to 8-decked motor yachts, it’s a heck of a boat show!
Comparing the race to the usual highlight races like Annapolis to Newport, Newport to Bermuda, Transpac, and Montego Bay Races, the Caribbean 600 is more of an obstacle course, tacking and gybing your way around 13 of the most beautiful Caribbean Islands in a 600 mile sprint. The trade winds, which blow generally from the ENE at 15-20kts, make for once-in-a lifetime reaches and runs around many of the islands, starting and finishing back home in Antigua. This year I was sailing on a Swan 66 which moved us around the race track with comfort and speed despite the light wind we saw over most of the race course.
Since most of our race was a light wind affair, I had a lot of time to think about how lucky I was to be avoiding snow at home, and how much fun this kind of adventure racing can be in the right boat. There is a new boat coming out that is aimed at making events like this much easier for owners and crews. The boat is the new J/121 under construction in Rhode Island; the deck being laid on hull #1 as I write this.
The design brief was simple for the J/121: go fast with less crew and be easier to sail. It is a modern J Boat design with some serious nods to being an offshore machine. All headsails are set up to be furled or managed short-handed, which means less crew needed for the sail changes that are important in races like the C600. To compensate for fewer crew members, the boat carries water ballast in each aft quarter to replace crew on the rail. Think of having 2 to 3 crew on deck sailing, but the righting moment of having an extra 4 to 5 on the rail hiking! The boat accommodates twin wheels thanks to a wide transom and hull form that carries its beam further aft, which further improves reaching stability in conjunction with the water ballast. Being a J Boat means it still needs to go to weather like a true windward leeward boat, so the J design team made sure to keep that in mind when designing the wider transom and hull form.
In just over a month we will see the first J/121 hit the water, and I really expect this boat to change the game for distance racing and adventure sailing. Having a boat that is easier to sail, requires less crew, but still fast, means races like the Caribbean 600 will be back on the list for many owners and their crews. In a short time there will be enough boats on the water for One-Design distance races, and who doesn’t love the idea of that? If you have been itching to tick off some offshore miles or a few items off of your bucket list, give us a call.