In the fall of 2023 I had the opportunity to deliver a brand new J/45, hull #7, into the hands of her new owner. I have enjoyed a long and eventful sailing career, and this was one of those rare moments where all of the research, debate, customizing, sail selection, and waiting was completely validated, because the day we pulled the mainsail up for the first time, it was made plainly obvious that J boats had just put an absolute weapon on the water.
If you don’t know me, I grew up in Annapolis, MD, but I have spent plenty of time in New England, from Newport, RI to many points along Long Island Sound. For as long as I can remember, J Boats have nearly defined what means to sail, race, and cruise in this part of the world. I have raced on the J/70, J/88, J/80, J/105, J/22, J/30, J/35, J/44, J/109 J/29, J/27, J/120, J/122, and J/111. I’ve raced more hours on the J/24 than I would like to admit. I have raced in four Newport to Bermuda races, three Annapolis to Newport races, and a Caribbean 600-only one of which was not on board a J boat. In my time as a sail maker I helped clients set up their J boats for long distance cruising, ranging from the J/110 to J/42s. As so many of us who have similar stories know, J Boats isn’t just one of those builders who is “there”, they helped shape what it means to be a sailor. They have defined sailing for two generations of sailors in the U.S. and beyond.
To us when J Boats comes out with a “Flagship” design, we are so impressed we are nearly spell bound. Of course, there are so many models of J boats that we nearly take them for granted at this point, but when we go by a J/160 or a J/42 on a mooring ball, we slow down and take a second look, because there is just something about the silhouette. It’s one of those things that you don’t quite have the words for, but when you see it you see it, and with the J/45, you certainly see it.
Sailing, the boat is just as impressive. The rig is absolutely massive, powering the boat up beautifully for the first sail in light to moderate air. As we heeled into the first upwind session, the soft chines locked in, and the boat cruised upwind effortlessly. A very light touch to the helm combined with the power evident in the hull shape gave you the feeling that you were on board a much bigger boat. This was just the first time cranking upwind, but it was obvious that this boat is going to be fast, fun, and very seaworthy.
After setting the code zero, the performance potential of the boat really became obvious. We were easily beating the windspeed in those conditions, using every bit of power the platform could provide-locked in “on rails” as some would say. The J/45 loves reaching, and the code zero flown from the standard bow sprit balances the helm, and you can feel the boat take off.
On the subject of the sail plan-the J/45 has an option that is really pretty clever, which I hadn’t seen done this elegantly in the past. Of course, the design brief for the boat was for a racer/cruiser, a boat that could easily go from “race mode” to “cruise mode”. To that end, an owner is able to option a removable inner furling jib, which reduces the sail area to make the boat easy to handle in “cruising mode”, but is easily taken down and stowed to clear the deck for racing jibs and quick tacking. To add to that, they offer a self tacking jib sheet track, which combines with the removable inner jib to make cruising and day sailing easy.
Of course, the performance of the boat is striking, but J Boats designing a successful performance platform at this point shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The thing that really sets the 45 apart from what J Boats has done before is the interior. On this design they enlisted the help of famed French designer Isabelle Racoupeau, who has taken the interior concept in a refreshing new direction. The interior is simply gorgeous, with plenty of natural light throughout, and simple yet refined layout. That same concept of the convertible racer/cruiser is apparent; while the ergonomics and spacious layout make it easy to imagine kicking your feet up at your favorite mooring, the rounded furniture edges and open areas make it easy to picture moving sails around while racing.