If you want a boat that's going to set a cat amongst the pigeons, then you should place the J-122 near the top of your list, reports AY editor, Barry Henson.
One of the things I love about the marine industry is that it’s full of entrepreneurs; people who love sailing, see a need and step in to fill it. The J-boat is the product of one of those entrepreneurs.
Rod Johnstone was an ad salesman for a sailing trade magazine, Soundings, when he decided to build a sailboat he’d been designing since completing his correspondence course in yacht design. With a few hundred dollars of fibreglass and wood, some left over rigging and a bit of elbow grease, Rod and his brother Bob went to work in Rod’s garage. The result was Ragtime, a 24 footer with a nine foot beam. That summer, with family as crew, they raced Ragtime in all around the Long Island Sound, and she beat everything in sight!
Figuring they were on to something special, the lads tossed in their day jobs and with Rod’s design and $20,000 seed money from Bob, they started building boats. Ragtime became the prototype for the J-24, which went on to become the most popular one-design keelboat in the world with over 7,000 made!
Since Ragtime, J-boats (which remains a family company) have produced boats ranging in length from 22’ to 65’ and in cost from $10,000 to $2,000,000; and they’re still doing it! The J-boat is, quite simply, an amazing success story.
Against this background I was invited to test sail the J-122, a 12.19 metre 0 foot or 12.19 metre J-boat. Would this J-boat live up to her predecessor’s reputation? Let’s find out…
I occasionally get people asking ‘Why do you start your reviews with first impressions?’ The answer is simple: the first impression tells you a lot about what the designer was trying to achieve with the boat. I also like to get an idea of the boat’s ‘street appeal’. In other words, if you walked down the dock and saw this boat, would it raise your pulse rate?
For example, the J-122 presents as a speed machine. Her near plumb bow, fine entry, clear decks, wide beam carried well aft, large uncluttered cockpit, large wheel and open transom tell you this boat was born to race. Yes, she has an ‘IRC’ interior that would make her a comfortable boat for a weekend or week away, but she is, first and foremost, designed to ensure you’re first back to the yacht club.
As for street appeal, it’s going to depend on your tastes. If your idea of beauty is an ocean going ketch with beautiful sheer line and bowsprit, then you probably won’t find the J-122 to your taste; but if you like racing, you’re going to find this a very attractive boat!
From stern to stem
The J-122 has an open transom with a ‘drop box’ insert should you want some extra seating, storage or a bit more security in a following sea. The stern also has a fitting for a drop in, fold-down, telescoping swim ladder (nice touch) and they’ve placed the engine exhaust above the waterline on the stern to minimise drag.
Before I move on I want to comment on this ‘drop in/pull out’ approach to fixtures. It’s a trend that you see on more and more of today’s race boats and it’s easy to understand why. Everything from the transom to the lazarettes is removable, allowing you to quickly modify the boat from cruising mode to lightweight race mode and back again. Not only do you save on ‘wait’ (like that play on words?) but it opens up the cockpit.
The J-122 has a hot and cold water shower at the stern and space for two gas bottles, features you don’t normally see on a race boat, but hey, this is an IRC boat and there’s no rating penalty, so why not?
Moving forward there is an emergency tiller access point and a beautiful 1.5 metre wheel (1.6 metre optional, with a short, direct linkage to the rudder, which gives this boat an incredibly light, responsive helm.
The engine controls and shore power adapter are to port and the throttle is to starboard.
The traveller, hydraulic backstay adjuster and mainsheet are all located just in front of the wheel within easy reach of both the mainsheet hand and helmsman (assuming they’re sitting on the coaming). The J-122 has a long working cockpit with six Harken winches (two per side on the coamings and two on the cabin top). Aft, either side, are 46’s to handle the main sheet. Forward of that are 53’s to handle the sheets. The cabin top has banks of Spinlock jammers leading the reefing lines and halyards to a pair of Harken 44’s. It’s a nice set up with plenty of working room for the crew.
One of interesting things about the boat I tested was the removable spray dodger\doghouse. It provides excellent spray protection in cruising mode and when racing, you can dismantle it and store it away in minutes. This falls into the category of ‘why didn’t I think of that?’.
The J-122 comes with a Sparcraft Grand Prix double-spreader, swept-back rig in carbon fibre as standard (aluminium available as an option). The vang is a Holt rod vang. The standing rigging is rod rigging and it comes standard with Spectra running rigging..
Sails and instrumentation are not included in the base price. According to Ray Entwhistle, J-boat’s distributor in Australia, the J-122’s buyers tend to be experienced racers with fairly strong views with regard to what sails and instrumentation they want on the boat; so rather than try to impose his views, he provides the base boat and owners make their own choices with regard to sails and instruments. This allows Ray to keep the price down and it allows the owners to get exactly what they want. Not a bad approach when you’re dealing with experienced owners.
The J-122 has four opening hatches providing good ventilation, toe rails
from the shrouds forward, a nice sized anchor locker, a Harken furler on a double track extrusion, LED navigation lights and…a 6’6” extendable bowsprit. This bowsprit is awesome! Extended and retracted from the cockpit, this bowsprit allows you to put your reacher, code zero or asymmetric in clear air and the distance from the headsail furler creates a huge slot that allows you to gybe these sails with the same ease as gybing your genoa.
Once you try this bowsprit arrangement, you’re going to find it difficult to sail on a boat without it.
And down below
The J-122 comes with an IRC interior that is very attractive indeed. Coming down the companionway there’s a forward facing nav station to port and a well equipped galley to starboard.
Looking at the interior of the J-122 it’s not hard to see why the IRC has become so popular. This is an interior that hard not to fall in love with. The galley has a corian counter-top with a circular opening (with lid) cut in the top so rubbish can be swept right off the counter-top directly into the bin. Additional features include a two bowl stainless steel sink, a two burner stove-top with oven and a nice fridge.
Moving forward into the main cabin, the two bench settees come standard with Alcantra upholstery (very nice indeed). Both settees would serve as excellent sea berths. I’m 6’1” in the old measure and I could stretch out on them with room to spare!
All of the cabin lights are LED, which provide excellent light with a fraction of the electricity draw of traditional lighting.
Forward the J-122 has a head to starboard with two entries (from the main salon and from the forward owner’s cabin). The owner’s cabin is a nicely sized double v-berth with lots of storage. Very nice, indeed.
Aft are two adequately sized cabins. You could call these doubles, but I tend to think of them as one and a half berths, not quite a double, but a luxurious single. Both aft cabins have opening port-holes for ventilation.
There are a host of things that show the amount of thought J-boats has put into
the 122, one of which is the ventilation. There are four opening port-holes in the main cabin plus an opening deck hatch. There are two opening hatches in the owner’s cabin and one in the head.
In addition to the sheer volume of airflow, I like the fact that J-boats have provided opening port-holes so you can still get a good airflow through the boat even when
The only bug bear I have with the interior of the J-122 is the mast coming through the main cabin. I would have preferred for it run inside a bulkhead, but hey, it’s still a beautiful interior by any measure.
The J-122 comes standard with a 30 hp Volvo (a 40 hp is available as an option). Forward access through the lifting companionway step is tight, but adequate. Side access is available through removable panels in the aft cabins. Everything you need to replace or refill on the engine is easily accessible, but there is precious little space for adding additional gear.
How’s she sail?
I’ll let my friend, Ian Short, well-known sail maker and sailor, tell you how she sails (Ian was tactician on the J-122, Jackpot, which just won the CYCA’s short ocean summer IRC point score).
“I’ve sailed the J-122 in a wide variety of wind and sea conditions and have been exceedingly impressed with her performance and handling. The target speeds upwind are around 8 knots and she points high. Downwind 19.3 knots has been our top speed so far (in a 25-30 kt. southerly). She planes early from 13 knots and is very stable, easy to steer and accelerates quickly in puffs. The retractable bow pole and large asymmetric spinnakers have proven fast and very easy to use on windward/leeward courses. The big surprise for me is the comfort levels below. The quality of the interior is outstanding.”
The J-122 costs $437,290 with the 30 hp engine or $447,315 with the 40 hp option. These prices exclude sails and instruments, so you should probably add $50,000 to get a more accurate price. The J-122 comes with a five-year structural warranty and a 10 year blister warranty.
With a sail area to displacement ratio of 23 and a displacement to length ratio of 161 this boat is FAST in capital letters. If you’re looking to win races, you would be well advised to place the J-122 toward the top of your list of boats to look at.
US (ft) METRIC (m)
LOA 40.00 12.19
LWL 34.60 10.55
Beam 11.91 3.63
Standard Draft 7.22 2.20
Standard Ballast 5,600 2,540
Shoal Keel Option TBD TBD
Displacement 14,900 6,760
Engine 40hp 40hp
100% SA 865 80.35
I 54.42 16.59
ISP 57.68 16.59
J 15.20 4.63
P 51.34 15.65
E 17.57 5.36
SA/Dspl 23 23
Dspl/L 161 16
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