Boat Test: J/88
The latest midsized racer-cruiser from J/Boats offers exhilarating performance in a family-friendly package
Unlike the carbon mast, the boom is aluminum. I like that the gooseneck is high enough to make it easy to stay clear of the boom when tacking, a small thing maybe, but just the type of thinking that makes Js unique, family friendly and highly competitive. The Harken headsail furler is mounted below deck, and the vang can be fixed to either side. In-haulers foster tight sheeting angles. Like all Js, the nonskid works well– it's not too aggressive but you feel secure moving about the deck underway.
Sailing across the bay, we executed a series of quick tacks to avoid shoal water. The acceleration was impressive, and we quickly sped past 7 knots sailing very close to the wind. Well placed foot supports made it easy to cope with a fair bit of heel on both tacks. I was impressed by how solid the boat felt in the water. While the J/88 handles like a small boat, it definitely has a big boat ride.
The hull shape has long ends with a near plumb stem and stern, and yet the boat doesn't pound in a chop. The fin keel, with a very low VCG, provides a smooth foil and keeps the boat on its feet. The draft is 6 feet 6 inches. The hull and deck are cored, and joined on an inward flange. The overall quality of finish is superb but the effect is purposefully not showy.
I was a bit surprised when David suggested we fly the kite, being shorthanded in a big breeze, but I was delighted to oblige. He went forward, deployed the sprit, and my friend Jose cranked the halyard. I steered off a bit and soon we were flying at double digit speeds. J/Boats specified a 95-square-meter asymmetrical sail for the spinnaker–an easy-to-handle size that still provides plenty of horsepower. And horsepower we had. Despite being overcanvassed, the steering was quite manageable. When it became obvious that we were leaving the photo boat behind, we jibed over and headed south. We carried the A-sail up to 70 degrees, feathering the main occasionally but overall we had no trouble keeping the boat on its feet. The level of boat control in winds that were gusting at times well above 20 knots was impressive.
With the spinnaker back in the bag, we tacked toward the harbor. I finally relinquished the helm and went below. The interior is cozy with a V-berth forward and two facing settees. There is not a lot of headroom but there is a full-size head and a small sink to port. Opposite is a mini chart table. The engine is tucked behind the companionway steps with easy access to all sides. While it would be a stretch to claim that the interior is ready for long-term cruising, it's ideal for an overnight in a quiet cove after a day of vigorous sailing. Down below
We sailed up the channel and furled the jib and dropped the main at the last moment. It was an exhilarating boat test and one that epitomized the versatility of the J/88. On a day when most daysailors would have been hunkered down, we were blasting back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay. And while most bigger boats would have doused sail in the broader reaches outside the channel, we eased right up to the slip under sail.
The J/88 really is the sweet spot for modern sailing. A family-friendly boat that offers performance that seasoned sailors appreciate, this quality design from one of America's premier builders fits neatly into the life of today's busy sailors. It's no surprise that the J/88 is becoming one of J/Boat's most popular models.
J/88 | LOA 29'2" | LWL 26'10" | Beam 9'6" | Draft 6'6" | Ballast 1,840 lbs. | Displacement 4,990 lbs. | Sail area 439 sq. ft.
Base Boat Price $125,500
J/Boats, Inc. | P.O. Box 90, Newport, RI 02840
401-846-8410 | www.jboats.com