Sailing the New J/97


There are worse fates to be endured in this workaday life than getting to sail a new J/Boat with Al Johnstone on a gorgeous fall day on Narragansett Bay.  Conditions were just about perfect: bright sunshine with a brisk southwesterly blowing 15-18 knots and looking to get brisker.  Al, who designed our ride, the new J/97, told me beforehand what he was shooting for was an entry-level sprit boat that would be a tad less intense and intimidating than the very popular J/105, but would still be fast and fun to sail.  At the conclusion of our little outing I had to admit he has hit this nail on the head.

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A New Westerbeke

This story begins in a dead flat calm somewhere between Bermuda and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, late last spring.  Said dead calm is pictured here in all its glory.  In all my years of wandering about the watery parts of our world, I swear I have never ever seen a stretch of open ocean quite as flat and millpond-like as this.  If you have a functional auxiliary engine it is much easier to appreciate such scenery, as you can motor through it regardless.  Without the engine, however, it gets a little frustrating.

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Remembering Bill Crealock


Most would agree that British-born W.I.B. "Gentleman Bill" Crealock was one of the most influential cruising sailboat designers of the 20th century.  Some might even say he was the most influential.  Back in the early 1970s he massaged an obsolete Eric Atkins design to help create the Westsail 32, the iconic traditional fiberglass sailboat that put the sport of cruising under sail on the cover of Time magazine.  The boats he created after the 32, the Westsail 42/43 and several Pacific Seacraft boats that followed in its wake, were great improvements on the original Atkins template and are still deemed some of the most desirable cruising boats ever built among certain elements of the sailing cognoscenti.


The gentleman, alas, has recently died (on September 26) of complications of a broken hip at age 89.  He will be sorely missed by all sailors who knew him and/or his boats.  What I shall most remember him for is a delightful book he wrote when he was still a young man.  First published in 1951, Vagabonding Under Sail recounts a voyage undertaken by Crealock and three young friends aboard an antique wooden gaff-rigged cutter named Content.  After prepping the boat in Britain, Crealock and company (including a very worthy canine named Rum Swizzle) spent over two years wandering the North Atlantic from North Africa to South America and the West Indies, landing eventually in New York.

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Sexy New Tender


This is another neat new item that caught my attention at the Newport show back in September.  At first I laughed out loud when I saw it, as it seemed so over the top.  A carbon-fiber RIB dinghy with a teak deck!  Talk about overkill.  But then I inspected the craft in detail and fell in love with it.  This iteration, the Pure 450 Open T, which is about 15 feet long, has a super-clean look and ultimately its aesthetic, I think, is very elegant and understated.

Construction, for a tender, is robust and extremely high tech.  The hull body is carbon fiber reinforced with layers of Kevlar underneath (for increased impact resistance) vacuum-bagged over a CoreCell foam core.  The structure is then post-cured in an oven to assure maximum laminate integrity.  The inflatable sponsons are made of Valmex, a commercial-grade workboat fabric that is as long-lived as Hypalon (figure 10 years plus on lifespan) but can be heat-welded, which allows for superior seam construction and maximizes air retention over time.

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Inside the Bat Cave


Speaking of Volvo Open 70s, another thing I got to see at the Newport show was the inside of one.


I went down to Boston in May when the whole Volvo Ocean Race fleet was in town, and even though I had press credentials... even though I was crewing on a race marshal's boat, setting buoys and chasing riff-raff off the in-harbor race course (hats off to Scott Alexander at Selden Mast on that one)... no one would let me have even a teensy-tiny peek down below into the innards of any of the competing vessels. Interior accoutrements were strictly verboten, hush-hush, access only on a need-to-know basis.

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Stored Power, You Say?

Having already altered the America's Cup racing rules to permit the use of "stored-power" on competing vessels, Ernesto "the Alinghi" Bertarelli is now hard at work trying to figure out what sort of stored-power system will best help him retain the Cup.  Our spies in Europe tell us he has recently tested a radical new system featuring an aerodynamic internal combustion engine that turns a circular series of "rotor sails."  The engine reportedly will be tethered to the deck of Ernesto's new super-duper catamaran (appropriately named Alinghi 5) by a series of cables.  Team Alinghi designers and tech heads are rumored to be worried that the new engine/sail system may in fact generate enough lift to carry the boat into the air.  The Alinghi's lawyers are therefore hard at work seducing the ISAF into further revising the racing rules to delete a provision requiring competing vessels to remain in contact with the water.

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Before the Tourists Came

This book is an excellent example of why I decided to include a section on the literature of sailing (Lit Bits, get it?) here on WaveTrain.  One of the big reasons I got interested in sailing when I was young, besides having been exposed to boats in general at an early age, was that I fell in love with books about sailing.  More than most sports, sailing has an incredibly rich literature and it will be a shame if it atrophies because of the Internet.

This fascinating, well written biography of Morris Nicholson, one of the pioneering skippers in the West Indian charter industry, would likely have had no problem finding a publisher just a few years ago.  But author Richard Dey had no luck with the big boys in today's increasingly constrained book market, so he took a plunge on producing it himself and has released it online via Xlibris.  If you've ever sailed in the W'Indies, particularly if you've ever chartered there, and you've wondered what it was like before the tourist hordes descended, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

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Introducing Lunacy (Tanton 39)

My current floating home of choice is a one-off aluminum cutter I purchased in the summer of 2006 from an active cruising couple, Bob and Carol Petterson, who commissioned the boat’s construction and launched her in 1985 .  They cruised her extensively on the U.S. East Coast and in the Bahamas and also completed a circumnavigation.  The bare hull was built by Kingston Aluminum Yachts in Ontario, Canada, and was finished in Rhode Island.  The design is by Yves-Marie Tanton, a French emigrant who slaved with Bob Perry and Chuck Paine in Dick Carter’s office in Boston during the ‘70s before making a name for himself designing several successful custom IOR race boats.

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  • Boats & Gear

    Evaluations of both new and older sailboats (primarily cruising sailboats) and of boat gear.

  • The Lunacy Report

    Updates on what’s going on aboard my own sailboat Lunacy: breakdowns, maintenance jobs, upgrades, cruises and passages undertaken, etc.

  • News & Views

    Updates on what’s going on in the sport of sailing generally (most usually, but not always, relating to cruising under sail) and in the sailing industry, plus news nuggets and personal views on all manner of nautical subjects.

  • Lit Bits

    Longer articles by me that treat sailing and the sea in a more literary manner, short reviews of nautical books I think readers might enjoy reading, plus occasional excerpts from nautical books that I’d like to share with readers.

  • Techniques & Tactics

    Tips and diatribes regarding boathandling, sailhandling, seamanship, navigation, and other realms of nautical expertise.



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