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post #7 of Old 11-26-2004
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J-40 for Long Distance Cruising ?

The J-40 is a cruising option that has appealed to me as well. Jeff and Jack have both touched upon the subject of boat selection criteria, which is a multi-faceted equation that must be understood and calculated by each sailor individually.

Most of us view boats by length overall. No less an authority than Steve Dashew has recommended purchasing the longest boat you can afford, reasoning that waterline length has the most impact on speed and comfort as well as safety. The J-40 is demonstrably fast, relative to nearly any other cruiser its length. It has an easy to handle sail and deck plan which includes a large powerful mainsail with traveler and sheets located handily for the helms-person. It has an easily driven narrow beam hull form, which I suspect would contribute to reasonably comfortable motion characteristics, except for heel angle and tenderness which they have been accused of, especially in shoal draft versions.

Here the compromises of the selection process begin to arise. It has been rightfully pointed out that space for equipment and provisions is limited relative to boats with larger volume hull forms. Loading up this 17,000# sailboat will have greater impact on performance than it would on a heavier displacement vessel. If another boat is examined with a larger volume hull form, a wider beam and/or fuller sections will cause displacement to go up along with wetted surface area. In order to achieve anything like the performance of a J-40, sail area would then have to be vastly increased and handling of the greater loads will become a bigger chore. Ultimately, this vicious circle simply produces a bigger boat. Even if it remains 40’ LOA, it ends up 20,000#, or wherever you wish to call it quits.

It is a logical and preferable alternative to primarily select the displacement first of the sailboat one is comfortable handling, given individual crew constraints and sailing intentions. Considering all available 17,000# sailboats to take cruising, the J-40 must be considered near the top of the list in my view. Certainly there are numerous other factors to consider such as those pointed out by others, and it may be determined that a larger displacement vessel is needed to provide the desired comfort and capacity, but if the alternative is to choose a boat of shorter length at the same displacement it is doubtful that much increase in comfort or capacity will be achieved.

There may well be more recent design developments that improve upon the sailing qualities, durability or accommodations of the J-40, but then the cost element is also introduced. Newer boats usually cost more. If they don’t then we must look hard to find out how they achieved cost savings, why they are less well regarded, and what are the other trade-offs. Here we must compare boats of a given price and displacement. Displacement has traditionally been considered to have a greater impact on price than length does anyway, though they are inseparably related. Ballast ratio, construction and hardware technology, power resources and tank capacity all literally weigh into this, making the value factor the most difficult element of the boat selection equation to calculate, especially as it is compounded by differences in individual priorities.

Sorry for the long winded commentary. Since I am no mathematician, this has probably resulted in no solution, but it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about as you see. I personally think the J-40 is a reasonable alternative if you like a boat for going places and sailing well too, which is all I needed to say in the first place. -Phil

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