J/35c Sailing World Review

The Sailor's Cruiser: The Versatile J/35c.

No, the "c" in J/35c does not stand for "chord," though designer Rodney Johnstone has shown a remarkable talent for striking the right one, at the right time, in his ever-growing, ever-evolving compendium of work. It's not his "range," or a knack for displaying fresh vision with each successive new launching that makes Johnstone the important American designer that he indisputably has become. Indeed, Rod Johnstone's great strength is that he has remained true and consistent to the One Great Tenet that has been the backbone of his best boats: First and last, they must sail very, very well.

And so, once again, we are honored to welcome yet another J/Boat, the 35/c (for "cruising"), to the list of past BOTY winners. Like the company's other BOTY honorees - the J/40 and J/34c were category winners in 1985 and 1987, respectively, while the J/44 took the overall prize in 1989 - the 35c perceives the endeavor of going to sea as a long-term, offshore exercise. There are good sea berths. There is abundant storage space. There are plenty of thoughtful touches required for a vessel whose bow will be pointed seaward.

Interestingly, of the four boats, only the J/ 44 was conceived with one-design or offshore racing as a high priority. The others can all be classified, first and foremost, as comfortable family cruisers. (There's a certain irony in that, while Johnstone is certainly best known for his successful racing designs, his most distinguished boats, from a critic's perspective, may be his cruisers.)

Each is graced with a smart, sensible cockpit layout that presents all the major sail trimming devices - dual self-tailing mainsheet winches, traveler, and self-tailing primary winches - at the driver's fingertips. It's a smart, time-tested idea that works particularly well for short-handed crews.

"Not just a reworked J/35," notes Pat Clark, "this is a whole new hull and keel which in concept owes much to the J/44. Rod has included much of the innovative thinking from that boat: accessible (deck) locker for those impossible-to-store Danforth anchors, keeping the weight off the bow; good nav station; intelligent interior layout."

"The huge cockpit locker that you can also get at from the galley is good," said Sheila McCurdy. "For a cruising boat to essentially have an attic, or a basement, is really great. If you're going to do your own maintenance you have to have a place to put all that stuff, and this boat does."

"This is a nice design, but don't forget how well it's put together," added Herb McCormick. "Johnstone draws fine boats, but he's got unsung support and assistance from TPI."

"It's a good cruising boat for ex-racers," said Gerry Douglas, in perhaps the definitive J/35c assessment. "It's for people who have come to really appreciate performance."