J/70 Progress Report,by Don Finkle:
As mentioned above I was able to meet Al Johnstone at the factory in Bristol, RI for a thorough review of this new design while in the early stages of production.
The CCF Plant currently builds the J/111, J/95 and the North Coast powerboat line, as well as the new 22.75' LOA J/70. This is a large, totally modern and clean facility fully capable of cranking out J/70s in volume. Al and his father Rod combine efforts on the design of every new J/boat. Al is responsible for most of the details so it was especially enlightening to be able to go over the boat part by part and listen to his explanations for everything they are doing. I came away even more impressed than I was expecting to be.
Three hulls had already been pulled from the mold and the deck mold was near completion (by the time you read this it should be completed). I also saw the molds for the keel and the five fiberglass bulkheads. The keel is built much like a rudder is, with two fiberglass skins bonded around the stainless steel internal structure and lead ballast. The result of this method is that the finished keel is smooth gelcoat and does not require fairing. The lead is all in the bulb and is poured to weight. The retracting keel is raised and lowered via an aluminum crane similar to that used on a Melges 24, but as Al proudly pointed out he feels that they have improved somewhat on the retracting keel system. The boat is intended to be easily ramp-launchable and from what I could see that should be no problem at all, especially with a deck-stepped carbon mast.
That brings us to the rig, which will be a complete carbon package from Southern Spars, including mast, boom, spreaders, extended mast crane and sprit. Al has paid a lot of attention to the deck layout and with an 11 foot cockpit length there is plenty of room for 3-4 people to sit comfortably and move about. The helmsman can sit aft of the traveler, straddling it, or forward, as conditions dictate. Since there is no need to go forward (kite set and douses from the hatch, jib on a roller furler) there is no bow pulpit. Low-height padded lifelines dive down forward and there are two corner rails at the stern to enclose the cockpit. Plans at this point are for the motor to attach to a simple fixed bracket on the transom.
Al explained the new design Harken below-deck jib furler and it sounded like a real neat solution. Unlike some furlers where you need to leave the jib up because it supports the rig, on this new Harken system the jib can be lowered and stowed if desired since there is a forestay. Jib sheets will be 2:1 for racing but can also be run to the cockpit winches, which are there primarily for the spinnaker sheets. Unlike some recent designs there is backstay to play with.
Looking at the deck layout the three-sail inventory appears like it will be easy to manage and fun. The vang is conventional since there is the small deckhouse below it and as such you will be ducking behind the vang instead of under it when tacking or jibing. The boom is of moderate height for safety and convenience.
The area below deck will not be spacious but you will be able to get out of the weather, change clothes, use a bucket, and store the motor and gear. There are air tanks fore and aft for flotation. For ease of maintenance and longevity there is no wood that I could see. This is not a big boat but all the key elements are there
and appear to be really well thought-out. As Al said "small boats are harder", there is limited room and weight to work with and cost is a bigger factor. Accordingly they have examined each aspect of this boat's design and engineering and the thought that has gone into it is obvious. I really should not go into more of the details in this format but can answer questions if you contact me. The first two boats are due to be launched in mid-March and will be kept in Newport for two-boat sail testing. Various sailmakers are already lined up for these tests. Stay tuned for further updates as we move along. We are super anxious to get our first boat in May!
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