Throwback: J/88 Sailboat Review

By Rich (Photo Credits: North Point Yacht Sales)

Editor’s note: to get our new blog going, we’re importing articles we’ve written in the past about our sailing adventures together. This article was written in September of 2013, and since then the accompanying YouTube videos have gotten a ton of hits (the most of any video on Rich’s channel by a wide margin). Given the evident interest in the boat, we thought it would be fun to re post the review almost a year to the day after it first ran.

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Thanks to North Point Yacht Sales here in Annapolis, we got a wonderful and unexpected treat today: the opportunity to test sail the brand new J/88 from J/Boats. At 29 feet in length, the J/88 could be considered a modern day interpretation of the 1980s era J/29. As former owners of that wonderful design, we were keen to get a sense of what the 2013 version of the boat would feel like.

We had perfect weather for our sail test: a fresh 20+ knot breeze from the south with moderate chop. Including two North Point staffers we had a crew of six skilled sailors – perfect for giving the J/88 a fair shake. Despite a rig tuned too loosely for the breeze, the boat was a delight to sail upwind. Unlike the J/70, the J/88 comes equipped with generously sized rudder, making the boat easy to scollop through chop while sailing to weather. In fact, upwind the boat’s handling reminded me more of my old J/29 than any boat has since I sold her – and while it’s just one guy’s opinion, that’s the highest praise I know how to give when it comes to upwind sailing dynamics.

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After a couple of tacks we bore off and set the kite – and had a fantastic time blasting down wind. As a heavier boat with larger rudder, the J/88 was much more controllable than the J/70 we have been racing all year. We did manage to broach it once but it was more or less an unforced error. We successfully executed a jibe and headed toward the harbor, peaking at 17.9 knots of boat speed before ending the party and dousing. Downwind in a breeze, this design strikes a great balance: she’s very exciting to sail but stops short of the white-knuckle zone.

We stepped off of the J/88 with big smiles on our faces. Here is a stylish, well made, modern boat with upwind dynamics that rival the best J/Boats has put out, but without the scary squat-and-threaten-to-deathroll downwind tendencies of its 1980s era ancestors. What’s not to love? We’re rooting for this boat to succeed in the market so there will be plenty of them around. We want to take more rides like this one!

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