Bob Ross 1979

J24 One Design

I was cleaning out a bookcase the other day and came across two articles by Bob Ross from 1979 and 82. It is interesting to read how some things stay the same and others have changed considerably. This was all before my time in Js so rather than try to dissect it for you, I think it is better for you to read and take away some of the valuable information contained in these articles. So here, on the eve of the inaugural Legends regatta with many from that era including Rob Mundle, who will MC the upcoming Legends Dinner evening in Gosford this October and features in this story, is the first one. Enjoy.

“So much has been written internation­ally in praise of the phenomenally­ successful 24ft one-design cruiser­ racer the J24 that I approached the task of sailing it for the first time with more than a touch of inbuilt scepticism. Surely it couldn’t be that good.

After three sails – one of them in a fairly representative club handicap fleet and one in the Junior Offshore Group nationals – I am convinced the J24 is almost everything they say it is. AI­though it does not have quite the “grace and performance of an Etchells or Soling” (brochure), to windward at least, it certainly has dinghy-like maneuverability and downwind speed and is a load of fun to sail.

Once a fleet becomes established in Australia and the class’s one-design concept comes into full play this is, I am sure, going to be a very successful class.

Meantime, if you want to amaze your friendly neighbourhood club handicap fleet, drop in amongst them with a J24.

It’s the sort of boat that can make bad sailing look good – that is until you get up against another J24 being correctly sailed. Rob Mundle, who is marketing the J24 (being built for him under license in Australia by Jarkan Pty Ltd of Nowra) offered me the helm of one of his demonstrators in a Middle Harbor Yacht Club twilight race while he sailed another demonstrator.

My crew included a guy who had been sailing for the first time the day before, my wife, a visiting US yachting magazine editor, and Greg Hyde, one of Sydney’s best young dinghy sailors.

The two Js were competing in division 1 – Half Tonners and bigger – after the first-launched J had sailed rings around the smaller boats of division 2 in previous races.

We cracked a fantastic port tack start that earned me pats on the back from the “grand jury” lining the clubhouse verandah that I can now admit only came off because I misread my watch and we were on the line a whole minute early for a conventional starboard tack start.

We couldn’t do much else but keep reaching down the line on starboard, fortunately into a header, tossed and at the gun took off on port clearing the whole starboard tack fleet, except for a fast-accelerating Adams 10 Metre. We just dipped his stern, without loss of speed, and were off beautifully in clear air.

The point was made: the J24 is almost as maneuverable as a Laser. If you are cornered, on a starting line or around a mark, you can pull away and place the boat exactly where you want it to go, gybe out into a tight 360-degree turn, stall, accelerate.

Upwind, in 12-15 knots, Mundle gradually wore us down and went past. He had seven people on board, stacked on the rail, and a flatter set of US­ pattern Hood sails while we were struggling to depower a very full US made Shore mainsail that defied our every effort to flatten it. Points made: the J24 is an excellent load carrier and although very stable it is sensitive to crew weight on the rail (regular crew number is four) and demands the same sort of constant attention to altering mast bend and sail-shaping and trim to get the best out of its five-sixths rig that is needed for success in a Soling or an Etchells.

Constant attention to the mainsheet traveller was needed to keep the helm in balance but once you are in the groove, the boat is really easy to sail. Through some shifts and lulls near the windward mark we won back some ground on Mundle, meantime swapping tacks with a 33-footer.

Down two reaching legs, we pumped, tiller waggled, rolled, to catch some little waves (no extras permitted in this race) and filled up our sails to more than hold our own against two Half Tonners and to close on Mundle and his load of heavyweights.

We finished with a respectable dis­tance of Mundle and ahead of an impressive assortment of bigger boats in a glow of self-satisfaction.

Stop Press Even later, as we go to press, I am crewing with Mundle in the Junior Offshore Group national champi­onship in Melbourne. We’ve just com­pleted the first race, finishing second on handicap after recording an almost unbelievable 6 knots of windward speed (in flat water) on the last leg.

The boat is a delight to sail, with many dinghy attributes but at the same time demanding on tuning skills to produce the best performance – and what good racing boat is not?

From the helm, you have perfect vision over the low camber of the-mid­deck that forms the cabin top. From a sailing point of view, the only major problem I felt was the lack of something to brace the feet against when you are steering with the tiller extension from the windward rail.

The non-skid pattern on the deck is not all that “non” and the big forehatch is definitely not to be jumped on heavily – an engineering problem apparently well-known in North America and not to be attributed to the Australian builder, Jarkan, which has made a first-class job of the glasswork.

Rodney Johnstone of Stonington Connecticut, USA, designed the J24 and put it into production in 1977 – the culmination of 15 years’ work sailing and analysing other designs in the search for a 24ft yacht that was fast enough to win regardless of rating rules and yet comfortable enough to serve as a family cruiser. It was a runaway success as a stock boat, more than 700 being sold in its first year of production.

Johnstone gave the J24 flared bow sections, fair, drawn out lines with a flat run aft and very firm sections at the stern. He made it quite light at 2700 Ib displacement and kept the centre of gravity high in the 935 Ib lead keel. In combination, these features give the J24 strong initial resistance to heeling, drive and dryness through seas upwind and exceptional downwind perfor­mance where planing bursts of 14 knots have been recorded.

The hull is balsa-core/fibreglass construction, the balsa contributing noise insulation as well as stiffness. The flush deck is broad and clean; high crowned over the cabin. Since free­board is lower than on most Australian stock boats and there is no coach­ house, headroom is limited below. There is sitting headroom, just, over the pair of 6tt 4in long settee/quarter berths in the saloon. These and the big double v berth forward have well­ upholstered cushions that are supplied as standard with the boat.

A large two-part sliding main hatch opens up the entire saloon area, compensating for the lack of headroom and giving light and air below Hard running, crew can stand in the cabin, with the deck about chest height to tend sheets and braces.

The interior is smooth and clean with an interior moulding incorporating the bunk bases, lockers and galley unit.

There is a built-in stainless-steel sink ahead of the starboard berth with water tank. On the opposite side, there is a small table with space for a stove above and portable toilet below.

There are teak locker doors and trim below and teak toe rails around the deck. The interior above the liner is finished m flow-coat Interior finish on the early J24s produced by Jarkan was reasonable; there is room for improve­ment in the finish of the woodwork.

The J24 has a simple, easy to manage 5/6 rig that includes as standard a Stearn Twinstay, tapered mast with internal main, jib (2) and spinnaker halyards, adjustable topping lift, boom vang, main Cunningham and reefing tackle, internal outhaul and’ spinnaker gear and jiffy reefing system.

The deck hardware includes two Barlow 23 two-speed winches, two Barlow 15 halyard winches, a Fico Seaway mainsheet traveller system with a Harken ratchet block across a bridge in the cockpit separating the helmsman from the workers.

Harken ratchets are also provided for the spinnaker sheets. Pulpit, pushpit, stanchions and life­lines, four mooring cleats, and naviga­tion lights are provided as standard.

All this adds up to a really good, efficient sailing package for a reason­able all-up price of $11,950 (without sails). Keeping the price down as very much a part of Rod Johnstone’s original concept, along with simplicity that has earned the boat the label ‘ Laser with a lid,” – Bob Ross

Length overall ……………. 24ft

Waterline ……………….. 20ft

Beam …………………… 8ft 11 in

Draft ……………………. 4ft

Displacement ………….. 2600 Ib

Ballast keel ……………. 950 Ib

Sail area …………….. 261 sq ft