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J/130: Nifty performer

By Chuck Mason/ Chris Caswell/ SAIL

Have you seen a boat that looks and sails like a racing machine, yet is aimed at the cruising market? When you step aboard this 43-footer, you'll see how these two often disparate sailing worlds can be blended into one nifty boat that displaces about 15,000 pounds.

Although I ought to begin by talking about the boat's construction, my afternoon sail off Miami in 20 knots of breeze was so much fun that the technical stuff seems a bit pale by comparison. We were marching upwind at 7-plus knots carrying a 150 percent genoa and full main, a total of some 949 square feet of sail, and we never felt overpowered. When we cracked off onto a reach, slid the 7-foot carbon-fiber sprit out of its bow housing, and hoisted the big asymmetrical spinnaker, I discovered a new definition of cruising performance.

Even in confused Gulf Stream seas, we were sailing at speeds in the 10-knot range and were walking past far bigger boats. Yet there was no strain on the 60-inch Edson wheel, and the two of us on board were able to set the chute from the foredeck snuffer and trim both sails with relative ease.

As for construction, the boat features Baltek CK57 end-grain balsa core sandwiched between vacuum bagged biaxial glass with vinylester resin on the outer hull. There's also a 10year warranty against blistering. The 8-foot, 6-inch bulbed fin keel bolts onto a deep molded hull stub; a 6foot, 6-inch shoal draft keel is an option. The hull-deck joint is bonded and through-bolted so it becomes part of the toerail.

Abovedeck, the T-shaped cockpit is spacious, with wide side decks and well-placed coamings for the Lewmar 58 self-tailing winches. All lines are led aft, so all sails can be handled from the cockpit. The tapered Hall Spars triple-spreader section is supported by Navtec rod rigging.

Belowdeck, the J/130 is bright and airy, with lots of off-white Formica and teak trim. The galley to starboard features an Origo alcohol stove/oven, Formica counters, and a 6-cubic-foot icebox. Forward, there is a pair of settees with pilot berths outboard and a folding table. An enclosed head and shower can open into the spacious double berth and settee forward or aft into the main saloon.

Our test boat had an optional aft full-headroom stateroom, with a double berth, on the port side; the nav station is moved forward. There are two options for the forward nav station. In one, the navigator sits on a main settee; the other is an outboard-facing station, with a swing-out seat. Standard auxiliary power comes from a three-cylinder Yanmar 47-horsepower diesel with a Martec folding prop.

The J/130 debuted last October, and, no surprise here, there are lots of orders in hand. If you're a sailor who hates to give up performance to get nice cruising accommodations, put the well-equipped J/130, on your short list of boats to consider.