By Simon Day
The J/133 achieves the magic combination of terrific sailing qualities with accommodations a cruising family will love.
Jim Johnstone cut off in mid-anecdote about his years crewing on the classic J Class Shamrock IV. “Simon, ease the main! Ease! Ease! Ease!” he said with an urgency that only comes when racing or something bad is going to happen.
The stern of the new J/133 lifted on the crest of an eight-foot wave, and we took off. I put the handle in the self-tailing mainsheet winch and cranked the sheet in as fast as I could.
“Simon, look at the speed.” It went past 10.5, then to 12 knots, and kept going until it hit 14.5 and stayed there for 30 seconds before the wave we were surfing finally passed us. We were close reaching under a single-reefed main in 25 to 30 knots of breeze as we entered The Race at the eastern end of Long Island Sound. The outgoing current had kicked the seas up from regular four-footers to very steep eight- to 10-footers with no backs to them. We caught two more and had sleigh rides up to 16 knots. Within a mile we were inside Long Island Sound and the seas had subsided to two- to four-foot chop, and we had huge grins across our faces.
The J/133 is the latest incarnation of J/Boats’ extremely successful Sprit boat line. Building on the proven concept of boats like the J/105, the company has come out with their next generation of racer/cruisers. Along with her little sister the 109, the 133 is a boat that is designed to win the Tuesday night racing series and then on Friday take the family cruising for a long weekend.
I sailed the boat from Newport, R.I., to New York City in late September with Jim Johnstone, who is a member of the founding family, the New England regional sales manager and the man in charge of overseeing building at TPI in Bristol, R.I. And we got pasted with the first real fall low-pressure system.
SAILING AND CHARACTERISTICS
The 133 is a sailor’s boat. Everything about it is geared toward having fun and sailing fast. The boat is built using their patented Scrimp technology. The fiberglass hull and deck are laminated of E-glass over a balsa core. TPI gives their boats a five-year structural warranty and a 10-year warranty against blisters.
At 17,900 pounds the 133 is light for a 43-footer. The simple double-swept spreader rig comes standard in carbon fiber from Hall Spars. The sail plan consists of a large fully battened mainsail with a fractional 100- percent jib and asymmetrical spinnakers set off the retractable carbon fiber bowsprit. The rig allows the boat to stay powered up in a very wide range of conditions and is easily handled by a small number of crew. This boat had a brand new set of North 3DL sails that certainly helped her performance.
As we left Newport and Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, the wind was blowing from the east at 14 knots and building. Jim and I were stoked at the prospect of a blistering broad reach down the sound. There was even talk of spinnakers. Powering toward Pt. Judith at the southern end of Rhode Island Sound the boat trucked along at a steady 7.5 knots with water pluming up over the nearly plumb bow. The helm felt balanced the entire time, and the boat responded like a sports car to the smallest adjustment. Initially, I found myself oversteering because I am used to much heavier boats with less efficient rudders.
By the time we rounded Pt. Judith and turned toward The Race and Long Island Sound, the wind had clocked to the south-southwest and had built to a steady 18 with gusts up to 20. Close reaching with just a single reef in the main we made eight, but when the boat was cracked off 10 degrees she really showed her speed potential with regular surges above 10. In these conditions the motion of the boat was very manageable thanks to her seven-foot, six-inch draft and full waterline length. We stopped for the night at a marina along the Connecticut shore.
The next day brought sun and warmth and a five- to 10-knot breeze directly from the west-southwest, our exact course to New York. We sailed for an hour or so in the morning. The boat showed that it is capable in the lightest airs to make a good turn of speed. In six knots of true wind we had the boat going four and a half to five knots at 35 degrees apparent. Not bad.
But that speed wasn’t going to get us to Hell’s Gate before dark, so on went the 56-horsepower Yanmar and we motored at 3,000 rpms at 7.7 knots all day. Unfortunately, the wind didn’t cooperate, and we motored until New York. At 8 p.m. that night we entered the East River with New York ablaze in front of us. And by 10 we were tied to the dock in Liberty Landing Marina on the New Jersey shore across from Manhattan.
COCKPIT AND ACCOMMODATIONS
The clean and open cockpit with a full-width wheel and wide decks reflect the boat’s racing pedigree. All lines, save the spinnaker controls, are led aft to ease handling. There is also the option of moving the asymmetrical spinnaker pole lines and halyards to jammers in the cockpit for shorthanded sailing.
The mainsheet runs along a full-width traveler to winches just in front of the helmsman. Two able sailors can handle the 133 quite easily and one can manage all working sail if the autopilot takes over the steering. For watchkeepers on passage, all lines are handy so there is rarely a need to leave the cockpit.
Visibility is good when standing behind the wheel, and the helmsman can get comfortable sitting either to windward or to leeward to watch sail trim. With the dodger raised it is a little more difficult looking forward, but the dodger keeps the water out of what was otherwise a wet cockpit in the boisterous conditions we were sailing through. In these conditions, with the dodger down, we were getting continual water running down the decks and then over the backs of the seats and into the cockpit. The cockpit seats are long and wide enough to nap on but the seat backs are quite low.
The huge lockers are the best part of the cockpit. Under the starboard seat is a good shallow locker designed for extra lines and sail ties and under the port seat lies a massive storage bin. Through the bin there is access to the large space underneath the cockpit floor, an area intended for a generator or more storage. The two large lazarette lockers house the propane tanks and offer excellent access to the steering system.
The boat comes with standard Harken 58s as primary winches and two 48s for the mainsheet forward of the helm. There are two more 48s at the companionway with the standard Spinlock line clutches.
The J-shaped galley is easy to work in underway. During our pound toward Long Island Sound I was able to fix sandwiches without a problem. The fiddles throughout the boat are quite large and sturdy and offer good handholds. The galley comes equipped with two large stainless steel sinks almost on the centerline (so they will drain on both tacks), six-and-a-half cubic feet of fridge space that is easy to access and a large three-burner stove. Storage areas in the cabinets and behind the fridge and stove are ample for a week’s cruise or more. Long-term stores can be tucked away behind the saloon seats and in the forward cabin.
Expecting the 133 to be fairly stripped out below to meet the requirements of the racing crowd, the aspect of the new 133 that most surprised and impressed me was the interior. The boat Jim and I sailed to New York was the twin-cabin version with a master cabin forward with its own head and a quarter cabin aft of the galley. To port of the companionway is a large head with a great wet locker behind the toilet. Forward of the head on the port side is a very workable nav station. The chart table is large enough for a full-size chart folded in half. All electrics are led through the master panel at the chart table, and there is plenty of space to mount a chartplotter and all the other goodies one could hope to weigh oneself down with. This boat was equipped with B&G Hercules instruments and GPS.
The main saloon is dominated visually by the black carbon mast that comes down through the forward part of the folding table. The benches are long enough to easily sit six people for dinner and make great sea births. Under them are the 50-gallon fuel and water tanks. These are on the small side and reflect the boat’s racing pedigree. But behind the benches there is loads of storage space.
Up forward, the big white tube that houses the spinnaker pole over the starboard side of the V-berth is a little disconcerting at first. But the cabin is large and the pole does not inhibit the bunk.
It is a rare pleasure to find an interior on a modern racer/cruiser that does not feel like the designer crammed as much in as possible. It is well thought out throughout, airy and light, and has plenty of storage.
J/Boats has built some of the most successful production boats of all time. In the 25 years since the Johnstone family introduced the J/24, the sailing world has gone through some tremendous technological changes and with the boats such as the 105, 120 and now the 109 and 133, J/Boats has proven to be right on the leading edge of the sailing world.
The Johnstones create boats that are well built, well thought out and fun. They use their quarter century of knowledge to the maximum in their new range. I was impressed during our two-day, 150-mile sea trial, with how Jim Johnstone constantly made notes on how to improve their new boat. Everything from foot braces in the nav station to better handholds at the mast will be scrutinized and improved upon as 133s roll off the production line and in new models to come.
If you are looking for a cruising boat that is a pleasure to sail and will get your heart pumping occasionally, this boat is for you. Just as important, if you are looking for a boat in which the whole family can have fun and cruise in comfort, the 133 is large enough and commodious enough to make an excellent floating home away from home.