By Ralph Naranjo- CW's Technical Editor
By the time the spray had settled in the wake of the 2004 Boat of the Year contest, it was clear to me that among the growing fleet of sailboats being offered for the dual purposes of racing and cruising, the J/133 was definitely the showstopper. Even though I spend much more time cruising than racing, I like boats that are meant to sail efficiently, and I found in the J/133, a big sister to the popular J/105, technology and simplicity elegantly blended in pursuit of harnessing a breeze.
The J/133 is light and responsive. It has a fine entry, a flat canoe body, and modest beam that trims down to an even leaner waterplane. The well-matched bulb keel and spade rudder deliver forgiving steering characteristics as well as surprising tracking ability for appendages with such high-aspect ratios. Even as we noticed some binding in the rudderstock bearing on the prototype boat, the J/Boat team was already in the process of fixing the problem.
TPI Inc., which builds the J/133, was among the first production boatbuilders to implement resin-infusion laminating techniques, and it employs its patented SCRIMP system in the manufacture of many large composite structures in addition to boats. The big plus for the boat buyer isn't just the precision repeatability that such a process makes possible; the infused resin also fills the slots in the balsa core, reducing the incidence of voids and producing a laminate that's more resistant to water damage.
I like the layout below, which blends the requirements of a sea boat with those of a comfortable coastal cruiser. The modest beam and easy-to-navigate cabin sole give the accommodations a sailboat feel, the U-shaped galley to starboard is anything but minimal, and the adjacent nav station to port is a main feature of the saloon rather than an afterthought. The two settees that flank the cabin table need only lee cloths to make them excellent sea berths, while the cabins forward and aft offer double berths for times when the boat's on an even keel.
Lifting cabin-sole boards, peering into the bilge, and looking in lockers, I found evidence of sound engineering practices and adherence to the systems-installation guidelines of the American Boat & Yacht Council.
A fast, agile, big-mainsail sloop, like other high-performance Js, the J/133 has a retractable sprit. It's both simple to use and a real turbo boost for those cruising in areas like Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay during light, summertime conditions. An asymmetric spinnaker is easier to handle than a conventional chute and ups the performance and fun factors for a shorthanded crew.
Navtec rod rigging is standard, as is the Hall Spars carbon-fiber mast that's less than 65 feet tall, allowing the boat to duck into the Intracoastal Waterway. A shoal-draft alternative to the standard 7.5-foot keel will make that option more appealing and ease the boat's passage in other shallow-water cruising grounds.
The few weaknesses I discovered can probably be addressed through modifications at the builder's or with after-purchase add-ons. The boat we sailed lacked a bow roller, necessary for efficient anchor deployment and retrieval on a plumb-stem boat such as this, and, proving the J/133's raceboat inclinations, the toerail didn't extend aft of the mast. Anyone with extended racing or cruising ambitions should bear in mind the limited tankage--50 gallons each of fuel and water.
Strong enough to go offshore but also fast and fun in all-too-common light air, the J/133 should appeal to those who both race and cruise with smaller crews and shorter time frames. Its comfortable accommodations provide the amenities and privacy to make fast, efficient, performance cruising a real pleasure for two couples.