A perfect partnership
Two well-respected companies build the J/160 'Condor'
"Send me a piece on a racer/cruiser that the average Canadian sailor can relate with, but might not get the chance to see on a daily basis... and don't send me a sled!" Those were the words of Canadian Yachting when they called me in February.
When I met David and Claire Lewis aboard their J/160 Condor, it seemed natural to have a closer look at J/Boats' impressive 53 foot flagship. The longstanding partnership between J/Boats Inc. and TPI Composites Inc. has partnered to design and build some of the finest racer/cruisers around in 20 years. With this addition to the J/Series, they have outdone themselves in the attempt to give sailors all round performance with shorthanded capabilities. As I stepped onto the dock, the hull looked very sleek, with a clean, well organized deck and a comfortable functional cockpit definitely enough to make someone walking down the dock take a second took.
Standard rig for the J/160 is a Hall triple spreader aluminum spar, which can be replaced with a Hall carbon fiber rig and a large bag of dollars attached to it. Either way, it carries a large, low aspect ratio mainsail and a comparatively smaller, high aspect ratio head sail. This combination lends itself well to the idea of the J/160 being manageable in almost any type of conditions by a shorthanded crew for a couple of reasons. The most obvious reason, tacking the 100 per cent headsail is next to effortless. Secondly, J/Boats suggests for offshore cruising the main and a #3 jib are the perfect combination and will perform equally well from 5-20 knots of wind. This is even before a reef needs to go. All controls have been run to the cockpit using well organized Lewmar hardware, and most of the trimming can be done within reach of the helm.
Condor opted for the upgrade of the winches in the cockpit coaming to electric Lewmar 66 3 speed, from the manual. I am not sure if life gets any more pleasant or simpler. Launching, gybing, and dousing the asymmetric spinnaker is made incredibly simple with the retractable bowsprit and the snuffer with both being operated from the cockpit. It is rare for the words "simple," "effortless" and "enjoyable" to come to mind when a small crew is handling the spinnaker of a 53 foot boat, but it happens quite often in this case.
The rest of the deck is uncluttered with plenty of clear deck to go forward when the need arises. The bow is home to a cavernous locker for sails, lines, fenders or any other gear that might need a home. This is accessed through a gaping hatch and lies directly aft of the anchor locker and the windlass. The cockpit has long comfortable teak benches and is kept quite orderly even though all lines are lead here. The helm station is separated from the rest of the cockpit by the traveler and then a massive (66 inch) wheel, which, although it makes steering feather light, can be quite an obstacle in rougher conditions. Repeaters for all electronics, although they are spread around the cockpit, all seem to be conveniently placed and visible when necessary. The stern is a scoop transom that facilitates easy re-entry from the water or a dinghy.
Stepping into the companionway gives one a feeling of complete security, whether at the dock or on a wave, as there is plenty of space and comfortably angled steps and a teak handrail.
The interior of the J/160 is stunning in its effortless simplicity and obvious attention to detail. The transition from galley to salon to navigation station is tied together so well that you are left with the feeling of wide, open spaces.
The light colored headliner is critical to maintain an open feeling to the space any more teak would make it too dark. The small hatches that line the coach roof sides let in little light or breeze unless it is a cross air. This is made up for with plenty of ceiling lights and the option of air conditioning. The galley is perfect for a yacht that might be doing day sails for one week and offshore sailing the next. The J shape galley allows one to work without the need to strap on a harness if the conditions get rough.
Good size refrigeration, counter space, and the double sink were all highlights for the crew of Condor. The navigation station is extremely busy, but when you sit and look, all the key information can be posted in an obvious location and there is plenty of room left for charts to be spread out. The salon is simple with plenty of room on the couches and an inconspicuous table that folds out for a dinner for at least eight. Aft of the companionway are two cabins, which have reasonably space. At least one third of each cabin has full headroom and the berths are each 48 inches wide. While the port side cabin leads out into the galley, the starboard side cabin is attached to an en suite head. The master cabin is forward and is very comfortable and is attached to a head, which is situated forward of the cabin. With the sail locker in the immediate bow and the master head next to it, the master cabin is far from a V berth.
Structure and engine
The turbo charged, 88 horsepower Yanmar connected to a 22 inch folding prop pushes the boat along with ease at eight knots. The installation of the engine and the mechanical systems are very professional. Access to the engine, shaft and any of the options is simple and well ventilated. One of the finest traits of the yacht is TPI's signature SCRIMP resin infusion molding process. This allows the major structural elements such as stringers and keel reinforcements to be laminated as part of the boat's hull or deck. The hull and deck are cored with balsa emphasize lightweight, and a close look reveals almost the level of custom craftsmanship in all angles of finishing the J/160 inside and out. The deep "V" forward sections, the gentle curve amidships and the low centre of gravity provide for good attack on and off the waves.
Colin Campbell's first love is cruising. Currently he is down south working as CY's Caribbean correspondent.