The J/35 - Practical Sailor Used Boat Survey
Go-fast racer/cruiser from the fabulous Johnstones
New J/35s can also be purchased with an American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) certificate. ABS is similar to the better known English Lloyd's certification, in that an independent surveyor periodically checks the shop and the boat during construction to make sure it meets minimum standards. While relatively new to cruising sailors, ABS certification is important to racers in the top echelons. International offshore regattas require such certification. It seems worthwhile because it is about the only way buyers can get an independent evaluation of the boat without overseeing the entire construction process themselves. The boat comes with a thorough list of standard equipment. The company lists only 18 options for a new boat, and most of these are aesthetic preferences or cruising options, such as a dark-colored hull, two-tone deck, V -berth, swim ladder, and propane locker. The rig is excellent, with a Hall Spars mast, rod rigging, and complete state-of-the-art running rigging. All winches are adequate, but if we were planning shorthanded cruising in addition to racing, we would consider larger, self-tailing primaries. Tiller steering is standard on the boat. In its latest brochures, the company doesn't even list wheel steering as an option, but many earlier models had wheels, and some owners may still want it installed. We sailed both a tiller model and a wheel and believe the tiller is far superior, especially for racing. However, wheels seem to be sufficiently in vogue that there are a preponderance of them on the used 35s for sale. The arrangement is conventional. Forward you will find either sail bins or an optional V -berth, decently sized, with a head just aft of that, and a hanging locker and bureau opposite. Two comfortable settee berths are aft of the main bulkhead in the saloon, with an optional fold-up table between them. The galley is minimal, with a two-burner alcohol stove and sink on the port side and an ice-box with chart-table top opposite. There are two big quarter berths underneath the bridgedeck and cockpit. Ventilation is good, with eight opening ports and two hatches in addition to the companionway, but there is no provision at all for pushing air through the cabin when underway. Storage is minimal, adequate for a racing crew or for a couple on a short cruise, but every 35 we looked at had sails and crew gear spread all over the settees and berths.
We would be quite comfortable weekending or cruising on this boat, but it does lack the amenities which most people demand nowadays, like hot-and-cold pressure water, propane stove and oven, and refrigeration. All these things could be added, of course, but they rarely are because they represent weight which is anathema to the high-performance sailor.
For us, the main shortcoming of the interior is the lack of headroom forward, in the head and V-berth, and a tall person will be uncomfortable even in the main cabin.
While this interior may not sound like much to the cruising sailor who looks at other boats with VCR stations and queen-size after berths, it is far superior to the one-off custom racers and almost all other racing boats that are in the same speed class as the J/35. Though the "cruiser" part is minimal, this boat is a true racer-cruiser. Where compromises are made, the racer is clearly favored, but the owner won't feel compelled to check into a motel at the end of a long passage as is the case with most racing machines.
The J/35 is primarily a racing boat, and its interior is spartan compared to similarly sized cruising boats. But the interior is decent, and well-finished given the plainness of the boat.
The Yanmar 3GM engine has become almost a standard in this size boat. It is a good engine, dependable, relatively quiet, and its 28 horsepower is plenty big for the J/35. A 20 gallon fuel tank gives about 150 miles of range, adequate since this boat will still be sailing in light airs when most others have cranked up the diesel. The boat comes standard with a Martec folding prop, and the boat powers easily to hull speed. The J/35 turns sharply and handles well under power, and it will back up more or less where you want it. Access to the engine is decent, behind the companionway steps underneath the cockpit. Installation of the engine and the other mechanical systems is workmanlike-good but nothing spectacular.
Sailing is what this boat is all about. We sailed twice on a 35 during their first two years of production, and again last fall, in two heavy-air triangular races.
The boat is obviously quick. With a PHRF rating around 70, it is significantly faster than almost all boats its size. It is 50 seconds-per-mile faster than our own l6-year-old Carter 36 and most other lOR racers between 34 and 37 feet. In the class we raced in last fall, only a Schock 35, and a C&C 37 were comparable in speed. Like most good sailing boats, the J/35 has an "effortless" quality about its motion through the water. To us, it seems that most boats make quite a fuss as you push them up toward hull speed, especially on a beat. Often, you can "hear" how fast you're going by the amount of noise the boat makes. But a J/35 moves easily up to speed, and you have to look at the knotmeter to know whether you're moving five knots or seven.
It's a well-balanced boat, with excellent feel (if you have a tiller model) on all points of sail.
The boat can be wet working to weather in waves, especially given the lack of cockpit coamings, but otherwise it has few faults in sailing. Unlike many high-performance boats, it's also quite forgiving, so an inexperienced helmsman and crew can achieve good speed and at least finish a race or a passage ahead of other boats, even if losing on handicap.
It is obviously not a boat for everybody. If you're looking for a weekend cottage or a floating condominium, go elsewhere. But if you are in the group of sailors who want a boat between 30 and 40 feet, whose time afloat is spent more than 50 percent in racing, you might want to consider the J/35. And if we were rolling in dough, we'd have to have one to park out in front of our condo, just for the fun of sailing it.
For the used boat shopper, the main consideration after price will be the quality of equipment, especially sails. Unlike some boats, it is probable that a J/35 has been raced, and usually raced hard, so in many instances a total refit of the basic boat may be in order.
Given that the latest models have several advantages-an ABS certificate and a 10-year anti-blister warranty-most used boat shoppers will probably want to also go the extra distance to get a new boat.
We like the J/35. It gets down to basics-if sailing is what sailing is all about, you won't find a much better boat anywhere. -R.D.