J-121 Boat Review

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Boat Review Date: September 2017
Author: Mike Brown


One of the big and increasing problems with offshore - and even around the buoys - racing is simply assembling a crew. Nine is a common number sought, and it is hard to find such a complement with the necessary time and commitment; especially when the rest of the fleet is also looking. Which is where the J/121 comes in: here is a 12metre performance boat designed to need no more than five in its crew. That is a racing crew. On cruisier days a couple could easily handle things.

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The hull is low drag in the J boat tradition, aided by super accurate moulds. Long gone are the days of shipwrights building plugs in timber; the J/121’s was made from foam and shaped by a monster 5-axis router. The overall volumetric tolerance of this machine is certified at 0.1mm. The hull from the mould the plug created is constructed in GRP-corecell/balsa sandwich using advanced infused composite techniques. Unusual in a boat of this size are its two watertight bulkheads. This hull has good form stability backed up by water ballast tanks that add or subtract 400 kilos – the equivalent to four or five extra crew at the rail – and an L-shaped, low C of G, ballast keel.

The highly engineered carbon rig carries a sail plan designed for ease of handling. It features a furling J1 jib, a hoistable furling J4 inside the forestay and a furling Code Zero flown from the bowsprit. Every head sail can be furled or snuffed, reducing foredeck labour. The main has the ability to take in two reefs by a simple system.

The cockpit was designed along similar ergonomic lines to the award-winning J/111. The twin helm stations allow the helmsman to reach all mainsail controls; the hydraulic backstay system has a remote pump and release button on each wheel console. On-deck crew have water ballast controls in the cockpit; electric winches are available for push button trimming. The 3D jib sheet leads, via floating trim rings, remove the friction of track mounted cars and allow the clew to be accurately placed.

The traditional dedicated ocean racer features accommodation that is close to mobile squalor – a stripped out interior with pipe cots and an esky or two. Weight saving, but doing little to enhance the sailing experience. J boats have never gone that Spartan route. Their interiors are not heavyweights, but they are lined and have decent living and eating facilities. The J/121 is not a single purpose vessel: it is also a great social day boat and a family cruising boat. That vast cockpit will handle the crowds on picnic days or on twilights.

The saloon has a pair of settees whose backs can be raised to create double decker bunks. Other permanent sleeping is provided by a double quarter berth. The forepeak space is normally reserved for sail stowage, but for social occasions a removable bunk can be installed. The really serious saloon installation is the navigation station; this has all the space, efficiency and comfort its purpose deserves. Other occupants might dispute its primacy, but they are bought off by a genuine galley equipped with stove, sink and icebox and teamed with a table.

Particular design attention was paid to what often gets inattention in racers: the ablutions. The J/121’s bathroom is just where it should be – at the foot of the companionway – and is of generous size. Like the rest of the vessel’s interior, all surfaces are easily cleaned.

Clearly the J/121’s concept rang instant bells around the world; there were already 19 orders before a single gel coat had been applied. Hull number 5 will be landing in Melbourne any day. The price is fluid around AUD $580,000, dependent on exchange rates. As with all racing boats sails and electronics are extra: individual preferences in these items being understandably strong.


Price, less sails and electronics   approx. AUD $580,000

Length                                             12.20m

Beam                                               3.75m

Draught                                            2.2m

Displacement                                    5.2T

Motor                                               29hp Yanmar plus saildrive