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J/121's setting the pace - Competitive on round-the-buoys race tracks and offshore

by J/Boats 2 Jul 2021 13:06 BST
J/121's setting the pace offshore © J/Boats

Over the past three years, as J/121 teams continue to learn how to sail their boats faster and more efficiently, those efforts are not going unnoticed by the world's sailing and racing cognoscenti.

Designed to be an offshore racing machine, the J/121 has not only been competitive on "closed-course" round-the-buoys race tracks, but continues to demonstrate its design pedigree by the J/Design team in major offshore long-distance events.

Just this past month, here are a number of highlights from around the world:

  1. Bermuda One-Two: a 635.0nm race from Newport to Bermuda and return. Outbound is singlehanded, inbound is doublehanded. In both legs, David Southwell's Alchemy took elapsed and corrected handicap honors and took second overall on combined scores (based on handicap times). Commenting on his performance, David said, "it's the perfect shorthanded boat offshore, easy to control, fast, behaves well on any point of sail, designed to go from shorthanded mode to full crew mode and back. No problem. Love the boat!"

  2. RORC Offshore Season Points Series: the RORC held their Morgan Cup Race from Cowes, Isle of Wight, England to Dartmouth off to the west. Winning IRC 1 Class and IRC Overall was Michael O'Donnell's Darkwood. Currently, they are leading IRC 1 class in the RORC Offshore Points Series.

  3. Block Island Race Week: this famous event is a very good test of boat and crew. A true race week, lasting for five days, the Storm Trysail Club does their level best to run as many races as possible, including its most famous event, the Round Island Race. J/121's excelled in all formats.

Bill Wiggins and Ashley Maltempo's WINGS won ORC D Class on mostly windward-leeward closed courses, notably winning the Round Island Race quite handily. Furthermore, they beat one of the winningest J/122 teams of all time, Robin Team's Teamwork!

Joe Brito's Incognito won PHRF Performance Spinnaker Class sailing on random-leg point-to-point courses.

Four different boats, four different racing and crew configurations. If you want a 40+ footer that can do it all, look no further.

What's up for the future?

Watch for these three events to set the bar even higher and raise the standard for J/121 sailors. Three iconic offshore events will be taking place soon. All are famous in their own rights for the challenges they represent to each team and are genuine tests of crew work, seamanship, boatspeed, and navigational sailing efficiency. Can your team maintain 95% target boatspeed efficiency 24 hours per day? Some can, no question. Many cannot.

Rolex Fastnet Race:

The grandaddy of the European offshore sailing community is the Rolex Fastnet Race. The 2021 addition will be the first time it starts off Cowes, England, rounds Fastnet Rock, crosses the somewhat hazardous English Channel (and many ships, and finishes in Cherbourg, France, making for a longer 695.0nm course. And, with over 450 entries, the largest long-distant offshore racing event around the world-- ever!

Two J/121's will be sailing the Fastnet Race, O'Donnell's DARKWOOD will be joined by the Swedish doublehanded team on Jolene sailed by Fredrik Rydin and John Tuvsledt. In both cases, talented offshore teams that know their way around a race track.

Transpac Race:

Out West, there are two 121's sailing the famous 2,225.0nm Transpac Race, Scott Campbell's RIVA from Portland, Oregon and Scott Grealish's Blue Flash from Portland, OR as well. In the 2019 edition, Grealish's Blue Flash team handily won class and, due to their earlier very light airs start versus other classes starting in breeze a few days later, they missed out on overall honors. With two fast, legendary J/125s up against them in the class above, it will be an amazing test, two J/121's vs. two J/125's. May the best team win.

Chicago to Mackinac Race:

At 295.0nm, it may not seem very far, a 1-day race for big boats, and up to 3-days for smaller boats, depending on conditions. Nevertheless, it consistently proves to be one of the most challenging offshore races in the world. Even the infamous, irascible Ted Turner admitted he got his proverbial butt kicked by the Mac Race sailing his red-hulled 12-meter American Eagle one year (as anyone knows, Turner doesn't admit defeat often).

The predominant features are fast-moving, very powerful weather fronts that can sweep across the race track and are infamous for producing hurricane force winds, hail, and blinding tropical dense fog! It's always a roll of the dice. Champagne sailing in strong southerlies planing all day long to the infamous Pink Pony Bar, or complete and utter hell. You gotta love that race! Sailing will be Bob Christoph's J/121 LOKI with a talented crew from the USA and New Zealand.

Find out more about the J/121 offshore speedster at

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