28 January 2014

Road Warrior (J/41 One Tonner)

Road Warrior - 1984 Newport-Bermuda Race
Road Warrior is one of about twenty J/41's that were built by J/Boats between 1984 and 1987, and were notable campaigners in the IOR scene in the US over that period. The J/41, designed by Rod Johnstone, was designed to rate as a One Tonner (30.5ft IOR), but first came to prominence in the 1984 SORC, when Dazzler finished third in Class E and third overall, while a fractional-rigged version Alethea finished fourth in class and fifth overall. The masthead design carried a bit more ballast than the fractional variation, while Alethea carried a larger headsail and smaller mainsail than other fractionally rigged boats of the size.


Dazzler had some interesting duels with Diva during the SORC, which was one of the first of the new breed of fractional lighter displacement yachts designed by Joubert/Nivelt. Dazzler was sailed by Bill Shore and Perry Harris, and breezed home in the heavily weighted Lauderdale race ahead of Diva, Allegiance (an Alan Andrews-designed One Tonner) and Alethea. Dazzler held onto her overall lead for two more races until Diva and Allegiance had a memorable first and second in the Miami-Nassau race, separated by just 3 seconds. 


The J/41's followed up their 1984 SORC success by taking the first three places in the  USYRU North American One Ton Championships, with Charlie Scott's Smiles winning, followed by Road Warrior, owned and skippered by America's Cup yachtsman John Kolius, with Dazzler taking third. Smiles went on to win that years' Onion Patch Trophy, while Road Warrior finished third.  
The Main Bear (left) during the 1985 SORC
Smiles went on to win the 1985 SORC overall - a large calm some 60 miles from the finish of the Miami-Nassau race benefited the smaller boats such as the One Tonners and gave Smiles a significant points edge over her larger competition. Indeed, the weather in the 1985 series was lighter than usual and this ideally suited the J/41, with its notable rocker, fine ends and low wetted surface. The win by Smiles was an impressive result for a production boat and caused some consternation for the many custom boat owners. Scott had even finished Smiles himself, although he went to some effort to centralise the deck equipment and the internal arrangement amidships to minimise weight in the ends.

Despite their initial success, the J/41's represented the end of the competitive masthead boats at the One Ton level, and after the 1985 season were considered something of an anachronism in the emerging trend towards fractional rigs in top level racing at the time. They were not widely regarded as the fastest boats on the track, but were marketed at the time as being easier to sail than their fractional competition. Consistency was emphasised, with higher average speeds across the wind range considered to compare favourably to the "moments of blinding speed interspersed with unbelievably slows" of their competition. 

The fine ends and slightly bow down trim of the J/41 in IOR mode (photo J Boats)
The J/41 performance assessment at the time commented that "fractional designs (including J/41s so rigged) have the edge when jib reaching and occasionally downwind under 5 kts TWS (when gybing angles are tighter downwind), but the J/41 is unbeatable upwind over 10 kts AWS or downwind over 12 kts TWS. The exceptions are in conditions over 25 kts AWS upwind where small rig Farr 40s excel or in some marginal surfing/wave conditions when close spinnaker reaching." 

One of the many J/41's, Merrimac (photo J Boats)
The J/41's were also noted for their structural integrity, when five survived the rough 1984 Bermuda Race, and two survived the SORC that year without failure. Construction nevertheless pushed the limits of the time, utilising vacuum bagged unidirectional  aircraft-grade Baltek Contourkote sandwich and 1/8th inch unidirectional carbon fibre skins for increased rigidity and impact resistance in critical areas. 

Road Warrior missed the 1984 SORC but raced in the 1985 event as The Main Bear, and was later renamed Lorimar. She is now owned by a Dutch yachtsman Jan Kuffel who bought the boat in 2008 in Long Island and she is now called Red Gull after her sponsor. Red Gull regularly lines up in IOR regattas hosted in the Netherlands against other older boats such as 45 South II, Canterbury, Container, Caiman, Jamarella, Lady Be, Morningstar, Marionette, Pinta and the like.

The happy crew of Red Gull, now sailing in Europe (photo Jan Kuffel)




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