11 April 2015

Dazzler (J/41 One Tonner)

Dazzler was 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), with a different shape to many of its peers, with a notable rocker, fine ends and low wetted surface, giving it an edge in light airs.

The design 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 (Alethea and Dazzler were both built by Tillotson and Pearson in a bare nine weeks). 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 during the 1984 SORC (photo Historiedeshalfs)
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 hull profile (above) and deck and internal arrangement plan (below)

The J/41's were also noted for their structural integrity, when five of them survived the rough 1984 Bermuda Race, and both Dazzler and Alethea survived the whole 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.
Dazzler sails upwind in light airs during the 1984 SORC
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, and then went on to win the 1985 SORC (Smiles will feature in a future article).
Leeward mark action aboard Dazzler (photo Robert Hagan/Sea Spray)
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." 

The J/41's 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 which was considered to compare favourably to the "moments of blinding speed interspersed with unbelievably slows" of their competition. 
Dazzler during the 1984 SORC (photo Larry Moran)
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.


  1. Fractional rigs and Bruce Farr blasted them all out of the water - and that's another good story.

  2. Ken Reed, current President of North Sails, started his pro life working for Bill Shore and sailing on DAZZLER.