J/111 Piranha | test sail

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As many of you know, I’ve been curious on the new J/111. I even went to J/Boats and Hall Spars in Newport and spent some time with Jeff Johnstone when they were building boat #1 Stella. The plan was to do a test sail, but it splashed a few days late so I didn’t get the opportunity then.

We then planned to go to Paul Heyes in the UK but when we found out that the German reseller, Mittelmann’s Werft, had a boat available that turned out to be the best alternative even mid November. I’d met them before crusing a J/122 in Bohuslän. Great guys, so 1400 km back and forth was well worth it.

I’d never been to Kappeln in northern Germany before, but it turned out to be a charming little town thats probably bustling with tourist in the summer. Understandably, mid November was a bit slow but we hadn’t come to spend time on the beach or party. We found the boat parker right outside our hotel, and as the date was 11-11-11 we took that as an sign to get serious about the 111.

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After dinner we checked in to our hotel, Pierspeicher Gästehaus, an beautiful old industry building right at the harbor that’s been renovated for five years and now have a distinct marine theme. And it’s hard to beat the view from my hotel window.

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Saturday morning. Pretty cold and ice on deck but the forecast was for southerly wind 14-18 knots decreasing during the afternoon. And sunny. So we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

The boat looks fast already at the dock. Low, light, slender and functional. Just like a parked sports car longs to get driven when it’s parked. Very much “the speedster” that J/boats referred to when they presented the design.

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Crew for the day was (from left to right) Lars Hallqvist, owner Christian Rönsch, Bo Teichmann from Mittelmann, Mattias Bodlund who’s running mast on Blur and Niels Sørensen who’s a former H-boat World Champion. Also Henning Mittelmann who’s CEO of Mittelmann was driving the RIB. Big thanks to everyone involved.

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It had been blowing Friday, so the sea state was still pretty messed up. With a new boat, different sails (the sails was from local sailmaker Tommy Sails) and an crew not used to the boat it was hard to find the groove at first.

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At first I tried to sail it the same way as my J/109, that’s a weaker boat. But as soon as I put the hammer down, accepted a bit more heel and went for speed the boat light up and reached the target speed 6.9-7.1.

Naturally you need time in the boat to be able to keep your average speed up, but it shouldn’t be hard to find the right settings.

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The 111 is pretty narrow compared to many modern designs, but it’s light with high righting moment from the heavy bulb. Initially it’s week since there’s not much form stability, but then settles and shoots forward. So even with just 3 guys hiking (and not as hard my regular crew) it was definitely ok in 16 knots of wind, even if the main trimmer needs to be alert.

I would guess that 6-7 crew will be optimal for racing, and I know people are discussing weight limits in the one design rule as we speak.

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My theory was that the J/111 would make an excellent shorthanded boat for Scandinavian waters. Small enough to be handled by two. Easy setup with furling jib and asymmetrical spinnaker on a retractable sprit. But racing in our waters it’s not uncommon to have 16-18 knots sea breeze during the afternoon, and then just 2-3 knots during the night, so you need to be able to perform at both ends of the scale. And it’s easy to get caught in light winds at night in the archipelago with a Class 40, Figaro 2 or SunFast 3200.

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So the J/111 performs ok upwind. Check. But that’s not why people buy this boat. It’s for the downwind experience. Moderate displacement, 4.200 kilo, and +130 m2 kite could lead to big smiles in a blow.

We’ve seen many videos and stories about boat’s doing close to, or top, 20 knots. Here’s a small selection:

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Everyone was a bit careful at first, starting out with a smaller kite. Shape (and color) was a bit different from what I’m used to, but to get a feel for the boat, it was close enough. With the waves coming from the side it was hard to get going, but after a jibe and some bigger waves we took of and did 12-13 knots.

Big difference compared to the J/109 that really loads up before getting up to speed. Usually we can make 10-11 knots quite steadily but it’s hard to go faster even in a blow. Our record is 20 knots in extreme conditions, and that ended when the R5 exploded in a big broach.

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As the wind came down we shifted to the bigger kite and the boat was fun to drive in just 12 knots. At the end of the day we did 6.6 knots in just 6 knots of breeze when we heated up. Nice.

The J/111 is much more like a J/80. Slippery and responsive to both puffs and handling and I’m sure it will be fun downwind throughout the wind register.

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For those into tech stuff, here’s the measurements from the boats ORC Club certificate. GPH is 572.4 which is similar to a X-41 or Evento 42 :-) IRC seems more reasonable with most boats abound 1.090-1.100 (list here).

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All in all, a great sailing boat with everything set up right to go sailing without any hassle. Naturally there’s some minor things I would change, but nothing that can’t be done in collaboration with J/Boats and Mittelmann. For example the boat should naturally have the Carbonautica wheel that I retrofitted to the J/109 this summer.

Naturally this comes at a price. And those expecting a full cruising interior and massive amounts of mahogany will be disappointed. The interior is functional but better suited for active sailing than extended cruising with family and friends.

Just like a station wagon from Audi, BMW or Volvo is both practical and great drive when the whole family are heading for the ski slope. But they can’t beat a Porsche or Aston Martin for that weekend drive. The J/111 doesn’t pretend to be everything for everyone.

Slideshow from sailing J/111 Piranha

Slidehow from the Interior

And the big question… will J/111 be the next Blur?

The J/109 is a wonderful mix of cruising and racing, and we’ve done very well on the race course. I’d happily sail it for many years to come. That said, it’s very much for sale.


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