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March 2005

How do you work with each owner to achieve the right systems package?

Compared to a production boat with a page full of options, the J/65 is a true semi-custom yacht — what we are building is a J yacht, not a J boat. While the hull and deck tooling is shared between all J/65’s, the use of the boats by their owners can be very different. Because each boat will be used differently, each boat will need dedicated specifications.

Arriving at the right specification for each boat involves a dialogue between myself, J Boats, the dealer, and the owner. Most owners don’t have the time to sit down for days on end to write or review a specification, so we facilitate this very complicated part of the building process. We ask a lot of questions: ‘How much cruising do you plan to do, and where will you be cruising? How much racing, what kind of racing? If an owner doesn’t need something, he shouldn’t be paying for it in space and dollars.

For example, in the original specification Hull #1 had a 220-volt watermaker for bluewater cruising—along with four 220-volt outlets that would work in ports outside the United States. But it makes more sense, for a boat that will be visiting the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the San Diego Yacht Club, to go with a 110-volt watermaker and use a transformer, because you’ll be running into different phases and voltages from country to country. So it is vital not only to talk with each owner but to investigate all aspects of how he will be using the boat.

To take another example, the interior layout is quite flexible, limited only by the boat’s five structural bulkheads, which include a watertight crash bulkhead forward and one aft, just forward of the rudderpost. The owners of Hull #1 and #2 chose similar interior plans for the middle of the boat; where the layouts have differed, reflecting the predominantly cruising (Hull #1) or racing (Hull #2) use of each boat, is in the arrangements in the ends of the boat.

It really comes down to thinking everything through very carefully so that we get every detail of every system right. For instance, on Hull #2 the owner, who will be racing the boat extensively, wanted a pedestal-driven winch system, a choice which brought other matters into play: When we place the drive shafts and gearboxes below deck, will too much cabin space be taken up? There are ways to minimize the intrusion, and we worked with Lewmar to optimize the system for the J/65. Of course, having exposed shafts, bevel boxes, and U-joints is not an issue for a racing crew, but what happens when the owner goes cruising with children aboard, and they get their fingers caught? So we developed lightweight, removable covers to make the winch system work well for cruising as well as racing.

It is possible, given the size of the J/65 envelope, to put as much equipment on the boat as you’ll find on some 80 footers. So it’s an interesting challenge to locate the equipment where it is serviceable, where its weight is in the best place, where noise is minimized, and where the equipment has the operating environment it needs—for example, a supply of cooling air or a proper exhaust. It’s also important to keep all the equipment and equipment runs out of lockers, so the lockers can be used for storage.

In some areas we are bringing industry experts into the J/65 project. For example, the hull of every J/65 is being faired and sprayed with Awlgrip. After a thorough process we chose Allpaint and Hinckley Yacht Services to handle topside fairing and finish—they both have a large team of painters and the right equipment to do the job. Utilizing the skills and knowledge of select companies to tackle a specific task of the J/65 project is a very good way to do it—we tap into their expertise, and the owner gets a very high-quality yacht.

We expect a J/65 owner to be discriminating and demanding in all aspects of the boat, and we are prepared to go a very long way to build them a yacht that meets their requirements and exceeds their expectations.

How do you achieve each boat’s signature interior styling?

In addition to the interior style specifications we reach through meetings with the owner, we go through a pretty exhaustive wood selection process. With Hull #2, for example, we worked to get the swirls and other unique characteristics of the cherry wood right, as well as matching the colors. We reviewed samples of twelve logs and ranked them in terms of acceptability, which the owner then reviewed—and agreed with our recommendations, which told us we were on the right track. To get 4,000 square feet of veneer we needed a log with a yield of at least 12,000 square feet in order to get, among other things, matching veneers for the main bulkhead. The wood selection process is just one example of how we involve each owner and raise the bar on quality at the same time.

Other aspects of achieving fine-yacht joiner work include using WEST System epoxy, setting a standard of tight glue joints, and requiring that all fasteners be hidden. That also means a bilge area with no sharp or rough edges, and taking extra care that limber holes are located in exactly the right places so that the bilge drains properly—details that are easy to get wrong but are important in the real world. We avoid squeaky floorboards by installing positive turn locks and by building in gaps of a 16th of an inch between floorboards; for durability, the undersides are epoxy-sealed and the edges trimmed with hardwood. To save weight, composite floorboards are an option—a foam and carbon (or glass) composite with a traditional-looking teak and holly veneer.

How has your ocean-sailing and yacht-management background influenced the development of the J/65?

The most important thing I have learned over the years is that safety is everything. There just is no substitute for going to sea and seeing how things work—or don’t work. To take a small example, the lifelines on the J/65 are uncoated, because stainless-steel lifelines rust from the inside out, and plastic coating can hide the rust. Strong, well-placed handrails down below are important safety features and we give this aspect a lot of care. Making routine maintenance tasks easier means making the boat safer, too. Engine space, for instance, needs to be accessible, and engine filters and service points need to be easily reached—because if you can’t check the oil easily, you are not going to check the oil. It is details like these, and many more, that are important to the safety of all onboard.

The J/65 is an offshore boat, and thus the interior is laid out so that you are able to move around safely inside the boat. You have to be able to move around safely on deck as well, and that’s a function of proper deck design and the right placement of each piece of deck hardware. Every decision that we make about gear has to pass the safety test: Is it practical? Is it safe? Can you get safely out of the cockpit with a harness on? Where is your next hooking-on point?

A good example is the process we followed in developing the guard over the steering wheel. A wheel guard just cannot be flimsy, because in heavy weather you will have one, two, maybe three people in safety harnesses hooked on to the guard. So we made certain that everything about the wheel guard—its shape, its size, how it is attached to the boat—will absolutely not fail. All these details may seem like little things—until you need them. I have been in some difficult and rough situations at sea, and when you are hanging on the end of a harness you are wondering, ‘Well, is the attachment point strong enough?’ With every decision on the J/65 I keep in mind that couples and families will be sailing this boat, and I never want them to wonder if the boat is strong enough and safe enough.

David Lake
J/65 Program Manager

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