Over the past 30 years, there have been many boats that have had an impact on sailing, but none of them have carried the shockwave of the J/24. This fast, stable 24 footer is undeniably the most popular racing keelboat in the world, with over 5200 built to date, in the USA, Italy and Argentina. The J/24 is raced in over 40 countries, with over 50,000 sailors involved in this One â€“ Design racing class.
The J/24 was first designed and built in the USA by Rod Johnstone in 1975 who wanted to build a fast, multi purpose boat that could compete under a variety of local racing rules and still be comfortable and stable enough to be used for weekend cruising. Such was the success of the very first J/24, â€śRagtimeâ€ť that soon the boats were in full production and dominating fleets everywhere with â€śRagtimeâ€ť providing the mould from which all of the following hulls were made. This spawned the formation of the Johnstone brothers company J Boats which now designs and produces a range of successful sailboat designs
The natural extension of the success of the J/24 was a one design fleet, with rules limiting the modifications that could be made to a standard production hull and rig to ensure that all racing J/24s were essentially the same, and that racing placed crew against crew with the emphasis on skill and teamwork rather than technology and money. While some of the worldâ€™s best sailors have the latest version J/24, a well prepared 1977 model, built to the same shape, weight and construction specifications, can still win the J24 Class World Championships. More than a type of boat, the J/24 represents a style of sailing.
The world â€“ wide acceptance of the J/24 design and the strong one â€“ design rules have led the J/24 to be selected as the platform for the International Sailing Federationâ€™s Nationâ€™s Cup, the ISAF Womenâ€™s World Match Racing Championship, the Rolex Womenâ€™s International Keelboat Championship, US Sailingâ€™s St. Francis International Masters Championship (ages 55+) and the Pan American Games.
There are two characteristics that have contributed to the international success of the J/24; simplicity and pure boat speed.
The J/24 is a tough, stiff boat with clean lines and lots of horsepower. It loves a breeze, upwind or down, and can carry a full complement of sails in 20 knots of wind. It is fast and nimble and is well adapted to the high intensity, close quarters style of fleet racing.
The fractional rig and powerful hull minimize sail inventory, and the strict one-design organization limits sophisticated rig changes and deck gear. The plain, flush deck leaves plenty of room for a racing crew of five.
All of this translates simply into more sailing fun and more speed for the buck!
The J/24 was first introduced to Barbados by Peter Hoad, who brought Jabulani to race with the local handicap fleets in 2005. He followed up by importing Rover (now Paddington) in 2006 and took part with some success in regattas in Barbados and throughout the Southern Caribbean where interest in these racing boats was also growing rapidly; so rapidly in fact that the J/24 class at Bequia Easter Regatta 2008 had eleven entries, despite three boats from Barbados not making the regatta due to bad weather.
The appeal of these relatively low cost, low maintenance boats and the close quarters, high intensity racing they encouraged spread rapidly, and by May of 2007 there were five J/24s in Barbados and as of May 2008 there are ten of these boats racing regularly and representing a resurgence in the sport of sailing in this country.
The J/24 fleet racing in the Mount Gay Regatta, the Harris Paints Regatta and the upcoming Audi J/24 National Championships should provide sailing fans and the general public with an opportunity to see these exciting boats in action.