Designed by Rod Johnstone and introduced in 1985, the J40 set the standard for fast cruisers. The boat can also be successfully raced, although point-to-point racing is it’s forte. This type of racing (or rally) offers one of the very few activities where groups of adults or a family can operate and learn true teamwork over a lifetime, and that seems to be most important facet of sailing that no one talks about. This is what we were looking for in a boat and our key was to a boat to facilitate that – the J40 was our choice and it fulfills the goal.
The J40 had a production run roughly until 1995 when it was updated as the J42. There are a few keel options, and some different wrinkles to the main cabin layout affecting settee, table and nav station, but all owners are treated to a delightfully easy to sail performance cruiser, with a surprising level of comfort below-decks. As bizarre as this may sound, the final “clinchers” for us were an aft head to hang wet gear in, so you weren’t dragging it through the boat, AND a generous bilge. If you have ever been out on the ocean for a few days or more, water gets in. With a shallow bilge boat, whatever is laying on the cabin sole will be soaked all the time.
Though the J42 was based on the same hull mold, enhancements included a 27″ taller mildly fractional mast for a larger main (headsails, spinnakers stayed the same), a “porch” added to the back of the hull mold for storage and an after-deck behind the helmsman, and updates to the rudder and keel. Carbon boom and mast options were also available. The engine was moved back under the companionway to open up the galley in the last few J40s and carried on in the J42, but requires the rudder to be removed for pulling the prop shaft. The beloved J40 bulkhead table was replaced with a more conventional setup. J/Boats experimented with the last few J40’s and there are variations of J42 interior/engine placement/deck layouts prior to the introduction of the follow-on ’42 version. Hull 83 has an unusual J39 style 7’11” keel and with the weight so low, it is 800 pounds lighter.
All the models are based around a fast hull design even by modern standards. More traditional heavier 40′ cruising designs will attain hull speed of around 7 knots and any additional speed will be hard to generate. BUT, that energy has to go somewhere, so most boats “load up”, and become difficult to handle. Conversely, a J40 will attain speeds of over 10 knots reaching and running without becoming ill-mannered.
The J42 continued as a very popular boat in both cruising and ocean racing circles for more than a decade of production after it was introduced. Though the J40-J42 does not sport the latest 2019 racing hull-form, a boat that just sails well is timeless.