Resources for Buying a Used J/Boats Sailboat
When most sailors meet a J/Boat owner, their first question is, "Do you need crew?"
If you’re looking for a boat to sail around the world, be prepared to shell out some cash for one of J/Boats larger racer/cruisers. But if you’re like most people and are looking for a fast, fun, easy-to-sail boat that will hold its value over time, be sure to keep an eye out for used J/Boats. While the majority of the models have relatively sparse interiors and are set up for club racing, they still serve as great weekenders and many can be trailered to your favorite sailing spot.
A lot of sailing schools use J/Boats because they "do what a sailboat should do." The decks are clean and the lines are well organized, but what makes J/Boats such good learning boats is their responsiveness to fine tuning. Sailors the world over appreciate the ease at which sails and controls can be tuned for a wide variety of weather conditions. For example, if you’re used to sailing boats that require a huge adjustment to the boom-vang to spill some wind, you will love the way all the control lines on a J/Boat create subtle but noticeable effects on boat performance.
In 1975, Rod Johnstone started building a 24’ racer/cruiser in his garage. By 1977 he was beating every sailboat on the racecourse with his new J/24 named Ragtime. The mold from Ragtime would live on to be used as the master mold for every J/24 to follow.
Some 35 years later, Rod and his brother Bob have helped the J/24 become the most popular One-Design keelboat in the world. Taking the helm from their parents in 1988, the next generation of Johnstones have run the day to day operations of the company, helping to grow it into one of the dominant sailboat manufacturers in the industry.
With over 5,400 boats built to date serving roughly 150 fleets in 40 countries, the J/24 is the perfect blend of weekend cruiser and competitive racer. The modern J/24 has not changed much over the years due to the strict adherence to One-Design specifications. By committing to building One-Design boats, J/Boats have built thousands of identical boats over several decades, which means that every new boat built must follow the same specifications as an older boat. This formula has led to a reputation that a J/24 from the 1970’s can beat a brand new boat right off the production line. Imagine racing your 1981 sailboat and beating someone who just spent more than $20k on a newer model. That’s what One-Design sailing is all about.
The company has gone on to build dozens of popular models, including the very successful J/22, J/24, J/29, J/80, and J/105 models. Newer designs are generally based on improving an older model, and what makes J/Boats so successful is their commitment to One-Design boats, and their passion for continued support and investment in building large worldwide fleets.
Due to the higher number of boats produced per year and the wide variety of models offered, modern J/Boats are built by eight different manufacturers around the globe. This allows each individual manufacturer to focus on building one or two models instead of attempting to build all their boats in a single facility. This improves overall quality, keeps costs down, and allows boats to be built closer to the geographic areas in which they are sold. J/Boats represents one of the most popular One-Design brand of sailboats in the world and has built dozens of distinct models of sailboats since the 1970s.
With hundreds of racing fleets around the world, J/Boats is behind some of the most popular and successful sailing events around. Since 1981, they have also been running The Performance Sailing School, which has trained over 30,000 sailors. Classes are currently taught in Annapolis, Key West, Newport, San Diego and San Francisco.
Buying and Selling J/Boats
Fortunately, there is a very active market for buying and selling used J/Boats. The prices vary from as little as a thousand dollars all the way up to six figures for a newer boat, but what is important to know is that older J/Boats hold their value very well. A well maintained J/24 from the early eighties can still fetch as much as $10,000, so don’t assume that old boat isn’t worth much.
You’re not likely to find the interior cabin trimmed out in teak, particularly on the smaller J/Boats, but what they lack in cabin amenities, they make up for in sailing performance and handling. The majority of J/Boats (particularly those under 30’) are primarily day-sailors and racers, usually having cabins that accommodate up to four people; think racer/weekend cruiser with a minimalist interior and cabin.
With dozens of models produced since the mid 1970s, J/Boats represent the largest keelboat racing class in the world. They have been building beautiful 40’+ racer/cruisers in more recent years, but the company got started building smaller, lightweight high performance sailboats and has remained committed to its original fleets and One-Design philosophy.
With so many boats on the water, finding parts and supplies is usually a simple web search away, making repairs and maintenance as easy as it gets in the sailing world. If you find what looks like a good deal on an older J/Boat, pay close attention, as just a bit of TLC can translate to a quick and profitable return on your investment.
When shopping for older J/Boats, look for those that are still sound but may have cosmetic defects and thus not show well. The cost to spruce her up is likely negligible in comparison with the increased sale price you can achieve. If it’s a more expensive model, do your homework and consider hiring a marine surveyor before committing to the deal.
J-Boats turn up most wherever there are active racing programs. A high concentration of J-Boats can be found in the Annapolis, Maryland area and surrounding towns. Annapolis Yacht Club and Eastport Yacht Club have been home to some large class associations as well as Bermuda Race entries.
The narrower the search parameters, the more patience will generally be required. For example, if you are looking for a J-30, the Hometown Annapolis classifieds may hit paydirt, but only twice a year. If you expand that to include 22′s, 24′s, 35′s, etc., then obviously there will be more to choose from – and much greater frequency.
Here are a few of the more common models you will likely encounter when shopping for a used J/Boat for sale.
J/22: Length Overall (LOA) of 22.5 feet / 6.86 meters
1600+ built since 1983
Fast, responsive and easy to sail, the J/22 can be crewed by 2-4 people and is a very popular fleet boat in many sailing clubs throughout the world. Weighing in at under 2,000 pounds, this boat is light enough to trailer to a sailing event and is light enough for a good crew to roll tack it as if it were a collegiate racing boat.
J/24: Length Overall (LOA) of 24.0 ft / 7.32 meters
5400+ built since 1975
The workhorse of the sailing industry, the J/24 has probably taught more people to sail and participated in more sailing events than any other boat out there. They are a pleasure to sail and are fast, nimble boats that are perfect for both inland lake sailing and fair-weather coastal cruising.
If you’re thinking about buying a used J/24, be sure to check out the excellent J-24 Used Boat Buyer’s Guide. The page is a little outdated but still offers valuable advice about boat evaluation.
J/29: Length Overall (LOA) of 29.0 ft / 8.84 meters
289 built between 1982 and 1987
More racer than cruiser, this 30’ boat from J/Boats is light on accommodations but heavy on performance and speed. Keeping an eye on safety, this big sister to the J/24 competes with far heavier boats, and while no longer in production, they still bring in very good prices thanks to active fleet races in certain parts of the world.
J/80: Length Overall (LOA) of 26.3 ft / 8.02 meters
1,350 built since 2001
As one of the best selling racing boats in the U.S. and Europe, the J/80 is an offshore powerhouse. Reaching speeds near 20 knots downwind and rated to withstand 4 foot waves and 40+ knots of wind, there’s a good chance this boat will get you to the finish line first.
J/105: Length Overall (LOA) of 34.5 ft / 10.52 meters
720+ built since 1992
J/Boats markets the J/105 as the best all around value in terms of safety, speed and comfort. While not a true bluewater sailboat, the J/105 is fast and smooth over big waves. The J/105 also serves as an early example of J/Boats use of cutting edge technology, such as an asymmetrical spinnaker and a retractable bowsprit, making it an ideal boat for shorthanded sailing.
If you’re ready to buy a J/Boat for personal pleasure, racing, or as an investment, you will find our feature publications on how to buy a sailboat, how to sell a sailboat, and how to start a sailboat flipping business indispensable. Clicking on the link will apply a discount to all the guides.