(From the owners James and Sally)
Why the J/45? After successfully racing our J/122 JAVELIN in IRC we decided it was time for a change of pace but not a slow one. We wanted a boat that could put the miles under the keel easily but be comfortable and enjoyable to sail. The boat needed to enable us to spend weeks away from marinas and be self-sufficient on anchor. We live in Queensland, Australia and have intentions of cruising the boat long distances into the South Pacific as well as some relaxed racing.
The Queensland coast is tropical, isolated, beautiful and at times there are many miles between safe anchorages. So far, we’ve been able to make anchor sooner than expected on our route planning. We left Brisbane in late May and have been cruising the Coral Coast for 4 months, finishing up doing Hamilton Island Race Week before heading home.
The Whitsunday Islands are a beautiful group of islands with many bays and inlets to suit all weather conditions. We also cruised out to the Great Barrier Reef with friends on board. Isolated with water surrounding us and magic corals and tropical fish below the surface. Magnificent sunrise and sunsets over the turquoise water only accessible by boat. We found we could easily make a 65 -70 nm passage in civilized daylight hours just sailing and using a minimum amount of motoring. The boat would consistently do 3kts boat speed in 3kts of wind, 4kts in 4, 5 in 5, up to 8 kts then our average cruising speed under sail was about 8kts boat speed depending on the point of sail and sea state.
SASSAFRAS has an Axxon carbon mast and boom, 75 HP Volvo turbo engine. SASSAFRAS is fully equipped with solar power, water maker, radar and the all important shade provided by the bimini and dodger and of course a BBQ. We carry a full cruising payload of approximately 2 tonnes including 2 anchors and ground tackle. She carries a full wardrobe of North Sails 3DI Ocean sails: J 1-2 furling headsail, J 3-4 furling inner jib, slab reefed main with 3 reefs, single line coming back to the cockpit, an A2 190 Sqm spinnaker in a sock, a furling Code 65 for long distance light winds and a storm jib. Experimenting with various combinations of the mainsail, headsails and staysail found us being more adventurous with how much sail we could have up and the boat would still answer with a stable forgiving helm. So far we’ve sailed her most of her 4,300nm since commissioning in October 2022.
So, what about the racing? In the past we’ve successfully run a fully crewed 8-9 crew J/122 with specialist positions and a highly competitive attitude. We’ve also done our share of 2 handed racing on the J/122. We wanted a different racing experience for this boat, one of relaxed friends and family racing. So our crew for Hamilton Island Race week consisted of 5: one long-time friend and his 15 year old daughter, another friend (the new owner of our previous boat J/122 JAVELIN) plus ourselves.
Arriving to the buzz of HIRW is always exciting, over 150 boats racing around the Whitsunday Islands. We entered Hamilton Island Class which is for cruising boats, not IRC racers but found ourselves in a ‘cruising’ division with 2 Welbourns, 3 Farr 40s, a Sydney 39, XP 50, Marten 49, Beneteau First 50 etc. We could only take this as a complement from the handicappers that they thought that’s where the J/45 should be.
We wanted a relaxed week where we race in the day, and retreat to ‘our apartment’ below decks with our crew to enjoy dinner and sleep on the boat. As a ‘cruising boat’ our statement was to remove none of it for racing.
HIRW is typically a light wind regatta, however this week put out several days of 20-25kts SE trade winds to contend with. The first 3 day’s racing allowed us to run with the spinnaker and we enjoyed a reasonable position in the fleet whilst the crew got to know the boat. Lay-day saw SASSAFRAS take family and friends to the idyllic Whitehaven Beach to enjoy a day of sailing, eating and swimming. Day 4 of racing greeted us with 20-25 Kts gusting 28 and we decided it was the better part of seamanship to leave the spinnaker in the bag and go under main and headsail to race.
The fleet lined up on the western end of the line with aggressive start maneuvering for their downwind spinnaker start on starboard. We took the other end of the line, starting on port away from the fray and won the start as well as beating several racing boats to the first mark. After the top of Dent Island on a spinnaker start it is always a spectacle to see the fleet of spinnakers and then the action when the wind bends around the island and the boats either successfully manage the forward wind shift or broach wildly. SASSAFRAS continued on this downwind leg, spinnaker free, with J1 and full main in 20-25kts reaching boat speeds of 13kts. We rounded White Rock and left no time on the course, up to Denman Island and another lap of that saw us screeching along giving it to the rest of the fleet. As we rounded Denman Island for the second time, to windward we reefed the main from the cockpit to the first reef using our single line reefing system, losing no time. We all know every boat has its day and we were delighted with a 1st Place on handicap in this race which allowed SASSAFRAS to show her potential.
Our plans for the next cruising season include more adventurous passages to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We may even participate in a regatta or 2 in those locations.
Repost from J Boats Australia
Copyright photos : Sassafras owner / Catherine Beck