by Schelleen Rathkopf

J/99 One Life; Photo: Arden Rathkopf

One Life racing at CYCs Center Sound Series, Blakely Rocks on March 7, 2020.
(Photo: Arden Rathkopf)

The J/99 short-handed, offshore monohull speedster is the new kid in town and catching the attention of sailboat racers and cruisers alike. The racing yacht is designed by Alan Johnstone and built by J/Boats, which started production in 2019 out of their Rhode Island facility. The newest addition to the J/Sport line, she is crew-friendly and offshore-capable, combining comfortable interior accommodations with the tiller-driven responsiveness of a sport boat. The interior features twin aft cabins, a proper sit-down forward facing nav station, an L-shaped galley, and a private forward head with sail locker.

“The J/99 opens up a wide range of sailing possibilities,” commented designer Alan Johnstone. “ The versatile sail plan, balanced hull form, and efficient cockpit will work as well for short-handed offshore sailing as for weekend sailing with friends. The J/99 packs a lot of performance and versatility into a manageable size and budget.”

Those who visited the Seattle Boat Show this past January may have spotted David Miller’s J/99 One Life featured in the Sail Northwest space. She was hard to miss with her hull’s striking custom design of bright swirling black and blue lines. I caught up with David Miller, and Ken Machtley, another new J/99 owner, to hear what they had to say about the new racy sailboat.

“Over the last couple of years, I fell in love with racing, single-handing, and cruising Puget Sound,” explains David Miller. “The J/99 is a race boat capable of being raced with just one person or a full crew. It’s also comfy enough down below with headroom and berths to cruise. I’d been looking at similar-sized boats from X-yachts, Elan, J/105s and J/109s. Then J/Boats sent out the design brief for the J/99 two years ago, and I pretty much fell in love at first sight.”

Ken Machtley, who many in the sailing community may know as the skipper of J/33 Dash, just purchased the new J/99 with his partner Stephanie Arnold. His boat is in production and expected to be delivered in early summer. “The size is good for our experience level and ambitions,” he shares. “The J/88 was too small, and the J/111 was larger than what we needed. We have the Martin 242 for buoy racing. The J/99 will be for double-handed races, plus crewed races we wouldn’t otherwise do on the Martin 242, like Round-the-County.”

One benefit of the J/99, in Machtley’s view, is the aluminum mast that may help keep maintenance and insurance costs down. “The non-overlapping headsail will make for easier tacks,” he explains, “and the headsail furler will make for much easier sail transitions. He also likes the cleaner cockpit, with no traveler to step over, and where lines are easier to manage. They’ve also added a refrigerator to their new J/99 because cold beer is a good thing!

J99 OneLifel Commissioning and Interior

In terms of racing options, David Miller was drawn to the sturdy autopilot and the specially designed mast with an option that frees him from fooling with boltropes. “I like the versatile sail plan and the water ballast was also a huge draw. For me, it’s all about its ability to allow me to choose crew —regardless of gender, age, and mobility—for their sailing expertise and not their mass. Hopefully, we’ll have the bugs worked out by the time Ken’s boat gets here!”

The big question on many racers’ minds is whether the J/99 will be the next One Design sweetheart in the Pacific Northwest. Currently, Machtley knows of three J/99s sold in our area. His boat, when delivered this summer, will primarily sail in the Bellingham and Orcas Island area. Miller’s One Life sails will fly in Seattle and the third J/99 was purchased by a skipper in Olympia. “There’s a lot of excitement around the new 2024 Olympics double-handed offshore event happening in Paris,” Machtley adds, “and a growing interest in double-handed racing in the region.”

Miller agrees about the growing interest in the 2024 Olympics and double-handed sailing events in general. “Double-hand racing is growing pretty much everywhere but on the West Coast, but I expect the J/99 to be a big player here.” Miller’s hope is that race organizers will incorporate double-handed races into the 2021 racing season plans. For scoring, the double-handers could race in their regular PHRF class, but also have a virtual class where all these competitors could also be scored together. “This is a little easier with condition adjusted rating systems, but I think all of us are laid back enough locally that we can adapt,” he says with a grin, “and yes, One Life is already registered for Point Roberts Race Week and is looking forward to it!”

J/99 SpecsSo far, Machtley is unaware of any One Design rules being formed. If the popularity of the J/99 grows as racers look for a boat they can both race competitively and cruise comfortably, this may all change.
Both Miller and Machtley purchased their new J/99s from Bob Ross and Ben Braden of Sail Northwest in Seattle and both had positive experiences. “I’m relatively new to sailing,” Miller explains, “and my first sail was just six years ago. In navigating the purchase of One Life, Bob and Ben were rocks that I leaned on heavily. They’ve been fabulous to work with, as has everyone in this process.”

“Prism Graphics brought what I had in my head for her hull art to life and I’m just thrilled how she looks. Josh Butler at Doyle Sails Seattle has been hugely helpful, and he will continue to be as we trailblaze J/99 sail and rig setup here in the Pacific Northwest’s light winds. CSR has also been amazing. Everyone at CSR truly treated One Life like their own boat and it shows inside and out.” CSR Marine is a boatyard in the Shilshole area of Seattle.

Machtley describes his experience working with Sail Northwest as, “Absolutely the best.” He first met Ben at Whidbey Island Race Week (now Point Roberts Race Week) a couple years ago, and met Bob this past January at the Seattle Boat Show. “Ben is quick to respond and very helpful,” he adds, “and Bob was very fair in negotiating for the boat and trade-in. I can’t think of anything more I’d want from a dealer and broker.”

The Dash

By Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth,
and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more,
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

To secure the J/99, Machtley and Arnold traded in their J/33 Dash. “We traded her in to Sail Northwest and she’s currently up for sale at their docks. We just did a brand-new bottom in December and the North 3Di sails are only a year old, so someone is going to get a sweet boat.”

The couple have decided to keep the name DashOne Life,” he says. The boat’s name refers to the poem The Dash by Linda Ellis as seen here to the left. The poem reminds us that what matters most in life is not the day we’re born or the day we die, but rather the time in between, the dash on the gravestone. This is where we really live and in the end, we only have one life.

To learn more about the J/99, visit sailnorthwest.com or check out David Miller’s blog at onelife99.com.

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