As readers know, I love sailing and reviewing unique boats — especially boats that I’ve had a chance to give a real test. And there’s no better way to test a boat than by racing her in a variety of conditions and on the ocean. That being the case, this boat review has been a long time coming. As mainsail trimmer and relief helmsman aboard the J/145 Double Take (DT) for several years, including two Round the County races and the entire 2015 Van Isle 360 (read a race recap here), I’ve long thought about what I’d type when it came time to write a review of a boat that I have an incredible amount of admiration for. Well, here it is.
From behind Double Take’s large wheel, I glanced astern every few seconds to watch as the sun dropped over the seemingly endless Pacific horizon. Soon after, we were sailing fast in the pitch dark somewhere between Winter Harbour and Ucluelet, British Columbia and I felt like I could be steering with my eyes closed. As we surfed down the face of a wave and were picked by the next one, the helm was light and the spinnaker trimmers were keeping us working in concert with the 20-plus knot breeze.
Besides the dark silhouettes of my crew mates and a smattering of stars, the gentle glow of the B&G instruments was all I could see for hours on end as I steered; playing with the numbers like a video game to see how fast I could get the boat to go — 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 knots. And when it was time to relinquish my grip on the wheel, it was with reluctance that I peeled my fingers from it’s leather covering.
Double Take always has a grip on those who sail her, and I was no exception.
A Capable Cruiser
When delivering Double Take up to Nanaimo for the start of the Van Isle 360, the three-person crew we had aboard felt like we were in more of a cruising mode than anything. The B&G autopilot ably kept us on course as we tracked north and with ample space down below and on deck, it felt like we were on vacation. Indeed, we were.
The design directive of the J/145 wasn’t all about being a pure racing boat. It was J Boats intent to make the 48-footer an adept cruiser as well. Designer Rod Johnstone had this exact transformation capability in mind when creating the J/145. They wanted her to be just as capable on the race course as she was while cruising, and to have the ability to switch modes from one to the other in a relatively painless way.
The saloon is spacious enough to sleep four comfortably and each bunk has lee cloths that come in handy while underway. A drop leaf table is easily affixed to the teak and holly cabin sole and there is tons of storage under the pilot berths, which is accessed through the seat backs. The blue ultrasuede cushions show little wear and the overall feel of the space is of a cruising boat, rather than a racer.
Aft of the saloon and to port is a U-shaped galley with double sinks on centerline and a large, top-loading reefer. There is plenty of storage throughout and, with a crew of up to 12 aboard for the VI360, we needed every square inch of it.
To starboard is the navigation station that is setup for sailing as far as you want to go. The desktop is plenty big and within reach you’ve got a VHF, SSB, Furuno chartplotter, Sat phone, Northstar chartplotting GPS, tank tender, digital barometer and Xantrex battery monitor/controller. Also, with the ability to plugin a laptop to a single USB for computer navigation, weather routing and sat comms, there is little else you could add to this space.
Aft of the nav station is the starboard aft cabin. This is another double berth and with a split cushion, a lee cloth comes up to separate the bunk while at sea. There is a large hanging locker to starboard and a delivery/cruising fuel bladder is housed under the bunk.
To port and aft of the galley is the other head, which is larger than the forward one. Finished in white, it is easy to keep clean and there is ample storage for toiletries. What’s unique about this head is that it is also the walkthrough to the “garage”, which is found farther aft through a door. Also accessible from the cockpit, this large storage space can accommodate safety gear, lines, bikes, sails or whatever cruising toys you might want to fit aboard. It’s also home to the boat’s watermaker.
When it comes to cruising, the J/145 has enough space and accommodations for a couple or full crew to travel in comfort.
A Thoroughbred Performer
Around the Pacific Northwest, Double Take’s racing pedigree and history of success is fairly well known. To her credit, she’s earned two class wins in the TransPac, a first overall and first to finish in the Vic-Maui Race and took third in the 2015 Van Isle 360, to name a few. And many other J/145s have been successful the world over including trophies at Key West Race Week, the Fastnet Race, Port Huron-Mac Race, RORC Season Championship and a third place finish in the Sydney Hobart Race.
Build-wise, DT is unlike any other J/145. During construction, her original owner hired a manager to oversee the build of the boat and, in doing that, he assured no corners were cut and that certain areas, such as the winch pads, were overbuilt. What resulted is a remarkably stiff boat that has aged well and performs exceptionally in any amount of breeze. Whether it was beating into 35-plus knots in Johnstone Strait, reaching fast on the Pacific Ocean or gliding smoothly past boats on the glassy waters of Georgia Strait, I’ve seen DT pretty much do it all. She’s impressive upwind and down, and when a mere zephyr was all we’ve had to make her go, it’s remarkable how well she moved.
DT’s ergonomic cockpit and deck layout is a plus for the performance-minded, as the helmsman and mainsail trimmer can sit comfortably side-by-side and out of the way of those trimming headsails. While shorthanded, a single crewmember can work the cockpit forward of the wheel and traveler without a whole lot of fuss, and when not racing, the electric winches are extremely helpful when hoisting and trimming sails.
When switching modes, Double Take goes from cruising to racing in various ways. Her dodger can be removed, as can a carbon fiber radar pole and radar. The forward cabin cushions can be removed in order to transform it into a large sail locker for the various performance headsails and spinnakers that come with the boat — which are almost too many to list (go here for more).
Overall, Double Take is a flat out fast boat that is a blast to sail.
Choose your own adventure
Racer? Cruiser? If had my pick, I’d do both. But it’s up to you. Double Take is well suited for those who are looking to race across the horizon, around the buoys or around the county. I’m obviously bias here in that she is exceptionally fun to be on fully crewed in any sort of race, because I’ve been one of the crew. But that also means I know the boat better than most, and can say with full confidence that her next owner and crew will not be disappointed.
As a cruiser, Double Take will be a boat that can sail fast from point to point in any amount of breeze, even with a shorthanded crew. Her accommodations will make you feel at home and the amount of space down below, in the cockpit and on deck will allow for a family or group of friends to comfortably cruise for days or even weeks. Or, as J Boats aptly put it, “The J/145 is the answer for those who seek grace and elegance in their cruising comforts…but not at the cost of performance.”
The bottom line is that when you climb aboard DT and get her sails up in any amount of wind, you won’t want to let go of that wheel — I certainly didn’t.