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Exploring The Rapid Growth Of The PNW J/70 Fleet

June 30, 2023 by jarndt
J/70 racing in the Pacific Northwest. Photo: 48 North

Joe Cline, managing editor of Pacific Northwest magazine, 48 North, wrote this story about success of the fun in the local J/70 fleet.

Let’s start with two facts. One, the J/70 — a 22.75-foot sport boat from J/Boats which debuted in 2012 — has quickly grown into one of the world’s most popular one-design keelboats, with more than 1,500 boats sailing worldwide. And two, I’m not selling them.

While fleets exploded in many sailing hotspots around the United States during the 20-teens, the Pacific Northwest stayed eerily quiet. Since 2020, however, the winds have shifted, and the local fleet is growing at an eye-popping rate. First there were six J/70s in the San Juan Islands, then 10 — calling themselves “the J/Pod.” Then, I heard about one or two headed to Hood River. And after years of murmurs with little action, the chips fell just so in Seattle… and the rest is swiftly becoming history. The Pacific Northwest is now home to 34 J/70s actively racing, with many owners sensing the sudden critical mass, and wanting to get in on the ground floor of the local fleet. This is newsworthy on its own merits, but how and why this fleet is growing deserves deeper exploration.

It’s not as if the J/70 was completely off the radar of Pacific Northwest sailors. In fact, this is a good time to ‘out’ myself as someone who poured a tall glass of J/70 Kool-Aid once before. In the year the boat was first built, a friend bought J/70 hull #19 from the initial truckload that came to the area. All four of these boats were sold, and our boat raced regularly; but we mustered a four-boat one-design fleet only once in two seasons of trying. Befuddled at how the fleet wasn’t taking off here as it was in so many other venues, we had some fun and flailed a bit as we tried to learn how to sail the boat well, racing PHRF or straight-up against J/80s. After a couple of seasons, motivation waned and I went off chasing different racing dreams. Other than noting the ginormous fleets sailing at very high levels on the national and international stage, I haven’t thought much about the J/70 in the intervening years.

Still, I perked-up when I heard that a fleet in the islands seemingly materialized out of nowhere, observing with cautious optimism driven by the same interests that drew me in a decade ago. And that’s where this story takes its more interesting turn. One that has me sipping a “slooper size” stein of J/70 Kool-Aid once more, but for notably different reasons.

Enter Ron Rosenberg. It’s not right to say this is all Ron’s doing, but there’s no way to discuss the PNW’s J/70 fleet boom in the last few years without acknowledging that Ron is at the center of it. Indeed, he’s the newly-elected fleet captain, but he’s a whole lot more than that.

Read the rest of the story in 48 North.

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