"We figure that of our 5,000 owners and the 50,000 people who sail with them, a certain percent eventually say, 'I've had enough racing. I just want to go out and cruise,' " says Bob. For that percent, the J/38 will be waiting.
The leap the Johnstones made into the IOR (International Offshore Rule) market with the J/41 and the J/34, a new IOR model that hit the water March 20 with 24 already sold, was philosophically difficult. The IOR is a mathematical formula for handicapping boats of various sizes so they can race on an equal footing. The rule makes certain assumptions about what makes a boat go fast; therefore, the job of an IOR designer is to fool the rule, to make the numbers think the boat is slower than it actually is, thereby lowering its handicap. The process is called "taking advantage of the rule," and it does not necessarily produce the fastest or the most economical boat. It produces an IOR boat intended for racing other IOR boats.
"The IOR boat is something of an anachronism, like a 1958 Cadillac with tail fins," says Rod. "They are not that fast for their size and sail area, and they are hard to sail. They require a lot of people to get the most out of them. Our J/35, which wasn't designed to the IOR, sells for less than half what the J/41 sells for and is about the same speed around the course. The only problem is, under the IOR it rates about three feet higher and is not competitive. It's crazy, but that's just the rule."
IOR racing, however, is the grand prix level of ocean racing, and a designer of high-performance sailboats like Rod Johnstone needs a track record in events such as the SORC to maintain his high-performance image. Reluctant though he may be, thanks to Charlie Scott and Smiles, Rod Johnstone is now an established IOR designer. Just as the J/24 carried his name out of the ponds and bays and into ocean racing, the J/41 has carried it into the big time.