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Southern Spars

The J Composites’ signature

by Tanguy Blondel on 12 May 2014
Jean-Marc Fontenot J Composites
The J Composites’ signature - Based in Les Sables d’Olonne, since 1994 the J Composites yard has been adapting and building the J Boats designed by the American Johnstone family. Completely independent and managed by Didier Le Moal, this company in the Vendée-region has, over the years, become a reference in terms of sailboats that are easy to sail and high performance for both cruising and racing. But what is J Composites’ recipe for success? We get the low-down from Jean-Marc Fontenot, head of production within the company…


1) How are the Js built in Olonne-sur-Mer?
Our sailboats are built using the resin infusion method. We have been experts in this particular technique since our creation. After adding a gel coat to the hull mould, which incorporates gel coat waterline strips, we lay the material over the whole mould. We then lay more directional material this time (dry lay-up) and foam (sandwich core), before finishing off with the internal layer. After that we infuse with a special resin using a bag spread over the mould. The resin migrates through the lay-up materials thanks to the vacuum. This technique enables increased stiffness, resistance and a consistent, guaranteed weight, which is important when you’re manufacturing one-designs.

2) The ballast, namely the keel, is also one of the yard’s specificities.
On each of our sailboats, all of which are fast, our focus is on reducing the centre of gravity as much as possible. For the J122E and the J111, our ballast is a mixture of cast iron and lead. On the smallest boats, it’s a mixture of stainless steel and lead. We attach a great deal of importance to the finish and matching of each craft. It is within this context that the ballast tanks are finished off as moulded composite shells or using a special resin infusion as a complete moulded unit.

3) Can you describe J’s different production phases, from the hull to the finish, to the joinery?
Initially, we commence with the ‘composite’ element of the hull, the deck, the bulkheads and the adjacent components. We’re talking infusion. We continue to use this technique, albeit rare, for the hull floor and the floor frames. The latter are infused at the same time as the hull. Secondly, we focus on the hull outlets such as the engine seacocks. Then we proceed with installing the engine and the implementation of the main joinery elements. Running concurrently to this process, we make advances with the deck whilst continuing to work on the deck hardware, the plumbing and the electrics. Finally, we assemble the hull, with reinforced lamination around the bulkheads. The final phase is the finishing off. We spend a great deal of time on it. It’s one of our trademarks.


4) J Composites has its own style. When you receive a Johnstone design, how do you adapt it to your European and even your Asian clientele?
For one-designs like the J70 or the J111, we don’t add anything to the design put forward by J Boats in the United States. However, on other craft like the J97, we rework numerous details, even though elementally the boats remain the same. Meantime the J122E is a boat that has been totally adapted by J Composites.

5) The deck layout is also an area that has been highly studied at your yard. How do you go about working it out?
We pay a great deal of attention to the elements that we don’t manufacture in-house. This is true for the deck hardware, which has to be faultless. We also attach considerable importance to the evolution of certain points so as to provide high performance sailboats. This is the case for elements like the jib furler, the top-quality pulley systems proposed and obviously the rigging.

6) Finally, how would you define a J Composites yacht?
Sailboats from J Composites are boats designed to sail in all weathers and all kinds of conditions for long periods. J Composites is synonymous with reliable, solid, high performance boats, which are of course comfortable.

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