• New Sailboats
  • Sailboats 21-30ft
  • Sailboats 31-35ft
  • Sailboats 36-40ft
  • Sailboats Over 40ft
  • Sailboats Under 21feet
  • used_sailboats
  • Apps and Computer Programs
  • Communications
  • Fishfinders
  • Handheld Electronics
  • Plotters MFDS Rradar
  • Wind, Speed & Depth Instruments
  • Anchoring Mooring
  • Running Rigging
  • Sails Canvas
  • Standing Rigging
  • Diesel Engines
  • Off Grid Energy
  • Cleaning Waxing
  • DIY Projects
  • Repair, Tools & Materials
  • Spare Parts
  • Tools & Gadgets
  • Cabin Comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Footwear Apparel
  • Foul Weather Gear
  • Mailport & PS Advisor
  • Inside Practical Sailor Blog
  • Activate My Web Access
  • Reset Password
  • Customer Service

j24 sailboat review

  • Free Newsletter

j24 sailboat review

Pearson 37 and 37-2 Used Boat Review

Keep an eye out for corroded exhaust and signs of water intrusion, which could lead to expensive repairs in the future.

DIY Survey Checklist for Used-Boat Buying

j24 sailboat review

Valiant 40: Reshaping the Cruising Hull

j24 sailboat review

Bristol Channel Cutter 28: Circumnavigator’s Choice

Irwin Vise-Grip Wire Stripper. (Photo/ Adam Morris)

Best Crimpers and Strippers for Fixing Marine Electrical Connectors

600-watt solar panel system on Summer Twins 28 sailing catamaran Caribbean Soul 2. (Photo/ Clifford Burgess)

Thinking Through a Solar Power Installation

j24 sailboat review

How Does the Gulf Stream Influence our Weather?

A lithium conversion requires a willing owner and a capable craft. Enter the Privilege 435 catamaran Confianza.

Can You Run a Marine Air-Conditioner on Battery Power?

j24 sailboat review

Practical Sailor Classic: The Load on Your Rode

j24 sailboat review

Anchor Rodes for Smaller Sailboats

j24 sailboat review

Ground Tackle Inspection Tips

j24 sailboat review

Shoe Goo II Excels for Quick Sail Repairs

When starting lights up the tester, that means your spark plug is good. (Photo/ David Corrao)

Dinghy Outboard Diagnostics

This Perkins M20, 3 cyl, 18hp diesel engine is cleaned, inspected and antifreeze flushed after a winter on the hard. Due to proper prep for both winter and spring, it is now running smoothly. (Photo/ Marc Robic)

Spring Season Engine Start-Up for Winterized Engines

j24 sailboat review

Solutions for a Stinky Holding Tank

j24 sailboat review

Diesel Performance Additives

With a few inexpensive materials and a bit of patience, you can redo the vinyl lettering on your boat yourself. (Photo/ Marc Robic)

Vinyl Boat Lettering DIY Application and Repair

Little things that are hardly necessary but nice to have start in the galley.

Those Extras you Don’t Need But Love to Have

Hidden Maintenance Problems: Part 3 – Gremlins in the Electrics

j24 sailboat review

Three-Model BBQ Test

j24 sailboat review

Alcohol Stoves— Swan Song or Rebirth?

j24 sailboat review

Living Aboard with an Alcohol Stove

j24 sailboat review

Preparing Yourself for Solo Sailing

j24 sailboat review

How to Select Crew for a Passage or Delivery

j24 sailboat review

Preparing A Boat to Sail Solo

j24 sailboat review

Re-sealing the Seams on Waterproof Fabrics

j24 sailboat review

Chafe Protection for Dock Lines

Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

j24 sailboat review

Reducing Engine Room Noise

j24 sailboat review

Tricks and Tips to Forming Do-it-yourself Rigging Terminals

marine toilet test

Marine Toilet Maintenance Tips

  • Sailboat Reviews

The right boat at the right time, the J/24 has proven to be a wildly successful one-design racer.

j24 sailboat review

The J/24 is one of those boats that happened along at just the right time, with the right marketing to a ready market. Some may wonder whether the tale of her success would make a better textbook or a better storybook. Either way, much of the marine industry has studied her story, and then flattered her with the praise of emulation. However, no imitation or variation of the J/24 has yet to achieve her popularity.

Since her humble beginnings in 1976 in the garage of an amateur designer, thousands of boats have been sold from factories in Rhode Island, California, Australia, Japan, Italy, England, France, Brazil and Argentina. All of the builders are licensed by a company called J-Boats to build the J/24 to strict one-design tolerances. J-Boats is owned and run by two brothers—Bob and Rod Johnstone (the J in J-Boats).

Bob is the marketing whiz and Rod is the designer. Conservative estimates put their total revenue from the J/24, after buying the boats from the builders and selling them to the dealers, at several million dollars. Not bad considering how it all began….

Ragtime was a 24′ inspiration evolved by Rod Johnstone and his family in their garage as a two-year weekend project. Rod was a salesman for a marine publication, and an avid racer with a successful background in high-performance one designs. He had undertaken, but never completed, the Westlawn home-study course in naval architecture (although he has since been awarded an honorary degree so the school could use his name in its advertisements). Ragtime was launched in 1976, and was an instant winner, taking 17 firsts in 19 starts in eastern Connecticut. People began asking for their own boats.

At this time, brother Bob, also a respected racer, was working in the marketing department of AMF Alcort (Sunfish, Paceship, etc.). When Alcort declined to produce the J/24, Bob quit and formed JBoats. Tillotson-Pearson, builder of the Etchells 22 and the Freedom line of boats, was more receptive and production began in 1977. The first J/24s were as fast as Ragtime , and dominated regattas like the 1977 MORC Internationals. Bob made sure that the favorable results were well publicized; more than 200 boats were sold that year, and nearly 1,000 the next.

It was a big hit for a number of reasons. She moved into a void, appealing to two groups of sailors who were ripe for her type of racing: those who had outgrown athletic small boats, yet still yearned for the competition of one-design racing, and those who wished to compete without the expense, hassles and uncertainties of handicap racing.

The J/24 is a one design’s one design. Like the Laser, Windsurfer, and Hobie Cat, she is proprietary-built under the supervision of one company. Unlike most proprietary one designs, sails are not provided by the J/24’s builder. This was a particularly astute move by the Johnstones as it involved sailmakers in the class. Sailmakers comprise many of the big names in racing; by getting them in the regatta results, the Johnstones added instant credibility to the J/24’s budding status as a “hot” class. By the midwinter championship in 1979, almost every boat in the top 15 finishers had a sailmaker on board.

The big advantage that proprietary one designs have over “independent” one designs (classes with competing builders) is the power of centralized, bigbucks promotion. J-Boats has organized and promoted regattas, and had a heavy hand in running the class association. J/24s got a lot of press, thanks to JBoats. Full color, multi-page advertisements appeared monthly in the slick sailing magazines. Promotion has been primary; money is no object. J/24s have been donated for several high visibility USYRU championships. Big discounts have been given for fleet purchases (sometimes to effectively crush interest in competing one designs).

With the help of British enthusiasts, the Johnstones were able to make the J/24 an IYRU (International Yacht Racing Union) recognized class. More international lobbying got the J/24 into the Pan American Games.

There are some disadvantages to proprietary one designs. First, the class is in a real bind if the builder goes bankrupt. Likewise if the builder should ever abuse his power by ignoring class administration or changing construction of the boat to suit economic demands. Although a proprietary builder faces competition from other types of boats, there is no competition building his boat. This can inflate the price, especially when there are three substantial markups in the pricing structure (builder, J-Boats, and the dealer).


The J/24 has the distinct advantage of having been produced in great numbers and been subjected to the rigors of hard racing. It’s safe to say that nearly everything that could have broken, has broken, and that the J/24 is now almost bulletproof. J-Boats has done a commendable job in correcting nearly all of the “bugs” in the J/24. However, if you are planning to purchase a boat several years old you should be watchful for some of the old bugs.

Boats built during the first two years of production had particular problems with leaking along the hull-to-deck joint, delamination of the main bulkhead, and the attachment of the keel to the hull. The hull-to-deck leak was due to failure of the silicone sealant in the joint.

The inward-turning hull flange is overlapped by the deck, which is bedded in sealant and through-bolted at close intervals through a teak toe rail. Now this joint is bedded with 3M 5200, a pliable strong adhesive, and leaks are infrequent. Fortunately, the internal side of the joint is exposed throughout the boat’s interior, so recaulking is not difficult.

Harder to rectify is the problem of delamination of the main bulkhead. J/24s are raced hard, often with substantial rig tension. The chainplates pierce the deck and are bolted to the main bulkhead. The plywood bulkhead is tabbed with fiberglass to the hull and deck. The mast is stepped through the deck and sits on an aluminum beam, which is also tabbed to the main bulkhead. Rig tension pulls upward on the bulkhead while mast compression pushes downward on the beam, resulting in tremendous shearing forces on the bulkhead and its tabbing.

On some of the older J/24s, the plywood has delaminated, letting the mast “sink” 1/4 inch or more. Owners of these boats have either returned them to the factory for replacement of the bulkhead, or ground off the delamination and reglassed the bulkhead themselves. The builder now uses a better grade of plywood and installs screws to reinforce the bulkhead tabbing. As an added precaution, the boat owner may wish to bolt the mast-bearing beam to the bulkhead with an angle-iron.

The third problem with some of the older J/24s is the keel-to-hull attachment. The builder used to fill the keel sump with a vermiculite mixture of resin and plant fiber. The keel bolts were fastened through the vermiculite which, when saturated with water, is less rigid than solid laminations of fiberglass. After several years of sailing, or a hard grounding, the keel bolts would begin to work, and the keel would loosen enough to be able to be wobbled by hand with the boat suspended from a hoist. The first sign of this problem is the appearance of a crack along the keel stub. Tightening of the keel bolts, which are quality stainless steel, is a simple but temporary fix. What is needed is a backing plate for the bolts, bedded on top of the vermiculite.

There was a variety of other problems with early J/24s: The mast has three internal halyards; two jib halyards exit below the headstay with the spinnaker halyard above. On the older boats, a large square hole was cut in the mast to accommodate the sheaves, leaving an open, poorly supported space adjacent to the spinnaker sheave. This is sometimes the source of mast cracks; the fix is to weld a plate over it.

In January of 1980, the J/24 got much-improved companionway and forward hatches. The hatches on older boats were molded of thin fiberglass, and had a tendency to leak and fracture under the weight of heavy crew members. The new forward hatches are lexan, and the companionway hatch is now much heavier with a lower profile.


The J/24’s rudder is heavy and strong. The builder claims you can hang a 900 pound keel from the rudder tip without breaking it. Although the J/24’s rudder pintles appear more than adequate, after several years of use they have been known to develop corrosion cracks where the pintle is welded to its strap. In 1981, the builder began equipping J/24s with weldless pintles; the builder also offers the new system as a replacement for old boats.

The starboard chainplate bolts through both the bulkhead and the hull liner. The port chainplate bolts through only the bulkhead. After the first two years of production, the port bulkhead was reinforced with fiberglass in the chainplate area. On earlier boats, a backing plate should be added to prevent the chainplate bolts from elongating their holes.

The hull and deck of the J/24 are cored with balsa, which makes them stiff, light, quiet and relatively condensation-free. We have heard of occasional delaminations resulting from trailering with improperly adjusted poppets. The Kenyon mast section is the same as that used on the Etchells 22, a bigger boat. It is more than adequate for any strength of wind.

The J/24 does not have positive flotation, and she has been known to capsize in severe conditions. This is usually not a problem as she floats on her side with the companionway well out of the water. However, should the leeward cockpit locker fall open, water can rush below, filling the cabin and causing her to sink. While fastening the lockers in heavy weather prevents the problem, the manufacturer began to seal off the lockers from the cabin with an additional bulkhead several years ago, as a safety measure.

Of the 2,500 J/24s sold in the US, nearly 2,000 of them have been built by Tillotson-Pearson in Rhode Island. The others were built by Performance Sailcraft in San Francisco, which is now defunct. New boats are now shipped cross country. Top west coast sailors tell us they favor the east coast built boats, claiming the keels and rudders on the west coast built boats are too thick to be competitive. The west coast keels are thick because they are covered with injection-molded gelcoat. Tillotson-Pearson fairs the keels with auto body putty.

Handling Under Sail

The J/24’s PHRF rating ranges from 165 to 174, depending on the handicapper. She rates as fast as or faster than a C&C 30, Santana 30, or Pearson 30. One must remember that, because the J/24 has attracted competent owners, her PHRF rating is probably somewhat inflated. While the J/24 is an excellent training boat because she is so responsive, a beginning racer may have an especially hard time making her perform to her PHRF rating.

Aside from her speed, the J/24’s greatest asset is her maneuverability. With her stern hung rudder she can be turned in her own length, sculled out to a mooring in light air, and brought to a screeching halt by jamming the rudder over 90 degrees.

The J/24 has a narrow “groove;” it takes a lot of concentration to keep her going at top speed. She is sensitive to backstay trim, sheet tension, weight placement and lower shroud tension. The lower shrouds act like running backstays, because they are anchored aft of the mast. They must be loosened in light air to create some headstay sag, and then tightened in heavy air to straighten the mast, making backstay tension more effective in removing the sag.

Sheet tension is also critical. Top crews rarely cleat the genoa sheets, having one crewmember hold the tail while hiking from the rail. Some of the best sailors even lead the jib to the weather winch so the sail can be trimmed without sending crew weight to leeward.

The class rules allow you to race with a mainsail, a 150% genoa, a working jib and a single spinnaker. This makes sail selection simple and the inventory affordable (about $2,600 total). However, the one genoa must carry the boat all the way from a flat calm up to 20 knots or more. To be competitive in light air, the genoa must be full; yet to hold the boat level with this full genoa in a strong breeze, you need a lot of crew weight. Most of the top crews are now sailing with five people on board for a total crew weight of 800 to 900 pounds. The J/24 is a small boat, and the additional fifth crew member really makes the boat cramped. Add to this the increasing trend of some skippers making the crew sit in the cabin on the leeward bunk in light air, and you have a boat which can be less than fun to crew on.

There are two worthwhile improvements that can help a J/24’s performance. To decrease the boat’s slight tendency toward a lee helm in light air, the mast should be cut to minimum length allowed in the class rules, and the headstay should be lengthened to the maximum allowed to give the mast more rake. The other improvement is fairing the keel to minimum dimensions. The keel is much thicker than is necessary for optimum performance. It comes relatively fair from the builder, but most owners will want to grind off the builder’s auto-body filler and sharpen the trailing edge. On some of the older boats, the trailing edge is twice the minimum thickness.

Some racers go so far as to spend $500-$1,000 to have the keel professionally faired.

While all indications are that the builder has excellent quality control, there have been complaints that some of the spars provided by Kenyon in the last two years have come with the wrong length shrouds, or widely differing bend characteristics. One top sailor said he would never buy a used J/24 without first making sure that he could make the mast stand straight sideways with substantial shroud tension.

The J/24 is best suited for racing; there are many boats in her size range that are far more comfortable and practical for daysaiIing. However, the J/24 is a joy to sail under mainsail alone. Unlike most boats, she balances and sails upwind at a respectable speed, and her maneuverability gives her tremendous freedom in crowded harbors.

Handling Under Power

The J/24 is powered by an outboard engine; an inboard is not feasible or available. Class rules require that an outboard with a minimum of 3.5 hp be carried while racing. Most owners opt for a 3.5-4 hp outboard. It provides adequate power and is as much weight as you want to be hefting over a transom. Although the cockpit locker is plenty big enough, most owners stow the outboard under a berth in the cabin to keep the weight out of the stern. This makes using the outboard inconvenient. The factory-supplied optional outboard bracket has a spring-loaded hinge to lift the engine for easy mounting; we recommend it. Because the outboard is likely to be stored in the cabin, a remote gas tank will keep fuel spillage and odor to a minimum.

Above Decks

The J/24 is very well laid out, yet she is still not a comfortable or easy boat to crew on. When she was first launched, sailors said her layout could be no better, and she was copied by manufacturers of competing boats. However, after years of racing, sailors have discovered several things that could be improved.


Cockpit winches are located just forward of the mainsheet traveler, which spans the middle of the cockpit. Many sailors have moved the winches forward, so the crewmember tacking the genoa can face forward instead of aft during a tack. It pays to check to see if relocated deck hardware was installed properly; one J/24 owner we know discovered that the previous owner had moved the winches, but hadn’t installed proper backing plates or filled the original holes correctly. As a result, seepage had occurred and several square feet of the balsa-cored deck above the quarterberth had become sodden and rotten.

The standard mainsheet cleat is attached to the traveler car so that, when you trim the sheet, you inadvertently pull the car to weather. Many sailors have solved this by mounting a fixed cleat with a swivel base at the center of the traveler bar.

On older boats the backstay was single-ended at the transom. Boats now come with a double-ended backstay led forward to the helmsman on each side of the cockpit. Foot blocks need to be mounted on the traveler to keep helmsmen from falling to leeward as the boat heels (you must steer from forward and well outboard of the traveler).

For those who plan to try cross-sheeting to the weather winch, leading the jib sheets through Harken ratchet blocks is advised. Most sailors will also want to mount barber haulers to pull the genoa sheet outboard in strong winds. Cam cleats for the barber haulers should be mounted on the companionway so they “self-cleat” when led to the weather winch.

Cabin-top winches for the halyards and spinnaker guys are optional and essential. Because the J/24 has single spinnaker sheets, most sailors mount “twings,” which pull the guy down to the deck outboard of the shrouds when reaching.

In the search for a cleaner deck, it is now common to mount the spinnaker halyard cleat on the mast. Most sailors use only one jib halyard. Although a second jib halyard is optional, it is necessary only for long distance handicap racing. On short one design courses it is better to struggle along overpowered than to place crew weight on the bow to change headsails. Instruments are also unnecessary in one design racing. There are more than enough boats on a one design race course to judge your speed without the help of a speedometer.

The J/24 comes equipped with a Headfoil II grooved headstay system, which works very smoothly. Early boats came with Stern Twinstays, which have occasionally failed when the bearings freeze up with age. Some sailors have exchanged the grooved headstay system for cloth snaps on their headsails (you seldom change sails anyway). We applaud this idea, as it makes the sails more manageable in severe weather.

Although the flat decks are well suited for racing, the cockpit is less than comfortable for daysailing. There are no seat backs and the boom is dangerously low. Visibility with the deck-sweeping 150% genoa is terrible, and is often the cause of nightmarish collisions on crowded race courses. Lower life lines are optional and recommended for those with children, but they interfere with fast tacks when racing. The boom is rigged with a 4-to-1 vang, which is swiveled on the more recent J/24s to be adjustable from either rail on a windy spinnaker reach. The boom is also rigged with reef lines which exit through stoppers at the gooseneck.

Top sailors have discovered that the boat always sails better without a reef, which is a good thing, because the stoppers are both difficult to operate and have a history of slipping.

The interior is simple and functional. On most boats it is used for little more than sail storage. However, for a couple who enjoys roughing it, it could make for occasional weekend cruising. The first thing you notic below is the lack of headroom. You can sit in comfort, but to move about you must crawl.

The interior is finished off in bare white gelcoat. Early boats had coarse, non-skid gelcoat on the overhead. While this may have been more attractive than smooth gelcoat, it really did a number on elbows and bald heads. It also tended to collect dirt and mildew. Earlier through-bolted deck fittings were capped with acorn nuts. Now the nuts lie flush with the overhead—less pain when bumped.

A molded hull liner is used to form the two quarter berths, the cabin sole, and two lockers and a galley just aft of the main bulkhead. One locker is deep enough to serve as a wet locker for foul weather gear; the other is best used to store the rudiments of a meal. The galley consists of a sink with a hand pump. A small, two burner stove could be mounted in the small, removable “table” forward of the port quarter berth. The icebox, a large portable cooler made by Igloo, has a piece of teak glued to it and doubles as a companionway step. After a season or two of jumping on the ice chest, the lid disintegrates.

The forward V-berth, although divided by the mast, is still large and comfortable enough for a couple. The boat does not come equipped with a head. To avoid the extra drag of a through-hull fitting, portable heads are often used. We would rather use a cedar bucket—there simply isn’t enough space in the cabin of a J/24 to cohabitate with a portable head. If you plan to seriously race, you won’t want to load the boat’s lockers with cruising equipment. If you do cruise, it will probably be out of a duffel bag.

J/24: How Trailerable?

The J/24 is not launchable from a boat ramp, unless the ramp is steep, paved or of hard sand, and you use a long extender between the tongue of the trailer and your trailer hitch. Her 3,100 pounds (fully loaded) require a big, 8-cylinder vehicle to tow her. She is easily launched from a 2-ton hoist which can attach to a strap on her keel bolts. However, the hatch slides just far enough forward to allow the hoisting cable to clear it, so the hatch tends to get chewed by the cable.

The J/24 was originally designed to sail at a displacement of 2,800 pounds. The class minimum was later increased to 3,100. The original single axle trailer provide as a factory option was barely adequate for the intended, 2,800 pound boat, and totally inadequate for a fully loaded boat. Tales abound of blown tires and broken trailer welds. The factory now offers both a single and double axle trailer; we recommend the double axle.

If you want to seriously race a J/24, trailering is a necessity. Local fleets grow and shrink each year with the whims of their members, but national and regional regattas continue to attract many participants. Make no mistake, however; trailering is expensive.

The owning and maintenance of a big car, the gas and tolls of trailering, and the housing of crew are not cheap.


The appeal of the J/24 is as a racer. If you plan to do anything else, she is not for you. Although the J/24 is relatively easy to sail, she is very difficult to sail well. To many people, she represents a chance to compete in the big leagues; by traveling to major regattas you can sail against some of the best sailors in the country. However, the big leagues are tough—if you like to race with a pick-up crew and a hangover you’d also better be satisfied with finishing last.

One appeal of the J/24 is that, unlike many big league boats, you can always come home and sail because the boat has so big a following. There are enough boats to race it one-design almost anywhere; and in a pinch, there is always handicap racing. As long as you don’t want to travel, the boat is inexpensive to maintain.

Despite our effort to highlight every flaw that has appeared throughout the J/24’s evolution, we’d like to emphasize that she is more hardy than most boats of her type. Few boats can take the punishment that a J/24 gets during a season of racing and come through with so few scars. No racing boat will appreciate; but the J/24 can keep her value.

The dream boat with the fairy tale success story has turned out, after all, to be a rugged winner in the real world.


Leave a reply cancel reply.

Log in to leave a comment

Latest Videos

Hanse 410: What You Should Know | Boat Tour video from Practical Sailor

Hanse 410: What You Should Know | Boat Tour

Sailboat vs Fishing Boat - Rules of the Road video from Practical Sailor

Sailboat vs Fishing Boat – Rules of the Road

Catalina 445: What You Should Know | Boat Review video from Practical Sailor

Catalina 445: What You Should Know | Boat Review

How to Wax and Polish Your Boat video from Practical Sailor

How to Wax and Polish Your Boat

  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell My Personal Information
  • Online Account Activation
  • Privacy Manager

j24 sailboat review

This compact one-design racer remains as popular as ever

j24 sailboat review

Johnstone spends about $400 on fiberglass matt and roving, wood, resin and other boatbuilding staples. Over many weekends, he brings Ragtime to life—24 feet long with a 9-foot beam—the end result of drawings made while enrolled at Westlawn School of Yacht Design in the 1960s. 

Launch day arrives in 1976. With family and friends aboard, Ragtime dominates the racecourse, beating just about every other boat that dares pull up alongside. As news of Ragtime’s capabilities spreads throughout the sailing community, the designer and his brother, Bob Johnstone, officially establish the J/Boats company. Soon after, they contract with respected boatbuilder Everett Pearson of Rhode Island, owner of Tillotson-Pearson Inc., who agrees to construct J/24s at an old textile mill near Fall River, Massachusetts. For his part in the bargain, Pearson is to receive the domestic building rights to the J/24. 

Bob Johnstone, then a vice president of marketing at AMF/Alcort, makers of Sunfish sailboats, uses his corporate skills to call attention to the J/24 and invests $20,000 to help cover startup costs. By 1977, the J/24 is gaining traction among competitive sailors hungry for a small, performance-oriented keelboat that can be used for racing as well as family weekend sailing. Within a year of partnering with Pearson, more than 250 J/24s are sold and delivered. 

The J/24 remained one of the most popular recreational, offshore keelboats in the world, with 5,400 produced. 

First Impressions

There’s no way to look at a J/24 and not imagine having fun. These boats still generate excitement although they’re no longer the cutting-edge designs they were in the late 1970s. It has four bunks and a sink in the cabin, but this boat is clearly all about racing. Newcomers to the sport welcome its simplified rigging, manageable size and affordable price.


The hull is made from fiberglass mat and roving coated with resin. Both hull and deck are a sandwich construction of fiberglass layers with a core of end-grain balsa. The technique makes the boat lighter but also opens up the possibility of water infusion and eventual delamination. Soft spots on the deck and discoloration of the gelcoat are telltale signs of water damage. Boats made before 1981 contain vermiculite, a yellowish-brown mineral often used for insulation or as a moisture-retentive medium for growing plants. The vermiculite was set into the bilge where it helped stabilize the protruding keel bolts. The J/24 has lead ballast, a fin keel and transom-hung rudder.

What to look for

Potential buyers should examine the hull-to-deck joint on J/24s built before 1980 because the sealant often failed, causing leaks. Boats constructed after that date were bonded with 3M 5200 sealant. The earliest boats had relatively weak companionway and foredeck hatches that cracked under average use. Chainplates attached to the main bulkhead should be examined for hairline fractures and wear, as should the mast where the halyard sheaves are attached. Welds on the rudder attachment have been known to crack. 

The earliest boats had pintles and gudgeons that occasionally failed. Inspect the transom where the outboard engine bracket is attached for cracks. Check to ensure the keel is securely attached to the hull, and look for delamination on deck. Until 1981, vermiculite was used to support the keel bolts vertically and laterally. This material tends to soften and weaken, and removing it is a laborious and potentially expensive process requiring an estimated 20 work hours. Discoloration of the hull inside the V-berth can denote hole repairs. A yellow or brownish color along cracks in the fiberglass at deck fittings or elsewhere suggests water absorption, especially if the crack is wider than a pencil mark. 

The J/24 is a fractional rig sloop with aluminum spars. Safety features include stainless bow and stern pulpits, and stanchions with lifelines. Dents in the pulpits may be an indication the boat suffered a collision. Wiggle each stanchion to check for firmness and inspect the base for stress cracks. The traveler is bolted across the cockpit seats forward of the tiller. The running rigging has end-boom sheeting. The boat is rigged to fly a spinnaker, and a mechanical boom vang assists with sail trim. The cockpit has lazerettes and sitting room for two during races. Primary winches on the earlier models were not self-tailing. A halyard winch is bolted on the cabintop. Make sure any holes drilled in the deck have been properly filled, otherwise water may enter the balsa core and lead to delamination.

The cabin is snug and doesn’t offer standing head room, but there’s a V-berth, two quarterberths, a portable toilet, portable ice chest, sink with small counter and a few equipment lockers—just enough for a weekend cruise. 

Since J/24s are occasionally trailered at the start and finish of the sailing season, as well as to and from races, the hull should be examined for fairness because trailer pads can cause damage if not placed correctly. Inspect the fin keel to see if it has grounded. Keep in mind that older J/24s have thicker, less efficient rudders than those built by TPI after 1985. 

The J/24 was designed to carry a 3.5-horsepower outboard engine that attaches to a transom-mounted bracket. The engine can be raised or lowered using this bracket. Class rules require at least a 3.5-horsepower engine but anything much larger would likely add unwanted weight.

In heavy winds, the J/24 can be a tricky boat to sail, requiring quick reefing and headsail dousing. But in light-to-medium winds, this performance keelboat does just that, showing off the ability to maneuver, plane and rapidly accelerate. The J/24 is renowned for its light-air performance. As one satisfied owner put it, the J/24 “sails in anything from close to dead calm to 25 knots plus.”

The cockpit is relatively small and uncomfortable, a common complaint among J/24 racers. Ideally the boat should be raced with a crew of five, but it’s crowded. Class rules  require a crew of three or more. Sailors note the J/24 can be a wet boat.

The J/24 is an affordable, high-performance, one-design keelboat popular the world over, suitable for competitive sailing or for simply taking the family on a weekend cruise.

PRICE :  A used J/24 in good condition typically sells for between $5,000 and $15,000, although market prices can go as low as $2,500 or approach $20,000. Higher prices are often asked for boats built after 1981.  (3.5 sailboats)

DESIGN QUALITY:   Designed by Rod Johnstone, the J/24 was one of the most popular one-designs launched. It is a highly maneuverable keelboat that’s easy to rig and easy to sail. Johnstone went on to design many other successful J/boats. (3.5 sailboats)

CONSTRUCTION QUALITY: Tillotson-Pearson constructed the first J/24s and other companies have been licensed to build J/24s. The hulls and decks are fiberglass cloth and resin with an end-grain balsa wood core to keep down overall weight.  (3.5 sailboats)

USER-FRIENDLINESS:   Fast and responsive, the J/24 sails like a dinghy but carries significantly more ballast, which gives it characteristics more commonly found in a keelboat. The boat tightly sleeps four if used for short duration cruising. The cockpit is small and uncomfortable. (3.5 sailboats)

SAFETY:   The J/24’s low freeboard, low center of gravity and relatively lightweight makes it susceptible to a knockdown in heavy winds. Once swamped, the boat can be difficult to right and may sink if cockpit locker doors are not securely fastened to prevent taking on water. (2.5 sailboats)

TYPICAL CONDITION:   Condition depends on the degree of care the boat has received and the amount of racing it endured. Boats built after 1980 will be in better condition because of improvements in construction. (3 sailboats)

REFITTING:   Refitting often includes installing stronger foredeck and companionway hatches, and addressing any rudder attachment hardware that has begun to show age. Mast cracks have proved problematic where holes were cut for halyard sheaves. (3 sailboats)

SUPPORT: J/Boats is based in Newport, Rhode Island, (401-846-8410 www.jboats.com ) and owners can register on J-Boats’ Owner Resources website, which offers technical information. The J/24 Class Association ( www.j24usa.com and www.j24class.org ) has links for active fleets. (4 sailboats)

AVAILABILITY: In mid-2015, there were dozens of J/24s on the used-boat market across the United States and Canada. Although some of the boats built in the late 1970s can still be found, most for sale are from the early1980s. There were 5,400 constructed.  (4 sailboats)

INVESTMENT AND RESALE:   Owners report slow devaluation, particularly for J/24s that have been maintained well. A brand-new J/24 in 1981 would have had a sticker price of about $15,000, which on average is about twice today’s asking price in the used boat market. (3.5 sailboats)

Overall "SVG" Rating: 3.5 sailboats

Also in Used Boat Notebook

  • Hunter Passage 42
  • Pearson Rhodes 41
  • Santa Cruz 52
  • Allied Princess 36
  • Kelly-Peterson 46

Also from David Liscio

  • Chasing a dream
  • The wide, wide world of multihulls
  • Flares are expired. Now what?
  • Saved from the scrap heap
  • Pedal to the Medal

j24 sailboat review

  • Practical Boat Owner
  • Digital edition

Practical Boat Owner cover

J/24: Sailing one of the world’s most popular boats

  • August 25, 2021

They say you're never more than a mile or two from a J/24 but is there a cruising future for this 1970s race design, asks Rupert Holmes


Photos: David Harding/SailingScenes.com

The 1970s saw plenty of innovation on the USA’s north-eastern coasts. The wide-beam almost flush deck 24-footer Ragtime that Rod Johnston built in his garage over the winter of 1975/76 went on to win almost every race she entered the following summer.

That led to an agreement for Tillotson Pearson to build the boat on a production basis, while Rod’s brother Bob, who at the time was vice-president of marketing at Sunfish builder Alcort, joined in partnership to create J/Boats.

In the first 12 months they sold 250 J/24s and in all 5,500 have been built to date. Winning the world championships was a big deal when the class was in its heyday – the list of winners in the 1970s and 1980s reads like a sailing Hall of Fame .

Article continues below…

j24 sailboat review

Shipwrecked in a 14ft keelboat then rescued by a cargo ship

Yann Quenet is a genius from Brittany I would love to meet. He is an inventor, designer, and builder of…


Legend 356 sailboat: Big in Britain but born in the USA

Hunter Marine became a major force in boatbuilding from the 1980s through to the financial crisis of 2008, with the…

Prices of J/24s vary widely – earlier boats may change hands for £2,000-£5,000, especially if little recent updating of sails and deck hardware has taken place.

However, there are fewer relatively recent boats and these were generally built to a very high standard. If they have good sails and equipment, including a decent trailer, they can still fetch well over £20,000.

Despite the flush deck there’s reasonable sitting headroom and the wide beam means there’s more space than the external appearance suggests. The J/24 can therefore make an attractive coastal cruiser and club racer at an appealing price.

J/24 specification

LOA: 7.32m / 24ft 0in LWL: 6.10m / 20ft 0in Beam: 2.71m / 8ft 11in Draught: 1.22m / 4ft 0in Displacement: 1,406kg / 3,100lb Ballast: 431kg / 950lb Sail area: 24m2 / 261ft2 Current market value: £3,000-£25,000 / $4,000-$34,000


  1. J/24 Used Boat Review

    j24 sailboat review

  2. About The J24 Class

    j24 sailboat review

  3. J/24- World's Largest One-Design Sailboat Class

    j24 sailboat review

  4. J/24: Sailing one of the world’s most popular boats

    j24 sailboat review

  5. J/24 (J/Boats) sailboat specifications and details on Boat-Specs.com

    j24 sailboat review

  6. J 24 Sailboat

    j24 sailboat review


  1. Gorgeous day for sailing on J/45 Acadia

  2. what does a J24 sailboat regatta look like once finished, #sailing #j24 #sailboatlife

  3. #j24 #sailboat #sailboatlife #sailing #sailingpassion #sail #tacking #boat #boating

  4. #j24 #sailboat #sailboatlife #sailing #sailingpassion #sail #tacking #boat #boating

  5. j24 boat pile up at the start and a general recall. Black Widow fouled the fleet. #racing #sailboat

  6. j24 #sailboat racing, Wednesday night racing and working on training crew for different positions


  1. J/24 - Practical Sailor

    However, the J/24 is a joy to sail under mainsail alone. Unlike most boats, she balances and sails upwind at a respectable speed, and her maneuverability gives her tremendous freedom in crowded harbors.

  2. Perry Design Review: J/24 - boats.com

    The J/24 could demolish the hottest Quarter Tonner and compete very successfully with the best Half Tonners. The Johnstone brothers have sold more than 4,300 J/24s, and it is now the largest one-design keelboat class in the world.

  3. J/24 Used Boat Review - SpinSheet

    Under sail, the J/24 is reasonably fast, highly responsive, and very maneuverable, leading to my earlier conclusion that she sails and responds more like a dinghy than a keel boat. Like a dinghy she is very sensitive to weight as well as sheet and shroud tension.

  4. J/Boats J/24: Oldie But Goodie - boats.com

    A comprehensive review of the J/24, a popular and reliable racer built by J Boats. Learn about the cost, quality, performance and history of this one-design class sailboat.

  5. J/24 - Sailing Magazine

    In heavy winds, the J/24 can be a tricky boat to sail, requiring quick reefing and headsail dousing. But in light-to-medium winds, this performance keelboat does just that, showing off the ability to maneuver, plane and rapidly accelerate.

  6. J/24: Sailing one of the world’s ... - Practical Boat Owner

    Despite the flush deck there’s reasonable sitting headroom and the wide beam means there’s more space than the external appearance suggests. The J/24 can therefore make an attractive coastal cruiser and club racer at an appealing price.