by Judith McLean, Co-Owner, Esprit d’Ecosse

The J105 One Design (OD) rules are put in place to ensure the race is won by tactics (the Good), boat handling (the Bad) and yes, sometimes, luck (the Ugly), but mostly the other two. The boats themselves are as close a match as any OD section on Lake Michigan despite having 127 differences between boats (but who’s counting) – the sails1 (and the rules for ordering new sails) are identical for each boat, and are registered and tagged at the national office – basically a 110 class jib, Dacron main and a spinnaker (an 89 for buoy racing and an option for using a 77 for long distance), the boats have a weight certificate with lead weights being added to lighter boats (#160 was the first SCRIMPed hull and are generally heavier than preSCRIMPed boats (#159 and older)). Other reasons weight might need to be added could be because of extensive fiberglass work, switching to a tiller or installation of lithium batteries, there are a myriad of reasons your boat might not be in compliance, but it’s a pretty easy and fairly cost-effective process to get a certificate. Crew weight2 is another factor in OD racing with allowances for the owner driver, when the crew includes 3 or more women or if it’s a long distance or buoy race – typically it’s usually a comfortable margin to come in below the weight limit with 5 or 6 crew members for buoy racing or even 7 or 8 for long distance.

There’s a big difference between one design racing and PHRF racing (PHRF uses an empirically based handicapping system)  – for one, you do not need to calculate the number of seconds you crossed the line ahead or behind your nearest rival to work out which boat actually won … on our boat literally everyone is frantically involved in this, and no one rests until we have it figured out. In one design if you cross the line first, you’re first, end of story … unless it’s a photo finish and you’re like, did we cross first??? But that’s also exhilarating, and sometimes maddening (depending on whether you were actually first or not)3.

I’m not going to lie, the first few years of racing in Fleet 5 were brutal for us – the learning curve was pretty steep as our experience before Ross and I purchased a J105 (2014) was with our full-on symmetrical spinnaker ORC racer cruiser that needed 8 or 9 to race (a 36 Ericson Ron Holland), a variety of other people’s keelboats and before that it was all dinghy sailing in 420’s. Finding ourselves at the back of the pack of Fleet 5 (often a leg or two behind) was crazy frustrating, however we worked super hard to edge up in the standings, kept basically the exact same team throughout (OG core and awesome members being Christina, Katye and Anne, with Aimee joining a few years ago), entered every race possible, both one design and PHRF (averaging around 50+ races per year), built up an impressive matching Esprit d’Ecosse gear wardrobe and had oodles of fun in the process. It continues to be very challenging racing as a One Design boat with an OD sail plan boat in MORF (Midwest Open Racing Fleet) and other races that put us up against PHRF boats but it has also forced us to figure out how we can compete in light air against boats with much bigger headsails, carbon mains and a (mostly) unlimited sail inventory … this has been done with varying degrees of success, but it’s been an amazing process and has helped us when we go back to OD racing. Obviously, we love it when the wind is up, everyone has their #3 Jib up and it’s a level playing field.

PHRF racing is fantastic and very fun, however, it’s tough to beat racing in a one design fleet. It is the greatest possible test for a boat and the team onboard, it’s a constant learning experience and it’s an amazing feeling to be handed a flag at the end of a regatta, even a 3rd place flag is an amazing achievement.

You can check out and download the J105 OD racing rules from the website:


2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – Chicago


1Sail Purchase Limitations: For purposes of class racing, sail purchases shall not exceed (a) two sails in any calendar year, plus (b) one additional sail during any period of two consecutive calendar years. In addition, during the calendar year in which a boat is first used by all new Owner(s), one additional sail may be purchased.
2The maximum crew weight (in swimming apparel) for one-design racing is 500 kilograms (1102 lbs.) with no limit on numbers of crew except that a crew of up to 6 members with 3 or more women has no restriction on crew weight. An Owner who is the sole Driver for a regatta may elect a weight of 100 kg (220 lbs.) for that regatta, in which case he or she shall not be subject to weigh-in or other weight check. If the sailing instructions require a weigh-in prior to the start of a regatta, a boat complying with the weight restrictions at weigh-in shall not otherwise be subject to a weigh-in during or after the regatta, except for weighing substitute crew.
3These rules are (a) to preserve J/105’s recreational features, including ease of handling, low cost of ownership, safety, comfort, and equality of performance while maximizing participation at J/105 events, and (b) to foster one-design racing in J/105s among predominately amateur crews.