The prize of "IRC Boat of the Year" in France is awarded to the builder of a series production boat that has distinguished itself in international IRC competitions throughout Europe. It is presented annually during the "Evening of Ocean Racing" held in conjunction with the Salon Nautique de Paris (Paris Sailboat Show). This year's winner is the J/97 built by JB Composites in Les Sables d'Olonne, France.
Didier LeMoal, CEO of JB Composites commented, "The J/97 ultimately demonstrated its pedigree and potential performance in 2011 with several strong campaigns in France and England. J/97 was winner of the Trophy Atlantic UNCL IRC 4 with victories in Spi Ouest France-Intermarché and Grand Prix Crouesty, and a second place in Brest and the Course of Three Islands. Internationally, the J/97 won 2010 Cowes Week in IRC Class and won the 2011 Garmin Hamble Winter Series by a huge margin in IRC 3 Class against stiff competition."
The jury presiding over the election of the IRC boat of the year was made up of four elected members of the UNCL: its President, Marc de Saint Denis; Edouard Baetz its general secretary; Jean Michel Carpentier (Racing Commission); and Jean Claude Merlivat ( Commission IRC). They were assisted by four prominent yachting journalists: Olivier Le Carré (BATEAUX), Pierre-Marie Bourguinat (VOILES & VOILIER), Bernard Rubinstein (VOILE Magazine) and Patrice Carpentier (SEAHORSE INTERNATIONAL Racing).
The selection criteria were: 1) sailing results in France and in Europe; 2) the boat-handling and sailing qualities; 3) the ability to both race and cruise; 4) overall aesthetics; 5) a minimum of 10 boats built in the last year; and 6) have sailed at least 5 races in the IRC in the past year.
The boats selected by the UNCL were an impressive line-up of many winners in IRC events this past year in European waters. The competitive sailboats included: Elan 350, Beneteau First 30, Beneteau First 40, Grand Soleil 43 B&C, J/97, Jeanneau Sun Fast 1010 and Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200.
As a versatile cruising boat with a racing pedigree that is so dear to the IRC, the J/97, with 45 boats built to date, is a boat that is well-designed and well-built, benefiting from the professionalism and experience of JB Composites. Whether sailing nationally (France) or internationally, the winning record of the J/97 is eloquent and prophetic: