Splitting Fortunes at the 2017 J/111 Worlds at St. Francis Yacht Club
Spend enough time sailing on any body of water and it slowly reveals its secrets, giving sailors a set of rules-of-thumb that should—theoretically—be the keys to success, provided that time-honored patterns prove consistent. San Francisco Bay certainly has its closely guarded secrets, as the sailors gathered at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, for the J/111 World Championship learned Thursday during the first three races of this exciting series. But instead of delivering conditions that were consistent with the tacticians’ hard-won playbooks, the action was defined by big fleet splits that delivered interesting returns on investment at the rounding marks, leeward gate and finishing line. "By running three races, our goal was to let the fleet leg-out a bit," said Jeff Johnson, Principal Race Officer. "We saw gradually building conditions throughout the day that gave people time to shift gears and to introduce their crews to San Francisco Bay." This build-up began with a slowly gathering morning breeze that filled in on San Francisco Bay’s Berkeley Circle, where the racing was held, with a steady 10-knot breeze and a tide that was flooding by the time the first starting gun sounded. While common wisdom on the Berkeley Circle holds that one should go right until it doesn’t work, some of the fleet instead opted for better current relief and others sought out stronger pressure. While this created one split, another was created well in advance of the regatta by each skipper’s crew selection. "Skeleton Key—that’s the boat to beat," said Ralph Wedge, who is trimming mainsail aboard Reuben Rocci’s Swift Ness. "We’re a Corinthian group, but we’re serious about what we do. Except for Bad Dog, all the other boats have professional sailors, but it’s a friendly and competitive fleet." Once the starting signals began sounding, Corinthian and mixed-crew teams all brought their A-game to bear against their rivals on a windward-leeward-twice-around course. And while rules-of-thumb were certainly considered, the fastest sailors also knew when to go off piste in terms of their rulebook strategy. "It took a lot of grinding," said Peter Wagner, skipper of Skeleton Key (USA 115), immediately after taking the regatta’s first bullet. "The race was won upwind." When queried about the favored side of the course, Wagner’s crew reported that things oscillated, requiring sharp focus from the entire team, and from their skipper. The breeze continued to slowly gather for the day’s second race, forcing teams to work through their gear changes and apply more rig tension as needed. Again, the fleet chose opposite sides of the racetrack up the first uphill hike, with Jim Connelly’s Slush Fund (USA 119) winning the start and holding her advantage all the way around to the finishing line, where Skeleton Key almost nicked victory. Rod Warren’s Joust (AUS 1110) crossed the finishing line next to complete the second race’s top three. "Our plan was just to have fun and sail fast," said Jason Currie, Slush Fund’s mainsail trimmer, just after crossing the line. "We won the pin end of the start, and we tacked and sailed away. Currents played into it a fair amount, and we sailed into the cone of Alcatraz" to seek relief from the flooding waters. St. Francis Yacht Club’s race committee was clearly paying attention to the shifting weather conditions as the daily high-pressure system tried valiantly to push blue skies above the course, but the marine layer remained steady, even as the breeze swung to the south for the day’s final race. Skeleton Key enjoyed a tactically wise mid-line start, followed by Martin Roesch’s Velocity (USA 008) and Doug and Jack Jorgensen’s Picosa (USA 120), but the building breeze and steepening waves saw numerous lead changes. By the first weather mark, Picosa was in the pole position, followed by Skeleton Key and Slush Fund. But instead of the rich getting richer, Warren’s Joust team crossed the upwind finishing line in first place, followed by Velocity and Slush Fund. At the end of the first day of racing, Wedge’s prediction rang true as Skeleton Key is currently topping the leaderboard, followed by Joust and Slush Fund. Racing continues through Sunday, August 27, so please stay tuned to www.stfyc.com/j111worlds2017 for the latest updates and results.
Green Lights Aglow for the 2017 J/111 Worlds at St. Francis Yacht Club
Pre-racing excitement is blowing around the docks at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, where the J/111 World Championship is set to take place from Thursday, August 24 through Sunday, August 27. Teams are evaluating gear, re-flaking sails and triple-checking standing rigging while also taking advantage of breezy pre-racing weather to sample San Francisco Bay’s conditions. While competition seems contained on the docks, odds are excellent that the gloves will come off once the first warning signal sounds at 1125 hours on Thursday. Weather can always be a wild card for any regatta, but St. Francis Yacht Club’s talented racing staff and volunteers are planning on facilitating three windward-leeward races for Thursday and Friday on the Berkeley Circle, which is situated some seven nautical miles to the northeast of the clubhouse. While located a short commute away, the shallow Berkeley Circle is characterized by steady, consistent currents, evening the playing field for visiting teams and teams stacked with local knowledge. "It’s a world-class venue to showcase the sailing performance characteristics of the J/111," said Jeff Johnson, the regatta’s Principal Race Officer. The J/111 Class has enjoyed three previous World Championship regattas, held off of Cowes, UK (2014 and 2016) and Newport, Rhode Island (2015), making 2017 the first time these capable and quick keelboats have competed for their highest honors on the Left Coast. "I’m happy to welcome J/111 sailors with West Coast hospitality and an unparalleled racecourse for the fourth-annual J/111 Worlds," said Jenn Lancaster, St. Francis Yacht Club’s newly appointed Race Director. "I’m excited to be involved with this regatta, and it’s a great initiation into running world championships on San Francisco Bay." For their part, competitors are looking forward to experiencing August on San Francisco Bay. "We started sailing last year," said Jason Currie, a New Zealand native and a current resident of Annapolis, Maryland, who is racing aboard Jim Connelly’s Slush Fund (USA 119). "The boat was brand new to the owner, and it’s his first time competing on this level. We got some new heavy-air sails for this regatta, a new bottom job and bottom paint, and we spent a lot of time pulling the whole package together, including new halyards and electronics. Also, we arrived on Monday and have spent the last two and a half days practicing." As for the racing ahead, Currie’s thoughts parallel that of his competition. "We’re looking forward to close racing and big breeze," said Currie. "Annapolis is usually light air, so this will be interesting for us!" While there’s a slight chance San Francisco-based boats might have an initial advantage over their out-of-town rivals if the breeze starts blowing dogs off chains, this certainly doesn’t apply to all visitors. "We have big breeze in Melbourne," said Rod Warren, skipper of the Australian-flagged Joust (AUS 1110), who is here representing the Sandringham Yacht Club. "It’s probably stronger back home but it’s not as consistent as it is here, so we’re really looking forward to the wind and the fun." In total, there are eight teams competing for this Championship title, with four boats from the Bay Area, one boat from Los Angeles, two from Annapolis, and one boat—Rod Warren’s Joust—from down under, making this an especially close-knit competition. Interestingly, while all teams arrived expecting breeze-on conditions, current forecast models are calling for lighter-than-average airs for the next four days, potentially tipping an advantage to teams also quick in the sticky stuff. However, weather models have certainly been known to "evolve" with time. Finally, St. Francis Yacht Club is pleased to announce that the Club successfully applied for and was granted Clean Regatta status from the environmental non-profit group Sailors For The Sea for this regatta. Please visit www.stfyc.com/j111worlds2017 for more information on this exciting regatta.
Paul van Driel's Sweeny Takes J/111 Open UK National Championship at J-Cup
The last day of the Landsail Tyres J-Cup (hosted by the Royal Torbay Yacht Club, Torquay, UK, August 17-19) was blessed with champagne conditions in beautiful Tor Bay. A southwesterly breeze oscillated 20 degrees left and right during the day, and with tight racing in one design fleets, and closely matched handicap classes, getting the wrong side of a shift proved costly. The Royal Torbay Yacht Club produced two well managed windward leeward courses, as the club has done for the entire event, and two races were held for all six classes. Paul van Driel's Dutch J/111 Sweeny is the new Open UK National Champion after an impressive performance in Tor Bay. Sweeny scored five race wins out of eight to lift the title. Tony Mack's McFly kept the Championship alive with a win in race 7, but Sweeny won the last race. McFly was runner-up for the Championship, with Dutch team Red Herring skippered by Sjaak Haaman in third. "It is unbelievable to beat the top British guys in British waters," smiled van Driel. "We have trained so hard for this, and I am incredibly proud of the crew. We have really put a lot of effort into this. Everybody is so dedicated, they are second to none, and that is why we have won. Our feeling was to focus on McFly; they are the fastest boat in the fleet, and we were on them from the start. We like strong wind, and it came good for us on the second day. On the last day, McFly was on us, and we were defending, and that worked out, but we had to be careful because the other boats were coming good as well, and we were like two dogs fighting for a bone." For all the results: http://rtyc.org/championships/j-cup-2017/
Thrilling Verve Cup Offshore
At the 25th annual Verve Cup Offshore Regatta in Chicago, for the top three boats in the J/111 fleet, the outcome on the podium was not determined until the final minutes of the seventh and final race of the regatta on Sunday, August 13. The trio of Karl Brummel/Steve Henderson/Mike Mayer on KASHMIR won the final race and therefore the overall win, followed by Brad Faber’s UTAH in second and Rich Witzel’s ROWDY in third place. Rounding out the top five were Mark & Colin Caliban’s NO QUARTER in fourth and John Kalanik’s NO QUARTER in fifth position. For more Verve Cup Offshore information, visit https://www.chicagoyachtclub.org/verveoffshore.
Wicked Buzzards Bay Regatta
Spectacular conditions greeted competitors for the Buzzards Bay Regatta at New Bedford Yacht Club in South Dartmouth, MA from August 4-6. In the six-boat PHRF Spinnaker 1 division, the J/111 Wicked 2.0, led by Doug Curtiss, earned the victory. They took five bullets in the 10-race series. Complete event details may be found at https://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm.
J/111 BLUR.SE Wins Bohusracet: World’s Largest Double-handed Race
Peter Gustafsson’s J/111 BLUR.SE sailed through the 8,000 island Bohus Archipelago in Sweden, taking on the best sailors in Scandinavia, to win the Bohusracet—reputed to be the world’s largest offshore double-handed race. Here is Peter’s report: "There are some sailing venues that are more magical than others, and some races that you really want to come back and do again and again. And even compared to some exotic places and iconic races, I think that Bohusracet tops my list. Why? The recipe is easy:
1/3 Bohuslän. With over 8,000 islands, CNN Travel ranks this archipelago the seventh most beautiful natural wilderness area in the world. It’s easy to spend five weeks of vacation (or a lifetime) and never visit the same spot twice. And a race course that takes you through most of it in 24 hours is bound to have both beautiful scenery and navigational challenges.
1/3 Midsummer nights. When the sun sets at 10.30PM and rises at 04:00AM, it's never really dark. And as the wind often drops, you tend to get close racing with other boats hunting for wind at 02:00AM. Unreal seeing the silhouettes of the crews whispering on the other boats.
1/3 Intense racing (or just an adventure). With over 150 boats, a 170 nm course and seven checkpoints, it tends to be an intense fight for the serious racers. And with just two on board, there’s not much time for food or sleep. Others do the race to test their limits and to share the experience with a significant other or one of the youngsters in the family.
We hadn’t been able to do the race for a few years. Last year, we did the ÅF Offshore Race (Around Gotland double handed), and the year before that we focused on the Fastnet Race. So now we were eager to get another chance. In the past, we’ve won our class several times and finished second overall twice. But this year we might get lucky in the weather lottery, with six hours separating the small boats starting Friday morning and us, in the fastest class, starting at 3PM. The forecasts were unanimous: a big low over southeast Sweden would render a fast race with a puffy 20-30 knots from NE pushing all the boats out from the start in Uddevalla to Marstrand and the rounding to go north Friday evening. The big talk before the start was to use downwind sails or not, but that proved to be a non-issue at the starting area as it was blowing a solid 30 knots gusting 50. Mmmm... We went with a full main and our shorthanded jib (a J3.5 with more shape and a reef) for the first short downwind leg, with plans for a deep reef after the first rounding. But we managed to keep it together by heading of in the gusts, easily doing 12-15 knots, and heading up in the lulls. This worked out nicely except for one occasions when we were supposed to go upwind for 500 meters to fetch a "sprint prize" (not ideal in 52 knots of wind), but miraculously everything stayed in one piece. Others weren’t so lucky, and masts and sails were coming down all around. So a great "shakeout" with 150 nm to go. It couldn’t get worse? And it didn’t. We extended the lead in our class, and after a few hours we managed to get the A5 up. Then managed to work through the downwind inventory before rounding the Hätteberget lighthouse with a healthy 15-minute lead on corrected before our main competitor—Norwegian "short-handed rock star" Elling Rishoff in a fine-tuned First 40 Godevenner. Close hauled, continuously changing between jib and J0 (big jib/small code set on a furler on the sprit), we sailed north into the sunset. As forecasted, we were headed just north of Smögen, and the long beat toward Norway began. We were catching up with many of the smaller boats, and it was pretty magical passing just meters away in a serene archipelago. We managed pretty OK, but we lost a few minutes here and there to First 40 Godevenner that had passed us just north of Smögen. On corrected time, we were ok, but they seemed to have a slight advantage. In the morning, the conditions became trickier. Several weather systems were fighting, and a NW breeze was filling in from the west. We got caught in the transition just before Strömstad and lost even more. Now we were 20 minutes behind on corrected, and couldn’t wait to get to the Tresteinerne lighthouse in Norway to get the chute up and go south again. We rounded in a light northerly, but we stayed west and the new breeze filled in nicely. We tried to as hard as possible and hunted pressure when possible. We slowly caught up with Godevenner, keeping track of them both on AIS and on the rounding reports. At some point, we thought it was impossible to catch them, but at the last mark it became clear; we were just 1.5 minutes behind on corrected with 35 minutes to go... We went for it and took every shortcut we could find, and kept the big A2 up as long as humanly possible (did the best takedown of the season at the exactly the right moment). And we managed to beat them by 30 seconds. After 23 hours and 40 minutes, that was a huge relief. The smaller boats had managed to get around the course without any upwind work, and were favored by more wind during the day Friday. So they dominated the overall list. I guess we'll have to come back and try again..." For more J/111 BLUR.SE information, visit http://www.blur.se/2017/07/04/pantaenius-bohusracet-2017/.