Skeleton Key Secures Victory at 2017 J/111 Worlds at St. Francis Yacht Club
After nine races spread over four grueling days, Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115) is the 2017 J/111 World Champion. Going into day four, this regatta was still anyone’s game, and all eyes were on the top three contenders who had tussled for pole position throughout the regatta. Bright sunshine and 10 knots of air greeted the eight J/111 crews that assembled on San Francisco Bay Sunday morning for the final day of racing at the J/111 World Championship hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California. Racing had been consistently competitive throughout four days of competition, with regular leader changes and a good mix of boats winning top-three finishes. Better still, the weather cooperated perfectly, giving sailors a hearty dose of what they came for: San Francisco’s legendary summer breeze. Going into the final day, Jim Connolly’s Slush Fund (USA 019) topped the leaderboard, tied for total points (18) with Rod Warren’s Joust (AUS 1110). However, Slush Fund had a net score of 12 points (due to discarded races), while Warren and company carried 13 net points; Skeleton Key was in third place with 17 total points and 13 net points. "Coming into (Sunday), we had already enjoyed three days of racing," said Jenn Lancaster, St. Francis Yacht Club’s Race Director. "After a challenging distance race (Saturday), it was great to round-out this championship with racing on the Berkeley Circle." This return to the Circle wasn’t without its management headaches for StFYC’s capable Race Committee and their visiting Principal Race Officer, Jeff Johnson. "The concern was to figure out how to complete a great series on the Berkeley Circle in the midst of other Classes and clubs," said Johnson. "We had to contend with the Moore 24 Nationals to the east of us and the Optimist Pacific Coast Championships to the northeast, but we still had to fit in a 1.7 nautical-mile course without spilling into the shipping traffic." A moderate breeze worked in tandem with the current and tide to create lumpy seas that would only increase in height, steepness and frequency. The Race Committee signaled Course 14 (windward-leeward, twice around), and teams jostled for a favored spot on the starting line. Come the starting signal, Skeleton Key, Martin Roesch’s Velocity (USA 008) and Joust were the quickest off the lime, with five of the eight boats opting for the stronger pressure on the course’s left-hand side. A strong North Bay push threatened to set boats to the southeast that didn’t properly account for this influence, and—at the first windward mark—Slush Fund rounded and hoisted their kite first, followed by Skeleton Key and Doug and Jack Jorgensen’s Picosa (USA 120). Slush Fund successfully held their lead through the gate, followed by Skeleton Key and Joust, but fortunes changed come the second weather mark as Skeleton Key rounded first, followed by Picosa and Slush Fund. Numerous gybes and more leader changes ensued before Skeleton Key’s bow pierced the finishing line to take the win, followed by Picosa and Slush Fund. The RC promptly signaled the day’s last race, which was a windward-leeward-twice-around affair, fortified by an extra windward leg for an uphill finish. The starting signal sounded, with Skeleton Key again enjoying a fine start, followed by Velocity and Reuben Rocci’s Swift Ness (USA 101). By the first windward mark, Joust had claimed the pole position, followed by Skeleton Key and Slush Fund. Kites were hoisted and the bow spray instantly started flying. Positions held at the leeward gate all the way to the finishing line, where a loud chorus of cheers could be heard coming from the lone boat flying an overseas sail number. But while Joust sailed a phenomenal last race, this wasn’t enough to earn them the regatta’s highest honor, which went to Skeleton Key, a team that consistently proved their mettle. "Congratulations to Skeleton Key and Slush Fund," said a tired-but-happy looking Warren, reflecting on his third-place overall finish. "I thought four bullets would have done it, but not quite." After nine races, Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key crew are the new J/111 World Champions, and their victory on their home waters is made all the sweeter by the fact that they came in second at last year’s J/111 Worlds in Cowes, UK. "It took a lot of patience," said an elated Wagner. "There was a lot of depth at the top of the fleet. Slush Fund had the best speed; Joust was consistent and fast; we had our moments; and several others such as Picosa and Velocity sailed well. We took nothing for granted out there. It was a long regatta that wasn’t decided until the final beat. It took a lot of concentration, but I’m glad we held it together." When asked about the origins of his boat’s moniker, Wagner cracked a small smile. "A skeleton key is an Australian term for a surfboard that performs well in a variety of conditions, and we like to think that we sail well in all conditions." Based on all evidence seen this week, the entire sailing world would agree. Please visit stfyc.com/j111worlds2017 for the final finishing positions of all teams, as well as images and news from this world-class event.
J/111s Enjoy Swiftsure & Aldo Alessio Regattas on SF Bay
On a day that started grey and not particularly windy, the St. Francis Yacht Club hosted their annual Aldo Alessio & Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regattas for boats LOA >35' or holding an ORR-fully measured certificate. Friday's races involved heading out the Golden Gate to marks out in the ocean. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, the fleet continued sailing in the Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta. In Friday’s racing, the J/111s cleaned up in the ORR ToT Division, with Marty Roesch’s VELOCITY winning, Reuben Rocci’s SWIFT NESS taking second and Gorkem Ozcelebi’s DOUBLE DIGIT placing fifth. Over the two-day weekend in the J/111s, winning with three bullets and two seconds was Peter Wagner’s SKELETON KEY. Just one point back with the flip-flop of the KEY’s record was Marty Roesch’s VELOCITY (two bullets and three seconds). Taking the bronze was Nesrin Basoz’s SWIFT NESS with 20 points total. For event details, visit https://www.stfyc.com/.
Chasing Down the Miles at the J/111 World Championship
One of the marks of a World-Championship-level sailing team is the ability to rapidly adjust to evolving conditions while also being fast at courses of all lengths and shapes. Such was the test Saturday at the J/111 World Championship, which are being hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California and held on the waters of San Francisco Bay, as the race committee sent the eight-strong fleet on a 26.4-nautical-mile tour of the Bay that took teams from Alcatraz out under the Golden Gate Bridge to Point Bonito, then back into the Bay for some seriously fast legs that tested teams at all angles and all wind velocities, while also quizzing their ability to stay focused for hours. "There’s a strong precedent in the J/111 Class to have a distance race with their Worlds, so we’re including it," said Jenn Lancaster, St. Francis Yacht Club’s Race Director. "It worked out great with our schedule, and we created a course that gave people good exposure to all corners of the Bay and a chance to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a Bucket List item for most sailors." Given that conditions outside of the Golden Gate Bridge are usually a different animal than conditions inside, the adventure quotient was high come dock-out. "Lead, cover, extend, come home early, and watch out for whales," said Rod Warren, skipper of Joust (AUS 1110), which hails from the Sandringham Yacht Club in Sandringham, Australia, of his teams strategy. As for if his team prefers distance races or windward-leewards, Warren jested, "I’ll tell you after today!" A 5-8 knot breeze greeted sailors at the starting line, however the day’s forecast called for gathering airs as the sun marched west. The fleet vied for position closest to the committee boat as the official clock wound-down to straight zeros, with Doug and Jack Jorgensen’s Picosa (USA 120) crossing first, followed by Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115) and Martin Roesch’s Velocity (USA 008). The Golden Gate Bridge’s north and south towers were just emerging from the Bay’s (in)famous marine layer as the fleet headed for the Marin side of the course and some current relief. Here, the key to success lay in hugging close to the Marin Headlands’ rocky coastline, practically scrapping the bricks as rigs cleared the Golden Gate Bridge. Outside of this world-famous landmark was a confused and sometimes-choppy seaway and even less pressure. Teams continued to hug the shoreline, their laminate sails and carbon rigs camouflaged against a backdrop of dark oceanic basalt cliffs and hills punctuated by redwoods, sequoias and juniper trees. Sticky conditions prevailed until teams rounded a mark off of Point Bonita Lighthouse, popped their kites, and headed back towards Treasure Island, with Slush Fund leading the way, followed by Picosa and Skeleton Key, with Joust in hot pursuit. Whales flashed their fins as the teams fought to keep their kites inflated —an issue that would vanish once teams entered a re-invigorated San Francisco Bay. Instantly, the Nantucket sleigh rides commenced as teams fought to control their steeds in 20+ knots. Come the second turning mark, situated off of Treasure Island, Picosa had snatched the lead, followed by Skeleton Key and Slush Fund, with Joust still skirmishing for a spot in the top three. Next, the fleet aimed their bows upwind for Harding Rock as a flood tide pressed hard against the buoy. The Berkeley Pier Ruins were the next turning point on the Bay Tour, and teams prepared for the final beat back up to Point Cavallo, where they would bear off and aim their bows for the finishing line. While the boathandling wasn’t easy, Skeleton Key picked-off Picosa’s lead at the last mark, however both boats went low after hoisting their kites, setting themselves up to cross the finishing line under jibs and mainsails, given the angles involved. Joust’s position gave them time to study the leaders’ fortunes, and they opted for a very different angle that allowed them to carry their kite all the way to a screaming first-place finish. "On the last run down, Aaron Cole, my tactician, worked out that we shouldn’t hoist our kite right away but instead cross the current and then go up with the kite," said an elated Warren at the dock. "We were in third place, but this queued us with the guys ahead of us, who we passed in that last bit, which I guess is the only bit that really counts." As for if Warren prefers distance races or windward-leewards, it’s safe to say that the jury is in on that decision. After seven races over three days, Joust is now topping the leaderboard, followed by Slush Fund and Skeleton Key. Stay tuned to stfyc.com/j111worlds2017 for the latest news.
Consistency Proves King at the J/111 World Championship
Despite forecasts for lighter-than-average wind on San Francisco Bay, day two of the J/111 World Championship, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, delivered fresh conditions that gathered as Friday’s action unfurled. Berkeley Circle conditions started with a gentle 5-7 knots for the first race and topped out in the high-teens with puffs into the low-20s by the end of the day. But while Mother Nature was dynamic in her temperament, the fleet’s fastest guns kept their performances consistent, proving once again that one-mode boats don’t win World Championship titles. "You never know what the Bay will serve up," said Peter Wagner, skipper of Skeleton Key (USA 115), which flies the StFYC burgee, prior to docking out. "We’re excited to be racing, irrespective of conditions. The teams here are strong across all conditions." Wagner’s words proved prophetic, especially once the day’s racing really got cooking. But before teams could tension their rigs, Mother Nature sprung a light-air pop quiz that saw Doug and Jack Jorgensen’s Picosa (USA 120) and Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115) both take great starts, while Martin Roesch’s Velocity (USA 008) and Gorkem Ozcelebi’s Double Digit (USA 94) were deemed over early. Unlike Thursday, the old saw about the Berkeley Circle ("going right always works until it doesn’t") proved accurate Friday, especially for teams that worked the inside lanes. Jim Connelly’s Slush Fund (USA 119) beat the fleet to the first mark, followed by Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115)—positions that both boats held across the finish. Rod Warren’s Joust (AUS 1110) rounded out the top three. "We had great upwind speed, clean air and a great start off the line," said Connolly, just after taking his proud win. "We were off the line nicely. It was upwind performance—that’s what did it for us!" The breeze continued to freshen for the day’s second race, which was also a windward-leeward-twice-around contest that sent teams on a 1.8 nautical mile climb that, in turn, was rewarded with big-grin kite rides. Wagner’s Skeleton Key and Connelly’s Slush Fund both enjoyed strong starts, however six of the eight-boat fleet broke left, ditching the typical wisdom exercised on the Circle. While Skeleton Key and Slush Fund covered each other tightly on the first leg, Warren’s Joust rounded the first mark in the pole position and managed to stave off Skeleton’s Key’s advances until an ugly looking gybe coming into the finishing line almost cost the Aussies their bullet. Fortunately, the team from Down Under manhandled their kite just in time, leaving second and third places to Skeleton Key and Slush Fund (respectively). "These were perfect conditions," said Joust’s Aaron Cole, just after finishing. As for that final gybe, "We got a little chicken-winged out and came in a little bit, but we got control and luckily pulled it off!" Interestingly, almost all teams doused their headsails on the downhill legs in favor of a main-and-kite-only configuration, but once the wind began to gather to around 15-17 knots, most headsails remained at full hoist. "It’s our cross-over between planning and soaking," said Cole. "If you do it at the right time, you get on the plane and go downwind fast." The Race Committee gave competitors an extra few minutes to tighten their shrouds between the day’s final two races, the latter of which saw big breeze that was complimented by a flooding tide. While the wind was with the water, the Bay’s long fetch still managed to churn the Berkeley Circle into a proper washboard that gave competitors a powerful isometric workout. Warren’s Joust enjoyed another fine start to the day’s third race, followed by Connolly’s Slush Fund and Wagner’s Skeleton Key, but by the first weather mark Roesch’s Velocity managed to nose in between Joust and Slush Fund. While Velocity’s pace looked strong as the team worked their way around the top of the course, a series of leader changes unfurled that saw Slush Fund reap the day’s final win, followed by Picosa and Velocity, with Skeleton Key being forced to settle for a fourth-place finish. After six races over two days, Connolly’s Slush Fund is now in the pole position and tied with Wagner’s Skeleton Key for total points (15). However, the new leaders are sitting on a net score of 9 points (due to discarded races), while Wagner and company carry 11 points; Warren’s Joust is in third place with 17 total points and 12 net points. Stay tuned to www.stfyc.com/j111worlds2017 for the latest news.
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/.
The Chicago Mackinac Race
This year’s 109th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac will go down in the history books as one of the toughest races ever. Just 200 of the 297 starters completed the 289.4 nm course. A frontal passage hit the fleet at midnight on Saturday, just hours into the race, producing a rare "dry front" that looked menacing as it came over the water but had no rain over Lake Michigan. As the front passed over the fleet, a blast front of 35-50 knot winds flew across the water. Shortly thereafter, the front passed by, pulling behind it a far stronger northerly breeze than forecast, so the fleet settled into a 20+ hour beat to windward in 15-30 knot winds from the NNE and punching into a classic 6-10 ft Lake Michigan chop. The winds rapidly shut down between the Manitou Island Straits and the open waters headed to Grey’s Reef. There were 19 teams in J/111 one-design fleet. Here is the report from J/111 class winner, Marty Roesch’s VELOCITY: "This was an interesting race because the navigation and strategy seemed like they were more obvious than in the past two Mac races I've done. We were looking at SE winds at the start that were forecast to slowly build and clock to the SW before a gusty front would come through with NW winds and possible storms, followed by strong northerly winds with big waves on Sunday, then light shifty winds under a passing high pressure system on Monday. So the plan was to stay left of rhumb until the front came in and then get across the lake, then inside at the Manitous and then see what we had to do to get across the finish on Monday. We had a great start, winning the boat end of the line and quickly transitioning into our Code 0. We peeled to A1.5 and then A2 as the winds slowly clocked as per the forecast. The sailing was absolutely fantastic on the first day as we picked our way through the larger fleet and kept an eye on the competition. We spent a fair amount of time scratching our heads as No Surprise pulled in front of us a couple hundred yards up the course (where did those guys come from?) and kept an eye on Utah and Kashmir while we kept the boat speed up and waited for the front. When the sun went down, we could see a big display of lightning to the northwest that was slowly approaching and putting on a huge cloud-to-cloud light show that was beautiful to watch. When the NW winds finally hit it, was a very quick transition, and we worked to get our A2 down and our short hoist J4 up. We saw wind speeds build quickly into the 30s despite not feeling it on the water, and in short order we saw high 30s and low 40s and then it landed. The top wind speed we saw was 46 knots, and we hit 15 knots of boat speed blast reaching under the J4 in the crazy winds and rapidly building sea state. There was a lull for a bit after the front came through, and we put the Code 0 back up, but that proved to be the wrong sail after a few minutes so we switched to the A3 and I got back on the wheel. Due to the clouds, it was pitch black on the water and very hard to see the waves so the first 10 minutes or so were very disorienting and hard to drive in. Luckily, a bright star popped out under the cloud deck, and I was able to use that as a steering reference and get things smoothed out. We were bashing through big waves at 15-17 knots boatspeed for a couple of hours as we headed northeast and across the lake to get to the Michigan side. Once the jib went up, I went down for the night. When I woke a couple hours later, we were in pounding conditions close-hauled and heading up the coast of Michigan between Big and Little Sable Points. We could see a few other J/111s around us, and we spent pretty much all day on Monday dealing with mild seasickness among several crew members, trying to stay upright in 20-25 knot northerly winds and 6-10 foot waves, and chasing boats. We spent a lot of time crossing and being crossed by Utah on Monday, which was alternately good and bad for morale. These were some of the roughest conditions that I've sailed in for the amount of time we were in them, and it was very challenging for the whole team. We did a great job staying in contact with the leading contingent of 111s and staying in the game that day. If I were to pick a point where we made a call that put us into a position to achieve our ultimate victory, I'd say it was very early in the morning on Monday. We were south of Beaver Island, and we knew the winds were forecast to clock NE to SE, and we also knew that we were on the outside of the pinwheel of the leader group and that that was not going to be a great place to be. We made the call to gybe away to an angle that took our VMG to almost zero and spent a half hour sailing to the inside of the pack and much closer to the rhumb line. Shortly after we gybed back to course, the winds did exactly what was predicted and the move paid off big. As the sun came up on Monday, we saw Kashmir about 2 miles in front of us, Utah and No Surprise over near Beaver Island and not moving very quickly, and Rowdy to the north of us with a group of boats from other classes. The conditions that morning were 0-4 knots of wind and very glassy. As the sun came up, we could see patches of breeze on the water so we played the ‘connect the dots’ game we play so frequently in Annapolis to get ahead of Kashmir and pull up even with Rowdy, slowly pulling past both them and No Surprise. Once we got to Greys Reef, we were in a position to consolidate and defend against Rowdy and No Surprise, and we spent six hours sailing the last 25 miles and staying out front through the whole afternoon. Once we got to the bridge, we felt like we had a very comfortable lead and the breeze was moving Velocity along very nicely at 6-7 knots with the lighthouse in sight. That's when the bottom almost fell out. A mile or so past the bridge, the winds started to go light on us again, and it looked like the other two boats had connected with some breeze on the south side of the Straights of Mackinac so we decided to cover. As we came out of our covering gybe, I looked over my shoulder and saw No Surprise maybe 6-8 boat lengths back! After 282nm and just 7nm left to go, we were within seconds of each other, and we still had a lot of battling to do. With me on the wheel and Chris Teixeira trimming the kite, Derrick Reig and James Allsop managing the tactical picture, we got back to work and managed to extend on both them and Rowdy, finally gybing away for the finish after about an hour of dueling in the last three miles. As we approached the finish line, there was one last challenge—the wind completely shut down! With "triple naught" (0.00 knots of boatspeed) on the B&G displays, we found that we had about 0.8 knots of current pushing us towards the finish line. As I looked around in a bit of a panic, I saw that everyone else was being shut down as they approached the line as well. It took us 30 minutes of getting tossed around by ferry wakes and doing everything we could to get the boat moving to cross the finish line! The conditions on this race ran the full gamut from 0-45 knot winds, flat water to 10 foot breaking rollers, cold to hot temperatures. The crew of Velocity did a great job of overcoming it all, staying in the game and capitalizing where we could to win the prize in what was one of the toughest races I've ever sailed!" For complete event information, visit http://www.cycracetomackinac.com/.