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/.
Queen’s Cup Race
Today, the Queen's Cup is the coveted overall trophy for the race from Milwaukee, WI to South Haven, MI (approximately 117° and 76.3nm long). For the most part, PHRF 3 was the J/111 Division. The duo of Mark & Colin Caliban sailed NO QUARTER to first by a mere nine seconds over Dick Hobbs’ HOBGOBLIN. Third place, just 100 seconds back, was Class newcomer Art Mitchel’s SNOW GOOSE. Then, fourth was Brad Faber’s UTAH another 80 seconds behind, and in fifth was Jeff Schaefer’s SHMOKIN JOE yet another 80 seconds back. For more Queens Cup Race information, visit http://www.ssyc.org/queens-cup/queens-cup-home.
2018 J/111 North American Championship Announced
The Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Macatawa, Michigan invites you to the 2018 J/111 North American Championship from September 17-21, 2018. Check out the yacht club website at http://mbyc.com/, and look for more details with an event website soon.
Block Island Race Week
After five days of hard racing at Block Island Race Week, on Friday, June 23, there were 16 ecstatic winners and an equal number of disappointed runners-up. Partnership, a J/111 campaigned by David and Maryellen Tortorello, won a good battle with Sea Biscuit in PHRF 1. Only two points separated the two boats going into Friday’s action, but a disqualification in Race 7 doomed the Farr 30 skippered by Kevin McNeil of Annapolis, Maryland. "We have done Block Island Race Week five times, and this is the first time we’ve won our class so this is phenomenal," David Tortorello said. "We had very, very good competition, and I think the key was consistency. We put up a lot of top three finishes. Our crew work was fabulous." In the J/111 Sub Class, second place for the week was Douglass Curtiss, Wicked 2.0; first place for the week David & Maryellen Tortorello, PARTNERSHIP. For complete event information, visit www.blockislandraceweek.com.
J/111 DJINN Wins RORC East Coast Race
Here is the report from Sébastien de Liedekerke, owner of the J/111 DJINNN about their recent experience sailing the RORC East Coast Race: The RORC East Coast Race 2017 was the third offshore race of the season for DJINN and her crew, starting from Burnham-on-Crouch near Harwich (Thames Estuary) and finishing in Oostende (Belgium), for a good 130 nautical miles of zig-zagging between the wind farms of the Southern North Sea. DJINN had a good downwind start, crossing the line ahead of the IRC 1-2 fleet. The first three hours of racing, extracting ourselves progressively from River Crouch in very fluky winds and strong currents, were especially challenging and, as we missed a few gusts, two of our IRC 2 competitors managed to build a nice half-mile lead on us. As wind conditions stabilized, we started catching up on them, and by midnight we were in the lead again. With light Westerlies of 5-13kt, flat water and a 100% reaching and broad-reaching course, the conditions were ideal for DJINN and her crew to build progressively a significant gap with key competitors and to finish largely ahead of the pack in Oostende after 20 hours and 26 minutes of racing and despite dying winds again... This was supposed to be "just" another Fastnet qualifier for our crew, with no one expecting anything special from it in terms of results, and yet we ended up coming back home with some silverware—a lot of silverware actually!
• Ailish Salver trophy for first yacht home (line honours)
• Blackwater Cup for first yacht in IRC 1-2 class
• Bob Stewart Trophy for first yacht in IRC overall
Congratulations to the DJINN crew (Sebastien de Liedekerke, Sylvain Duprey, Andy Hoefig, Bertrand Lefebvre and Florence Hubert)!
Chicago COLORS Regatta
The annual regatta that marks the start of the offshore sailing season in Chicago on Lake Michigan is Columbia Yacht Club’s Skyway Yacht Works Colors Regatta. Depending on weather and fleets, most boats sailed three to four races over the weekend in the challenging weather conditions. As usual, the nine-boat J/111 fleet was as tight as ever for the top of the podium. In the end, it was the Len Siegal’s LUCKY DUBIE crew for the win. After starting off with double bullets, they added a 2-6. Chasing them hard was team KASHMIR (Karl Brummel, Steve Henderson & Mike Mayer). They came up just shy of taking class honors; their 2-2-4-4 for 12 points good for the silver. Third place was John Kalanik’s PURA VIDA crew with a slow start in the first two races (8-5), but a nice comeback in the last two races (two bullets). Rounding out the top five were Rick Witzel’s ROWDY in fourth place (just one point back with 16), and Kevin Saedi’s & Raman Yousefi’s MOMENTUS in fifth place with 19 points. For more COLORS Regatta information, visit http://www.columbiayachtclub.org/.
North Sea Week
The J/111 fleet enjoyed great one-design racing for North Sea Week in Scheveningen, The Netherlands. Winning class was the Swiss team of LALLEKONIG, skippered by Joerg Sigg with crew of Wick Hillege, Nico van der Kolk, Sigrid Sigg, Joost Aaphes, Gilbert Figaroa, Wouter Kollman and Michiel van der Meulen. Their four firsts in nine races enabled them to finish with a 12 point net tally. Taking second was based on a tie-breaker—it was the crew on SWEENEY led by Paul van Driel that took the tie-break on 15 points over Sjaak Haakman’s RED HERRING. For more information, visit http://nsr.nl/.
The Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta in Chicago came to a close June 11 after three days of stellar sailing weather on Lake Michigan for more than 145 teams. Seven races were completed in the 14-boat J/111 division, with Martin Roesch’s Velocity taking the win with 16 points. Bradley Faber’s Utah placed second with 24 points, and the Karl Brummel, Steve Henderson, Mike Mayer team third with 32. For complete event details, visit https://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=3008.
The Spinnaker Cup had 38 boats and crews lined up on a cold, grey early morning start for the 88 nm race from San Francisco to Monterey. With a heavy flood entering the Bay, the fleet had worked over to Yellow Bluff on the Marin side before sneaking past Lime Point and working across the river to seek relief on the south side. It was much calmer than forecasted in the early part of the race. However, once past Pillar Point, the breeze increased to high teens and lower 20s after Ano Nuevo. All the top boats shot tight to the coast where the pressure was greatest and then had a beeline straight across Monterey Bay to the finish. Howard Turner’s J/111 SYMMETRY crushed PHRF Division E and won PHRF Overall. For more Spinnaker Cup information, visit http://www.offshoreraceweek.com/.
Block Island Race
The 72nd edition of the Block Island Race on May 26 off of Stamford, CT was 186nm with 66 entrants. The breeze at the first start was a shifty 4 knots, but by the third start, it settled into a stiff northwesterly of 15 knots with significantly higher gusts. Most of the fleet popped their kites right at the start, with the majority paralleling the CT coast for the first 15-20 miles. A number of forecasts predicted a big wind hole in the middle of L.I. Sound in the Bridgeport-to-New Haven area, and soon the leading boats in the fleet began to see the first signs of its unwelcome appearance. The quandary was which side of the Sound would be better for getting around the hole–the CT shore, or the Long Island shore. Some gybed toward the LI shore, and others decided to stay the course along the CT side. Cutting across the Sound carried an additional risk of not making it to the other shore before the wind shut down. The key– in hindsight– was being close to either shore: it mattered less which shore you were on, as long as you weren’t out toward the middle. The hole, however, didn’t last nearly as long as some of the forecasts had predicted, and the fleet made good progress toward buoy 1BI off the north end of Block Island, with most flying spinnakers all the way to, and then around, the island. As they passed the south side of the island, the fleet was faced with a NW breeze and back toward Long Island Sound. The forecasts indicated a good chance the wind would shift toward the SE, with a light and fluky transition period. After the fleet leaders re-entered the Sound (most through Plum Gut), the wind from the NW faded to a period of calm before the southerly wind began to fill in, but somewhat erratically. Eventually, the southerly took precedence, and by Saturday afternoon (May 27), the lead competitors began to reappear on the Stamford horizon. In the PHRF fleet, LIBERTAS—a J/111 skippered by John Donovan—took first place overall on corrected time. For more STC Block Island Race information, visit https://www.stormtrysail.org/regattas/block-island-race.