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.