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/.