As the fleet piled up at the favored pin end for the start of the first race of the J/24 Nationals, it seemed clear that Keith Whittemore was destined for another trophy on his mantel. After the fleet’s usual bumping and yelling, Whittemore was the first to emerge from the melee on port tack, with speed mind you. He went on to lead wire to wire in the race and eventually won the regatta with a race to spare. While his scoreline may have made it look like a cakewalk, winning five of nine races, the competition was tight the entire series. Tied in second was North American champ Will Welles and the Japanese team led by Nobuyuki Imai. Welles won the tiebreaker.
For the other 29 competitors this past weekend, a big part of the story was the epic weather. The forecasters were predicting some rather dubious conditions for Friday and Saturday, but both days came in strong, if a little late. In fact, there were shore delays both days. Bruce Hedrick got Sunday right, as it came in and gave racers four final races in the mid-teens for wind. Win or lose on the race course, we all won three great days of sailing.
These photos by Sean Trew. Find him on Facebook to see the rest. They’re great.
The racing was all done on northerlies, with the courses set north of Meadow Point. Going right on the beats worked well, except occasionally when left paid big. There was never enough wind, even on Sunday, to generate edge-of-your seat conditions but Sunday there was the occasional wave worth a sheet pump. All in all, the conditions were a good medium air test for the fleet. While this wasn’t the 80-boat J/24 fleets at some events in the world, there was still plenty of traffic at starts and marks. I can attest that port tack approaches to the weather mark weren’t successful unless you were looking for practice jibing back around multiple times to get in the starboard layline parade.
The biggest bang of the weekend was when Jailbreak and Seepaert, chartered by Matt Pistay, found each other at a weather mark rounding. Lydia Volberding was winding her way on port tack through boats to get Jailbreak to the starboard layline. “That’s when we did that dance (with Seepaert) that you do in the supermarket aisle, one person goes one way and the other goes the same way,” Volberding explained. It was her first collision in about 15 years in the J fleet, but it was a big one with enough damage to Seepaert that it couldn’t sail the final day.
As one might expect, the usual Seattle fleet suspects rose to the top. Michael Johnson in Pearl sailed an extraordinarily consistent regatta, ending up in fourth, only a point out of third. The “well-oiled machine” (according to my skipper) of Scott Milne’s Tremendous Slouch team finished fifth followed by Baba Louie, Spark, Self Abuse, Atom Ant and Hair of the Dog rounding out the top 10. Kudos to Steve Travis for taking the time from his TP52 Smoke to mix it up with the J/24 fleet. The Newport, RI fleet’s Bob Kinsman drove Atom Ant and shared a lot of knowledge that will surely trickle down through the Seattle fleet.
These photos courtesy of Jan Anderson. More here.
Our Wild Ride
On my ride, ….and your little, dog too, there was never a dull moment. Owner Hans Spiller couldn’t make the regatta and allowed two of his regulars, Derek DeCouteau and Craig Horsfield, to have a go at it. I was lucky enough to get a call. Our series was one of great races followed by poor ones, finding the farthest corner of wrong side followed by a flyer that worked like a gem. A DSQ of a 7th place on the second day was a crushing blow to the mood on the boat, but with the pressure off we had a satisfying final day. But there were lessons re-learned. Even in a fleet where collisions are relatively common, boats regularly sail within a foot of each other, and there is no contact, you can be tossed out of a race. And another relearned lesson, make sure you’re at max weight. One hundred fifty more pounds on the rail would have made that last day even more satisfying. I enjoyed connecting with many J/24 friends I seldom see these days and very much being regaled with international Star Boat series stories from Derek and Craig’s believe-it-or not Mini Transat stories. By the way, happy birthday Bev Multerer.
Long Live the J/24
The Seattle J/24 fleet is strong because its members are committed to keeping it that way. Fleet functions always go beyond the race course to parties and dinners and it seems from the outside that a lot of people chip in on fleet duties. Bringing Nationals to Seattle is certainly a major achievement, and with the weather gods cooperating the way they did it will be long remembered. The international camaraderie is clear as well. When the Japanese team came by to say hi to Whittemore at the beginning of the event, the warmth between the two teams was clearly apparent.
And the J/24 itself? Sure, it’s slow by today’s standards, but the fleet stays tightly packed and every inch counts. Pity the A-sail generation sailors that don’t face the challenge of pole-back tactics and entering a leeward gate going dead downwind. But the J/24 rewards all the important stuff; perfect crew work, starts and tactics, weight placement, and fast sails. Make no mistake, however, the boat leaves some marks, usually black and blue but sometimes a sickly yellow verging on orange.
This event has been well covered by the sailing media. CYC did a great job hosting the event and Charlie Rathkopf set excellent courses and (after that shift on the first race) very square start lines. Results here. Our great Northwest photographers were on top of the action. Jan Anderson was out all Saturday, and Sean Trew was out Friday and Sunday. Scuttlebutt gave it daily coverage, and Chris Howell supplied photos to Sail-World for the event. If you’d like to add some color (words or pictures) to this coverage, send it along and I’ll post a followup.