Laser Worlds, J/24 Europeans Success for Northwest Sailors

Laser Worlds, J/24 Europeans Success for Northwest Sailors

It is so fun to applaud the success of Northwest racers when they go out in the world! Over the past week we can claim some more of that success, though to anyone who’s been paying attention it won’t come as surprise.

Bill Symes atop the podium.

Bill Symes of Portland won the Great Grandmaster aged (65+) Radial fleet in the Laser Master Worlds in Split, Croatia. He did it in convincing fashion, winning four of the seven races, including the last three. Those of us who get to race against Symes know how much he contributes to the sport, what great sportsman he is and how ridiculously consistently fast he is. He is extremely deserving of this win!

Al Clark of Vancouver has coached young Vancouver athletes for several years and has been taking aim at the Master Worlds for many years. He won this year’s Standard Grandmaster (55+) division in a hard-fought battle with fellow Canadian Andy Roy.

And then there’s Diedre Webster, also from Vancouver. She was third in the women’s Great Grandmaster (65+) fleet. But wait, she was the only 75+ woman in the fleet, so that pretty much makes her the winner (a hero) of that class!

I hope to get some first-person details to share in the not-so-distant future.

The Laser Masters Worlds is a truly amazing event. Every year, more than 300 “old folks” get together somewhere in the world to race these deceptively simple, physically brutal, little boats. You can hear swearing in several different languages as one side of the course gets hit by a bad shift. To sail a Laser in breeze at any age is a challenge, to do so when your’re 60, 70 or more is amazing! And at the top of these fleets, the level of skill and fitness is absolute tops.

The Master Worlds is my personally favorite regatta. The sportsmanship and camaraderie is tops, the international aspect is remarkable and racing is always top notch. I was particularly pleased to see the number of women racing at the Worlds this year. It seemed to be more than in years past.



J/24 European Championship


Whittemore’s Tundra Rose winning US Nationals earlier this year in Seattle.

Keith Whittemore loves sailing J/24s on Tuesdays on Lake Washington. He also loves sailing them in Europe. He’s had a great year, first winning the Nationals here in Seattle in May and last week winning the Europeans in Hungary last week with a remarkable comeback win.

According to Whittemore’s emails to his J/24 compatriots, it was light and shifty conditions. On day 2 (?) he had a rough day, having to fight back from a bad start to finish 7th, suffering a black flag DSQ for the second race of the day and then watching the last race (which he was winning) abandoned. Despite all that, he eventually was able to drop the DSQ and rack up three thirds in the last four races to claim victory. Results.

In the meantime, other Seattle J/24 racers were making their mark at the World Championships in Port Credit, Ontario. Mark Laura’s Baba Louie ended up 7th , Scott Milne with Tremendous Slouch finished 10th and Carl Sheath finished 30th in Suspence.

I’m hoping to share some insights from the competitors themselves in the coming days.


Northwest J/24s at the Worlds in Japan

Northwest J/24s at the Worlds in Japan

The J/24 fleet in Seattle remains strong, in fact one of the strongest in the country. And it seems that nearly every year one or more crews head to the far corners of the world to attend international regattas. So it’s no surprise the Northwest was well represented by Michael Johnson and Mark Laura and their crews at last week’s Worlds in Japan. Friend and Pearl crew member Joy Okazaki was kind enough to give us some insight into the regatta. Thanks, Joy. If anyone else wants to provide a report on their Salish sea racing or cruising, email me.

What Seattle boats/sailors there?

Joy on the deck of Pearl.

Two of the three U.S. Boats were from the Seattle fleet – Pearl, skippered by Michael Johnson with local sailors Gabrielle McCoy (trimmer)‎, Joy Okazaki (logistics/mast) and Gavin Brackett (bow), with guest tactician Chip Till from Charleston, SC – and Baba Louie, skippered by Mark Laura, Lance McDonough (trimmer), Craig Suhrbier (mast), and Melanie Edwards (bow), with guest tactician Steve Cucciaro from Boston, MA.

Baba Louie
Baba Louie

The regatta also drew two teams from Germany, three teams from Korea, one team from Singapore, one team from Peru, and‎ one team from England. A total of 41 boats participated.

Did you feel the Seattle fleet had good speed? Were they charter boats?

The Seattle boats were both chartered boats in Japan. The boat that Pearl Racing Team chartered was originally commissioned in 2002 as “Ragtime” by JBoats owner Rod Johnstone ‎for the 25th Anniversary of the J/24 and was later sold to an owner from Japan. The Pearl team had to make a few improvements to optimize it for racing.ch6i5802

The boat that Team Baba Louie chartered was originally owned and sailed by Mark Laura when he won the J/24 North Americans in Long Beach in 1994 . The boat had changed hands a few times and required extensive bottom work to get it race ready for the regatta.

Both boats had various bursts of speed, but it was more about getting a good start (there were many general recalls and U Flag starts), going the right direction, finding clear air and figuring out the current than it was about the boat speed.

Did you bring your own sails?

We brought our own sails (main, spinnaker, genoa and jib, plus practice genoa and spinnaker), halyards, running rigging, extra blocks and cleats, compass, tools and bottom kits. ch6i8166We’ve learned from chartering boats in Mexico (2007) and Argentina (2011) it’s better to be prepared with many spares, tools, tape, extra line, etc.

What kinds of shore side activities that were a little different in Japan?

The Japanese hosted a fabulous regatta, complete with opening and closing ceremonies featuring local sake, a taiko drumming performance and a masterful tuna carving.

Opening ceremonies
Opening ceremonies

Daily prizes included post-racing beer accompanied by table-top barbecues, grilled fish and deep fried fishcakes, rice balls, and tube steaks, allowing teams to socialize and get to know each other. Protests were surprisingly minimal, though there were a handful of penalties scored every race.

What was it like for you personally?

While we would have liked to have done better (we placed 16th out of 41 boats; Baba Louie was 14th) we were out sailed by the competition and we learned a lot, while having a great time. The Japanese did a wonderful job of planning a top notch regatta – the hotel and sailing venue was amazing, and the warm hospitality of all of the Japanese teams, both on and off the water, was unparalleled. Many foreign sailors had never been to Japan before so it was truly an experience. Mark Laura said it best: “They really rolled out the red carpet for all of the competitors.”

Anything else of interest?

September is traditionally a very warm and humid month in Japan – and often threatened with typhoons. img_20160920_142945This year was no different, and the regatta ended up losing a day of racing to Typhoon No. 16 “Malakas” which hit Wakaura Bay on Tuesday, September 20. Winds were clocked 11.2 m/s (22 knts) with peak gusts of 15.7 m/s (31 knts), but the accompanying torrential rains caused local flooding, slides and minimized visibility. ch6i0746The post-typhoon wind was light and very shifty making races very challenging, and the runoff left lots of debris to dodge in the marina and bay.

Photos courtesy of the event photographers. Gallery here. And here is the link to the results. Finally, the Seattle J/24 site.