Monday, July 6, 2015

Kieler Woche Loved By Big Fleets of J/70s, J/80s, J/24s

J/70s sailing Kiel Week in Germany (Kiel, Germany)- Sun, wind and waves: The first day of the 133rd Kieler Woche offered everything to make a sailor happy. As a result, “the first day in the office” for the sailors could be finished quickly. All planned races were done in less than three hours.

“That was a good start in all aspects", said Dirk Ramhorst, the Regatta Chairman for Kieler Woche! “The only problem now is that expectations are high!  After this day, it can only get worse!” He would have loved to let the sailors sail even more, but he had to stick to the framework.  Ramhorst’s team was most fortunate, after three days of racing, the race directors had most of the races sailed for all fleets.

It’s not a trivial task managing the one of the world’s largest sailing events.  The week-long event took place from June 20th to the 28th for 1,500+ sailboats and over 5,000 sailors.

J/80s sailing Kiel Week off Kiel, GermanyThree J classes were featured at Kieler Woche- the J/24, J/70 and J/80.  For the J/80s, the event was considered the J/80 “Pre-Worlds”, as they will be sailing the J/80 Worlds at the same venue from July 6th to 10th.  Thirty-three J/80s sailed in the regatta and the fleet enjoyed the diverse sailing conditions.  Demonstrating why he is considered one of Germany’s top sailors, local Kieler YC member Martin Menzner sailed a very strong series to win the J/80 Pre-Worlds.  Menzner’s crew on PIKE included Frank Lichte, Mika Rolfs, Carsten Hopp managed to post a 2-3-1-2-1-2 record for 8 pts net.  Taking second only 3 pts back was Germany’s Bjorn Beilken with a 1-2-2-4-2-5 tally for 11 pts net.  Third place went to Sven Vagt’s team on BOOTSWERFT WINKLER, they were closing fast and nearly pulled off an upset after winning three races in their scoreline of 4-1-5-1-6-1 for 12 pts net.

The J/70s were sailing the first German Open National Championship.  It was a great event with 31 boats and marked a fantastic start for the J/70 class in Germany.  Several notable sailors from Germany were participating in the fleet, including Christian Soyka- 7x X-99 World Champion; Karol Jablonski- World Match Race Cup Champion and DN Iceboat World Champion from Poland who was sailing on Pit Finis boat from Dusseldorf YC; Karsten Kemmling from Norddeutscher Regattaverein- a top German match racer; Christian Soyka- another X-99 World Champion and 505 World Champion; and Felix Oehme- a winner of the Barcelona World Race in IMOCA 60s.

J/70 Kiel Week winners on podiumIn the end, it was Spain’s Olympic Medallist Hugo Rocha on NEW TERRITORIES that won the J/70 class in his first major regatta with a 3-4-2-1-6-4 record for 14 pts net.  It was a closely fought regatta for the top five with positions changing every day like a “snakes & ladders” board game.  Leading the fleet after the first four races was Germany’s Hubert Merkelbach, with a 1-1-4-4 score sheet. However, the last two races proved his undoing as a quick 13-9 meant he had posted two, not one, toss race.  Merkelbach finished second overall with 19 pts.  German star Claas Lehmann on TRE MAKRELLER was caught in a five-way battle for the bronze position on the podium.  Ultimately, Lehmann sailed a 2-10-11-3-18-5 tally to finish with 31 pts net.  Only one point back in fourth place was Sweden’s top J/70 team, Oscar Lundqvist on THE PURE CIRCLE with a 5-2-1-7-17-18 record for 32 pts net.  Fifth was finally taken by a tie-breaker between Phillipp Kadelbach and Phillipp Bruns with 33 pts each, the tie-break going to Kadelbach’s team.

J/24s sailing Kiel Week off Kiel, GermanyThe thirty-four J/24s were the largest offshore one-design class at Kieler Woche.  Teams were participating from Germany, Monaco, Sweden, The Netherlands, Hungary and Great Britain.  Skipper Ian Southworth on IL RICCIO with crew of Andy McLelland, David “Sid” Howlett, Simon Philbrick, and Julia Scott managed to show the fleet what it takes to win in very tight J/24 fleets.  Posting three wins in ten races, Southworth’s crew were able to sit out the last race so that the German teams Karsunke and Schonfeldt could duel for the 2 & 3 positions on the podium.  After winning two races themselves, Frank Schonfeldt’s HENK (with crew of Finn Moller, Till Krueger and Thorsten Sperl) took the silver with a sixth in the last race to win a tie-breaker on 39 pts. Stefan Karsunke’s SULLBERG (with crew of Tim Habekost, Carsten Kerschies, Christian Carstens and Malte Gibbe) lost that tie-breaker to take the bronze. Holding on to fourth place was Peer Kock and fifth was Jan Kahler.

Top women’s team in 13th place overall was Stephanie Kopcke’s VEGA RAGAZZA, sailing with her crew consisting of Ann-Katrin Brugge, Silke Basedow, Amelie Panuschka, Nelle-Marie Bock and Insa-Kristin Horsch from Muhlenberger Segel-Club.  For more Kiel Week sailing information

J/70 Worlds Preview

J/70s sailing downwind(La Rochelle, France)- The first J/70 World Championship to be hosted in Europe will take place in La Rochelle, France and hosted by the Societe Regate Rochelaises (SSR).  With 80+ boats in attendance from sixteen countries, it will be the first sportboat regatta in history that has representatives from all five major continents around the world- a notable achievement for the youngest ISAF sportboat class in existence! The regatta takes place from the 6th to 11th of July and is based in the giant yacht harbor- Port de Minimes.

The SSR is looking forward to roll-out the red carpet for the talented teams that are anticipating how best to tackle the challenging, often shifty conditions, in the sailing area called "les Pertuis”.  It is characterized by the regularity of the sea breeze and its interaction with the synoptical winds in the region.  The winds are mostly blowing from SW to NW (3 or 4 Beaufort in average). At about noon (14.00 local time), the sea breeze arrives from the open sea and increases during the afternoon (up to 5 Beaufort).  At least that is what happens without major frontal systems generating significant gradient breezes.  In addition, an enormous tidal flow between Ile de Re, La Rochelle harbour and the islands to the south generate San Francisco Bay type of current shears that flow up to 2+ knots; generated by a tidal height change of nearly 20 feet!

The “local” French teams will know the area well, having spent years sailing in both offshore and one-design competitions.  Notable teams include Phillipe Briand (champion dinghy/ offshore sailor and famous yacht designer) and J/80 French champions like Ludovic Senechal and Laurent Sambron.

Leading United Kingdom teams that sailed the 2014 J/70 Worlds in Newport include BOATS.COM’s Ian Atkins and Simon Ling’s Team RAFB SPITFIRE.  Joining them for this year’s adventure in La Rochelle are Ian Wilson’s GILL RACE TEAM, Nick & Adam Munday’s J7T, Charlie Esse’s DARWIN PROPERTY INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, and Patrick Liardet’s COSMIC.

Many of the top German teams that sailed Kieler Woche this past weekend have a conflict with the next major J/70 Deutsche Segel-Bundesliga; otherwise, there may have been another twenty teams from Germany alone!  As it is, joining the five boat German contingent is J/70 International Class President Jurgen Waldheim (a past 505 World Champion).

Italy’s J/70 class is showing up in force with many of their top sailors from the Alcatel OneTouch Italian Nationals series.  That group includes Vittorio Di Mauro, Carlo Alberini’s CALVI NETWORK (J/70 Midwinter Champion 2015) and Luca Domenici.

J/70s sailing off starting lineHaving at least one representative from their countries are Malta (local J/70 fleet champion Sebastian Ripard); Netherland’s Wouter Kollman (J/22 European Champion); Russia’s Alex Markarov; Switzerland’s Gergorini Rico; Per Von Appen from Chile; Australia’s Steve McConaghy, from the famous sailing and boat-building family in Sydney (most notably the Maxi 100 footer WILD OATS XI); Brazil’s Mauricio Santa Cruz (a four-time J/24 World Champion and top J/70 sailor internationally); and Mexico’s Julian Fernandez Neckelmann from their Valle de Bravo fleet west of Mexico City.  After a second at the J/24 Midwinters in Key West, a 2nd at Bacardi Miami Sailing Week and a 2nd at Annapolis NOOD Regatta, Mexico’s Neckelmann is hoping his team’s preparation will keep them in the hunt in the tricky conditions off La Rochelle sailing their battle-tested FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO.  Helping Julian as tactician will be two-time Etchells 22 World Champion and recent Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Bill Hardesty.

The Monagesque J/70 fleet, one of the largest in Europe, is showing up in force with most of their top teams in attendance.  Those teams include Monaco’s Fleet Captain Jacopo Carrain, Alex Isley, Ian Isley, Alexis Rodelato and Pierric Devic.

Also fielding a strong group of sailors is Sweden.  Many are top J sailors and dinghy sailors from the past, such as Anders Rosenberg, Mikael Lindqvist and Magnus Tyreman.

The Spanish teams include J/80 World Champion and Olympic Medallist Hugo Rocha sailing ESP 667 NEW TERRITORIES, the recent winner of the J/70 German Open Championship sailed at Kieler Woche in Kiel, Germany over a talent-laden fleet of sailors like Claas Lehmann, Oscar Lundqvist, Christian Soyka, Karol Jablonski and Carsten Kemmling (between this group of sailors are multiple X-99, 505 and World Match Race Tour World Champions, plus the current Barcelona World Race winner!).

Finally, with nine teams making the trek across the Atlantic, the American teams are laden with talent.  Top dog in this wolf-pack is current J/70 World Champion Tim Healy from Jamestown/ Newport, RI hoping to defend his title sailing HELLY HANSEN against a much improved and talented fleet.  Also, hoping to defend her J/70 World Corinthian Champion title is the duo of Heather Gregg and Joe Bardenheier sailing MUSE from Boston, MA/ Newport, RI.  Having won the J/80 Worlds, J/105 Midwinters and several J/70 events, Boston’s Brian Keane on SAVASANA is always a force to contend with.  Joining this tough crew will be Peter Duncan (a top Etchells 22 champion) from New York, Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED (Etchells 22 National Champion) from San Francisco, Tom Bowen’s REACH AROUND from Charleston and Gannon Troutman (the 12 yr old skipper that finished 5th at the Key West Midwinters and at Bacardi Miami Sailing Week).

Sperry, the marine lifestyle apparel company, is sponsoring live coverage of the J/70 Worlds with an impressive media team.  None other than Alan Block from Sailing will be providing live, on-the-water coverage while Petey Crawford of Penalty Box Productions will provide live HD video from drones and a RIB.  In addition, award-winning photographer Sander van der Borsch is providing HD photographic coverage from every corner of the race course.  Sailing photo credits- Tim Wright/  For more J/70 World Championship sailing information

Sunday, July 5, 2015

J/80 Worlds Preview

J/80s sailing off start at Kiel Week
(Kiel, Germany)- Host of the J/80 Worlds 2015 is the Kieler Yacht-Club, which annually conducts the famous Kieler Woche together with three other clubs.  Apart from the top-notch infrastructure for large sailing events ashore, KYC is expecting ideal wind and weather conditions in July and will offer a professional race management team and a first-class international jury.

The Olympic Sailing Center Kiel-Schilksee is the base for the fifty-six J/80s from eight countries that are returning to Kiel Fjord.  The regatta will take place from the 4th to 10th of July, with racing starting on Monday the 6th and final races on Friday, July 10th.

For German sailing champion Martin Menzner from Stein/Laboe, the J/80 Worlds at his doorstep will be a welcome opportunity to race in a big international fleet, “National events generally draw between 20 and 30 boats, so the J/80 Worlds will be a quite different dimension.“

Menzner is looking forward to the regatta, “I’m sure that Spanish top teams, who have been dominating the scene over the last few years, will not miss out on the worlds,” he says. “Things may go well for us if conditions are right. But to be honest – we’d be more than happy with a top ten finish like in Copenhagen in 2011. The international level is quite demanding and the top teams happen to be that bit quicker in decisive situations and more adaptable to varying conditions.“

In addition to Menzner’s crew on PIKE, twenty-four German teams will be vying for both German and World’s honors.  Amongst the top local boats are Bjorn Beilken’s PROCEDES DIVA, Andreas Rose’s TRUE GRIT, Sven Vagt’s BOOTSWERFT WINKLER, and Pit Finis’ DRALION (with ISAF Match Race champion Karol Jablonski from Poland as tactician).

As anticipated, the next largest contingent is from France.  Their fleet has been working hard to get everyone up to speed and their performances at recent major events indicate they are ready for sailing in the Kieler Fjord waters, much like their beloved Bay of Biscay.  Most of the leading Coupe de France teams will be on the starting line, including Salomon Matthieu’s CHARIOT PLUS- VANNES UTILITAIRES, Eric Brezellec’s COURRIER JUNIOR, Maxime Mesnil’s CO-PILOTES, and Bertrand Martin’s CHARLY.

Though only three Spanish teams are participating in Kiel, all three are champions of one form or another- such as Spanish National Champions or World Champions or European Champions.  Those teams include Javier Chacartegui’s HM-HOTELS, Marc de Antonio’s BRIBON-MOVISTAR and Rayco Tabares Alvarez’s HOTEL PRINCESS YAIZA from the Canary Islands.

Similarly, the teams from Great Britain number four, but include tough competitors like Jon Powell’s BETTY and Mike Eames’ JALFREZI.

The Danish fleet has seven teams making the trek from Copenhagen, including Flemming Djernaes’ BLUE WATER SHIPPING and Niels Ferrup’s SUR AQUA.

Sending one or more teams are Italy’s Massimo Rama on JENIALE AKEWUELE; Netherland’s Pip de Vries on LED2LEASE; Sweden’s Mikael Andersson on TEAM VALLAGRUPPEN and Lars Gellerhed’s MK-PRODUKTER.   J/80 Worlds Facebook page.   For more J/80 World Championship sailing information

Saturday, July 4, 2015

French Deage Family Sailing New J/111!

J/111 JBoss JBull(Toulon, France)-  JP Deage from France provided us a brief update on his family’s recent evolution in sailing.

According to JP Deage, “we bought the J/111 BLACK BULL from Italy and it will be parked in Toulon, France and participate in races in the Mediterranean.

We have sailed previous J’s like the J/92 and the J/97 DIABLOTIN MAJIC.

We look forward racing our new boat offshore!”

Friday, July 3, 2015

Royal Southern J/24 Regatta Report

J24s sailing in Europe (Dun Laoghaire, Ireland)- With four race wins from six races sailed, the furthest travelled J/24 won the class southern championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) today. Lough Erne's JP McCALDIN from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland beat the Royal St.George's HARD ON PORT skippered by Flor O'Driscoll. Third was Howth Yacht Club's KILCULLEN skippered by Gordon Stirling.  For more Royal Southern J/24 Regatta sailing information

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Shanahan Family's J/109 Sailing Story

J/109 Irish team winners (Dun Laoghaire, Ireland)- The offshore racing story of the Shanahan family of the National Yacht Club goes back at least three generations; with Liam Shanahan Jr and two of his sons were racing the family's J/109 RUTH (which is named for his wife, the mother of their five children), along with his father and grandfather Liam Senior.

When you're from stock like that, offshore racing runs in the blood. Yet it was only within the past five years that Liam bought the new J/109 RUTH.  But then he literally decided to spend more time with his family, and as much of it as possible sailing. In looking analytically with his oldest sons Ben and William at the sailing scene in Dun Laoghaire, they reckoned that the J/109 provided the best all round value, as there'd be One Design racing in Dublin Bay, there'd also be the scope to renew the Shanahan involvement with ISORA racing which their friend Peter Ryan in the National YC was promoting with vigor, and while the boat was clearly a genuine contender in the offshore racing scene, she provided the third option of real cruising potential.

They decided to go for the total racing version, with the biggest steering wheel possible, and while Liam admits it takes a little bit of gymnastics for the helmsman to take up his position astern of it, the result is an easily controlled boat with very responsive steering – "you feel close to the feel of the water when you're on the wheel, it's finger-tip control".

His approach to the offshore racing game was that it should first help to bind his family together in a shared enterprise which they all enjoyed, but as well the demands of crewing a J/109 meant they happily had to reinforce old friendships and create new ones in order to provide the necessary amateur crew panel to enable an active season which can go on for twelve months – this past winter is the first one in which Ruth has been ashore for eight weeks, the previous three winters she was raced all year round.

You get some idea of the scale of family ties and sailing friendships involved when you learn that at last year's ISORA Prize-Giving Dinner when Ruth was hailed as overall champion, the Shanahan group included no less than 28 people who had all raced on the boat since the stellar career of racing the J/109 began, all of whom regularly renewed their involvement as crew panel allocations and personal time availability required. For the race to Dingle, the crew lineup was typical, as it included Liam, Ben and William Shanahan, backed up by Kevin Daly, Simon Digby, Conall O'Halloran and Fiachra Etchingham.

It's a huge challenge maintaining such a network, yet it's one which Liam Shanahan clearly relishes, as he has a generous and continually developing philosophy of family, friends and community as expressed through sailing. And in ISORA especially, with like-minded people such as Peter Ryan on the Irish side and Stephen Tudor on the Welsh side, he has found a remarkably congenial atmosphere in which to express his approach to life, and his enthusiasm in bringing his family with him.

But in fact, when you see the Shanahan family in full flight, whether sailing together or socialising at something like last November's Round Ireland Awards Dinner in Wicklow, you could begin to wonder just who is encouraging whom, as the younger generation interact with the seniors in a mutually beneficial display of enjoyment of their own and their non-family shipmates' company, with private jokes, shared enthusiasm, and an almost telepathic in-family sense of communication and shared values.

In other words, they move as quickly and effectively ashore as they do afloat. It's impressive. And while there is this well thought out thinking behind it, it's not something that's shouted too much from the rooftops, but rather it is expressed through the shared purpose of doing well in racing, and doing it in an amateur capacity.

But in line with it, a few months ago Liam took the very definite step of formally transferring the ownership of RUTH to the five children – Ben (22), William (20), Alice (19), Tom (16) and Peter (14). For as he says himself, everything happens so quickly in a busy family, and soon they'll be moving out and going their various ways on all their different projects. But if they continue to have this shared responsibility for running a boat in all its complex aspects of logistics and personnel and decision-making, they'll have something which regularly gets them all round a table together discussing topics which are at least at one remove from the other sometimes tedious demands of modern life.

So in looking at RUTH’s success in the D2D 2015, we find ourselves contemplating a very interesting exercise and experiment in family dynamic. Just so. For those who are interested simply in what boats are doing, the word is that RUTH was due back in Dun Laoghaire before this weekend, as the universal family challenge of exams is top of the agenda for the current few days or so. Then she resumes racing next weekend with the hundred mile Royal Dee/ISORA Lyver Trophy Race between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire which, as part of the Royal Dee YC's Bicentenary celebrations, will bring the ISORA fleet to Dun Laoghaire for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015. In that, a healthy turnout of J/109s racing as a One Design class will be keen to show Ruth and her five family owners that she won't necessarily have it all her own way.  For more Dun-laoghaire to Dingle Race sailing information

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

RORC Morgan Cup Report

(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- 108 yachts crossed the start line for the 2015 Morgan Cup Race, the seventh race of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's season points championship. Although the race started at 7pm on Friday evening, due to the Summer Solstice, the fleet barely sailed more than a few hours in darkness. The gentle northerly wind, which eventually backed to the west, gave a spinnaker run for most of the 125 mile course. The majority of the fleet finished the race on Saturday afternoon, perfect timing to enjoy the hospitality of the Guernsey Yacht Club. Tide always plays a part in races to the Channel Islands and this year's Morgan Cup Race was no exception.

IRC 1 Class saw David Ballantyne’s J/133 JINGS! take fourth place.  It was Andy Hunt’s J/120 ASSARAIN II that took fifth in IRC 2 Class followed by fellow J/120 NUNATAK sailed by Elin Haf Davies in 8th place. In the IRC 3 Class chock full of J/109s, it was Phillip Nelson’s JOLENE II that took 5th place as the top J team followed by Trevor Sainty’s J/109 JELENKO in 8th and Nick Martin’s J/105 DIABLO-J.  In the IRC Double-handed Class, it was the J/120 NUNATAK in 5th and DIABLO-J in 6th.  For more RORC Morgan Cup sailing information

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

J/Teams Sweep Dun Laoghaire- Dingle Race

J/109 sailing Ireland (Dun Laoghaire, Ireland)- This is the Irish offshore race that ticks all the boxes. You start conveniently on a Friday night from a harbour which – despite everything that has been done to it in the name of modern architecture – continues to present the classically smooth granite façade of official Dublin-on-Sea. The race is on southward through the night down the east coast, past murky sandbanks that contrast with the luxuriance of the Garden of Ireland beyond the nearby shore. After that, it's round the tricky rock-strewn southeast corner and into the Atlantic, seeking a course between southwest and west along a green and purple coastline with fine mountains beyond, until your next major turn is the Fastnet Rock itself.

Then it's on Round Ireland's most spectacularly beautiful southwestern coastline, past one great headland after another, each more impressive than the last. The final turning mark is reached, a rock so spectacular it's first choice for location shooting on sci-fi blockbusters. Thus is the mighty and mystical Skellig Michael put astern. And then, with the majestic scenery of the great mountains of Kerry setting the style, you head up a splendid inlet and sail through a small and almost hidden gap in its rugged northern coastline.

J/109 sailnig IrelandYou've suddenly entered a secret yet commodious natural harbour, and may find yourself being welcomed by the amiable yet often spectacular resident dolphin. But far from finding you've arrived at a sparse little village which is appropriately dwarfed by the big country about it, on the contrary there's a proper little port town with an air of confidence and cosmopolitan chic, and the aromas of good cooking in the breeze off the land. But the contrast with the smooth metropolitan harbour town you left a couple of days earlier simply couldn't be greater. For you have just finished the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and all is very well with the world at one of Ireland's best destination ports.

As the fleet sailed into the night, some were doing better than others almost regardless of the wind they found. And the D2D Race Tracker began its work on to such good effect that within a couple of days its visitor hits had knocked "James Bond in Dun Laoghaire" off the top of the popularity sidebar on their website.

However, through the remainder of the short June night, the two leaders were powering away, and by 0530 they had broken past the Tuskar Rock while the fleet astern found the new flood tide piling up against them to enable Antix to start to assert her position at the top of the leaderboard on IRC. This was what had been expected with the weather forecasts on Thursday morning, when predictions had been that a favorable wind pattern - briskly from the north - might enable Antix to get to Dingle within the 24 hours, with the stratospherically-rated Lee Overlay Partners doing even better.

But by Friday morning the wind expectations and the betting had softened. It seemed there were going to be at least two significant flat patches that would have to be negotiated before they could breathe the Kerry air. In those circumstances, the smart money shifted to boats with middle ratings in the fleet, and where better to settle than on the half dozen ever-reliable J/109s? And within those ever-reliable J/109s, where safer than the Shanahan family with RUTH, the 2014 ISORA Champion?

sailing around irelandIt has to be admitted that with POWDER MONKEY leading the charge for glory in the J/109s in the early stages, RUTH had her backers worried. But by the time they were out past the Coningbeg at 11 o'clock on Saturday morning, the money was looking a little bit safer, for although Antix was still reaching along in glorious style and fine weather with the Old Head of Kinsale the next mark in mind and her still on top of the handicap lead, RUTH was now emerging from the pack and was picking at the lead in the J/109s which had been taken over by the Welsh boat MOJITO (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), while early sprinter POWDER MONKEY had run out of steam and was now well back.

While the northerly breeze lasted, Lee Overlay Partners and Antix were in a race of their own. Horizon job doesn't even begin to describe it. And when the wind did go soft and then drew locally from ahead on Saturday afternoon during an otherwise perfect summer's day, they were better able to cope in clear conditions. But many miles astern, the most of the rest of the fleet were in those messy waters south of the Hook, where head winds in the usual lumpy sea make any progress difficult, and some took desperate tactical gambles.

Yet such is the nature of this race that the more optimistic continued to hope that their time might yet come, and so it proved through Saturday night. The underlying northerly breeze had returned as forecast, reinforced by being the night breeze off the land right along the south coast of West Cork. But for the two leaders ploughing along approaching the Fastnet Rock at midnight, they were sailing into another calm. The Fastnet Rock, legendary emblem of rough water, was no more than a great big pussy cat sitting serenely in its own bed of almost windless sea. Antix came as near as dammit to a halt.

Yet the rest of the fleet, led by the offshore-course-favouring J/122 Aurelia (Chris & Patanne Power Smith), were coming down from the Old Head of Kinsale through the velvet night in considerable style and at a very fine speed. Then through that night, as each cohort in turn came to the Fastnet and found it calm and then had some very slow progress towards the next bit of a reasonably moving air out by Mizzen Head, the corrected time leadership changed almost by the minute, and certainly by the hour.

In such circumstances, with all the benefit of hindsight, we can see a trend emerging. The close racing between MOJITO and RUTH had developed into an exhausting duel. But their heightened performance for that one-on-one challenge meant they in turn were out-performing all others. Oh for sure, from time to time other boats appeared at the top of the leaderboard. But thanks to the MOJITO/ RUTH contest - "a dogfight" was how Liam Shanahan later laconically described it - when anything remotely like reasonable sailing emerged, the two top J/109s were poised to take the lead.

It was at Cape Clear and heading on towards the Fastnet at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning that RUTH for the first time started to show ahead, though only just, when they were only 80 metres apart. But she stayed ahead of MOJITO thereafter, even though like everyone else they spent a considerable time – three hours in the case of some boats – becalmed at the mouth of Bantry Bay. Yet all the time RUTH was somehow nibbling away, and as the northerly returned to give a summer day's beat out past Dursey Head and on towards the big turn at the Skellig, RUTH was building towards having two miles in hand on MOJITO.

She never lost it thereafter, and as the chips were falling exactly the right way for whoever was leading the J/109s, they were able to get round the Skellig and up to the finish at Dingle carrying the port tack all the way, albeit hard on the wind, while those ahead had found things flukey towards Dingle, and those far astern were to find the wind veering to give a beat, and then falling away.

The early overall leader Antix was no longer in a commanding position when she finally finished the D2D 2015 shortly after 2pm on Sunday, having to contend with a local south to east breeze to get across the line. But in the end, she did very well to correct to 8th place overall after a race in which conditions were against her.

Yet not so far behind the two big glamour girls, RUTH took the win with style, finishing at 1945 hrs still that crucial two miles ahead of MOJIYO, which in turn came in twenty minutes later to move into second on corrected time.

It was fairly clearcut in terms of time for the first three places, but fourth slot was a very close run thing. If there was a prize for the most inappropriately-named boat in the race, it would have been no contest for Jay Bourke's J/109 DEAR PRUDENCE. She seemed to be crewed mostly by some of the most colourful characters on the Irish sailing scene. And in those difficult stages to the west of the Coningbeg and Saltees, DEAR PRUDENCE seemed to be taking unsuccessful flyers that belied her name. But as the race progressed, her motley crew – sorry about the cliché, but nothing else will do – began to get their act together, and they fairly milled their way through the fleet.

By the time DEAR PRUDENCE got out of the Bantry Bay calm, she was becoming a contender. Thereafter, the motley crew sailed like men possessed. To get to Dingle as quickly as possible, they made some inspired tactical decisions in the beat up to the Skellig. And then, on the final leg to the finish, they didn't sail an inch further than was absolutely necessary, skirting Valentia Island close inshore with a splendidly cavalier disregard for the supposed perils of doing so, and hounding down boats in front of them like a very hungry lion after his prey.

Thus from being an also ran going nowhere, DEAR PRUDENCE came in a commendable fourth, albeit by just 50 seconds ahead of Alchimiste. It was an astounding performance. And it added yet further lustre to the J/Boat sweep of the results, as they now took five of the first six places. Overall is was the Shanahan’s J/109 RUTH in first followed by Peter Dunlop & Vicki Cox’s J/109 MOJITO in second, Chris & Patanne Power Smith’s J/122 AURELIA in third, Jonathan Bourke’s J/109 DEAR PRUDENCE in fourth, and James & Sheila Tyrrell J/122 AQUELINA in sixth.  For more Dun-laoghaire to Dingle Race sailing information

Monday, June 29, 2015

MY SHARONA Crowned J/111 World Champion!

J/111 starting J/111 Worlds off Newport, RI (Newport, RI)- According to skipper George Gamble of MY SHARONA, “the most nervous day of preparation we have had was for the last day of racing of the J/111 Worlds.  The sailing conditions were so variable, we felt anything could happen.  And, with so many boats so close in a breeze that was unpredictable even for local sailors, we knew it was going to be a difficult last day.”

In the end, Gamble and his crew on MY SHARONA demonstrated yet again why they are such a good team.  Never taking any flyers and trying to stay in the hunt, they managed to take a 3rd place in the first race of the last day to seal the deal and win the 2015 J/111 World Championship off Newport.  They did not have to sail the last race.

The weather forecast for the finale on Friday was unusual as a weak frontal system was approaching Newport offering up WSW winds in the 8-12 kts range with the expectation of afternoon showers or thundershowers.  Typically, such forecasts can be way off.  With skies clearing for a period of time, the Newport seabreeze machine asserted itself for a period of time fighting the frontal gradient over the land and nearshore waters.

J111s rounding mark- J/111 Worlds off Newport, RIIda Lewis YC PRO Peter Gerard setup the course east of the R4 red bell and sent the fleet off on their first race on an upwind course of 235 degrees for a 1.8nm first leg- four times around.  The starts were not without a bit of drama and after several general recalls, the final start went off with an “I” and “Z” flag.  Leading the fleet right after the start was Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF and after rounding the first weather mark first, they managed to maintain their lead to the finish.  Second was Richard Lehman’s WIND CZAR and third was Gamble’s MY SHARONA.

The final race of the series was even more complex than the first race.  The impending frontal system played games with the winds and an enormous black cloud kept diminishing and reforming over the western end of the course.  Winds varied from 7 to 12 kts and from 235 to 255 degrees.  With an outgoing ebb tide from Narragansett Bay, it was anyone’s guess how any strategy would play out.  Ultimately, it was the Brummel/ Henderson/ Mayer team on KASHMIR that rounded the windward mark first and led the fleet wire-to-wire to win race 9 in impressive fashion. Taking second was Marty Roesch’s crew on VELOCITY and third was Carl Desgagnes’ VOLTEFACE from Quebec City, Quebec.

In the end, Gamble’s MY SHARONA won with a 31 pts score followed by the KASHMIR crew from Chicago YC in second place.  Third was Bob Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT from Rochester, New York that normally races on Lake Ontario.  Fourth was Richard Lehmann’s WIND CZAR from Harbor Springs, Michigan and fifth was Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF from Cleveland, Ohio.  There’s no question there was a bit of a “theme” here, many of the top J/111 teams were all Midwest/ Great Lakes boats from J/111 Fleet #1 in Chicago and the surrounding area.

It didn’t start that way.  After the exciting first day, it was the British team JELVIS that led the way. With twenty-five boats on the line, it was anyone’s guess what would happen when you mixed the current J/111 World Champion and leading UK teams lined up against the top American, Canadian, Australian and Caribbean teams from across the world.

J/111s sailing worlds off Newport, RIThe weather forecast was not promising.  An overcast day with a dying northerly that was supposed to see a gradient/ seabreeze combination develop in the middle of the day into the 6-10 kts range with the breeze filling in at 200 degrees and veering to the 230 range.  As it turned out, it was not that far off.  After a postponement, the Ida Lewis YC PRO Peter Gerard fired off the first race in a 6-9 kts breeze in the 210 range.  By the time the second race took place at 1600 hrs, the wind had veered further right into the 220 to 240 deg range and from 9 to 12 kts TWS.

Leading after the first day was the British team of Martin Dent sailing JELVIS from Cowes, Isle of Wight with a 1-6 tally for 7 pts total.  Second was Richard Lehmann’s crew on WIND CZAR with an 8-3 scoreline for 11 pts (the current J/111 North American champion).  And, third was David & Maryellen Tortorello’s PARTNERSHIP with a 3-10 score for 13 pts.

So close was the racing that an average of a 10th was good enough to place your team in the top ten.  Even more remarkably, only ten points (well within a mid-fleet finish) separated teams from 3rd place to 15th place!  It’s quite possibly the tightest regatta that anyone has seen amongst the top teams after the first day of racing.

By the end of Day Two, a new leader emerged in the form of George Gamble’s MY SHARONA. The teams were treated to a “Newport Chamber of Commerce” day for their second day on the race track.  Starting off with the captain’s meeting at 9am Wednesday morning, the Ida Lewis YC PRO Peter Gerard announced to the fleet that it was going to be an “inside the Bay Day” and to be prepared to sail two races, a first race windward-leeward followed by the long distance race “Bay Tour”.

The morning dawned with a gorgeous sunrise, winds howling out of the north at 20-30 kts.  The forecast was for winds to ultimately diminish into the 10-18 kts range by the start at 11am from 30-40 degrees and veer to the east, in an oscillating-persistent shift to 90 degrees or so by late afternoon.  As it turned out, the forecast was not far off and it made for a spectacular day of sailing on Narragansett Bay.

J/111 sailing World Championship off Newport, RIThe starting area for the first race was immediately west of the northern end of Gould Island and the famous “US Navy torpedo range” buildings.  Fast off the start was Chris Jones’ WILD CHILD, nailing the starboard end start and covering the fleet going off on starboard tack. One of the first boats to flip onto port tack was Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF.  Ultimately, it was the right move as they led the fleet off to the right hand corner of the first weather leg to lead the fleet around the first mark and win the race.  Second was George Gamble’s MY SHARONA and third was Bob Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT.

The second race was the Navigator’s Long Distance Race.  The fleet was given a long 3.5nm windward leg to the green gong in the straits formed by the southern end of Prudence Island and Dyer Island on the northeastern part of the Bay.  This was followed by a reach to the red bell of the NE corner of Jamestown (Conanicut Island), then a spinnaker reach, then a fetch east across the Bay, then a long run down to the green Clingstone Rock bell and to the finish off Fort Adams.  The race was such that the first beat determined the pecking order for most of the fleet.  It also meant choosing which side of the Bay to hit a corner, go left up along Conanicut Island and play shifts into the green buoy or go right to the Portsmouth shoreline for current relief and perhaps large right hand shifts off the shore.  Off the start, the British team on WILD CHILD skippered by Chris Jones again nailed the RC committee boat start and took off to the right leading the fleet.  Another pack of boats started towards the left end of the line (including Gamble’s MY SHARONA, Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF, Bob Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT and David & Maryellen Tortorello’s PARTNERSHIP) and played a completely different wind/current strategy to the far left hand side of the race course.  At the first windward mark, that pack remarkably led the fleet around the first mark.  First in from the right hand side grouping was Jones’ WILD CHILD.  From there on end it was essentially a parade around the marks to the finish line.

Gamble’s MY SHARONA won the last race and became the new leader of the J/111 Worlds with a 9-8-2-1 for 20 pts and the only boat with all single digit finishes.  Taking 5th in that race and lying second overall was Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF with an 18-1-1-5 tally for 25 pts.  By virtue of their second in the last race, Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT was now third overall with a 10-12-3-2 for 27 pts.  Jumping into 4th overall was the Tortorello’s PARTNERSHIP with a 3-10-10-4 for 27 pts and in 5th was Martin Dent’s JELVIS with a 1-6-14-7 for 28 pts.

J/111 World Champions- George Gamble's MY SHARONA from Pensacola, FLOn the third day of racing, MY SHARONA extended their lead with solid, conservative sailing. The weather forecast for Thursday’s racing was benign enough- winds of 6-9 kts from the SSW all day with skies clearing in the afternoon. After about an hour postponement, the seabreeze filled in from the classic southerly direction offshore. Once the winds averaged 5 kts, Ida Lewis YC PRO Peter Gerard sent off the fleet on the first of three windward-leeward races.  By the late afternoon, the breeze had built into the 8-12 kts TWS range, making for excellent, incredibly tightly-packed racing.

Sailing the best record of the day was none other than Gamble’s MY SHARONA, extending their lead with a 4-3-1 scoreline for a total of 19 pts overall and a seemingly unassailable 15 point lead over the rest of the fleet.  Behind them, it became a war of attrition for many teams hoping to crack the top five overall.  By virtue of their 3-4-20 finishes, Bob Hesse’s LAKE EFFECT had now taken over second overall with 34 pts.  However, only one point back was the Tortorello’s PARTNERSHIP; their first race horizon job drove them into contention with a 1-7-11 score for the day.  Sitting in fourth was the trio of Brummel/ Henderson/ Mayer on KASHMIR, posting the second best scores for the day with a 5-6-3 for a total score of 39 pts.  After being in striking distance for the lead after the first two days, Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF had a rough go of it on Rhode Island Sound with a 19-10-5 scoreline to drop into fifth overall with 40 pts total.  Only ten points separated 5th from 10th place in this close-quarters racing.

Thanks to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Commodore Gary Lash, Event Chair Pat Connerney, PRO Peter Gerard and their amazing team of volunteers that helped make the J/111 World Championship a resounding success.  Finally, thanks go out to all the sponsors that helped support the event, including Gold Sponsors North Sails and B&G electronics and also Industry Sponsors that included Bacardi, J/Boats, MJM Yachts, SEABlade, Quantum Sails, V Sport and  Sailing photo credits- Cate Brown.  For more J/111 Worlds sailing information

Sunday, June 28, 2015

History Continues for Canadian Sailing Family- the McLaughlins

Canadian J/24, J/105 sailors Terry McLaughlin of Toronto, ONT, Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)- The McLaughlin name is a staple in the sailing world with generations of success dating back to the 1940’s in Canada. The family history will continue this year as two generations represent Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games on July 12-19 in Toronto, Canada.

In the J/24 class, Terry McLaughlin will compete in the Games with crew David Ogden, David Jarvis and Sandy Andrews. Terry’s son, Evert, has teamed up with Alexandra Damley-Strnad to earn the bid in the Snipe class.

“I cannot describe how cool it is to compete at the same Games as my father,” says Evert. “It is quite incredible to sail a sport where one can be competitive for so many years of their life. For this reason, I think it’s quite unlikely a father-son duo has tackled the Games before, let alone in their home country and home waters. Who knows, we may be bunk mates in the Pan Am Village!”

Terry, a sailing icon, won an Olympic silver medal in the 1984 Olympics – a pinnacle moment in his career. Terry’s achievements also include first place finishes at the 2011 and 2013 New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, as well as being a two-time winner of the Sail Canada Rolex Sailor of the Year.

When it comes to sailing at major competitions, Terry is undoubtedly a seasoned expert. He advises those competing in their first Major Games experience “to sail as if it isn’t their first Games. Don’t be in awe of the whole scene. Don’t get all caught up in the noise. Focus on your own sailing. Don’t take chances that you wouldn’t normally take on the race course.”

Terry does not take any of it for granted saying, “It is great to have my son Evert at the same Major Games. My father, Evert’s grandfather, sailed in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics for Canada. His and my Olympic sailing experiences certainly did not overlap.” Terry’s brother, Frank McLaughlin, is also an Olympic bronze medalist.

Beyond the Pan Ams, Evert has his eyes on the Rio 2016 Olympics, hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps and earn a medal for Team Canada. “The Pan Am Games represent a stepping stone on the pathway to Rio 2016. The competition and overall experience of the Pan Am Games will give me knowledge and confidence moving forward and I hope to carry the momentum through the Olympic Trials.”

The Pan Am sailing events will be held on several race courses on Lake Ontario, including a downtown course on Toronto Harbour in the shadow of the CN Tower, on July 12-19.  For more Pan Am Games J/24 sailing information