Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eight Bells: For Sailor Bob Billingham

Bob Billingham- J/24 sailor (San Francisco, CA)- Bob Billingham (a.k.a. "Buddha") passed away following a lengthy illness on March 30, 2014 at home in Grass Valley, California. He was 56 years of age.

Bob had graduated from Amherst College in 1979 with degrees in Geology and English. Born in England, he immigrated to the United States when he was five years old with his parents, who were professors at Stanford University.

Bob had an accomplished sailing track record which included representing the United States at the 1988 Olympics, winning the Silver medal in the Soling Class with John Kostecki and Will Baylis. Bob is a five-time World Champion in Solings, Etchells, J/24s and Maxis. Bob had also served on the management side of the US Olympic Team for 20 years.

Bob’s involvement in the America’s Cup included crewing on the 1992 America’s Cup winning team America3, and then roles as Chief Operating Officer for Paul Cayard at AmericaOne 2000 and Artemis Racing. Prior to the 34th America’s Cup, Bob worked for the America’s Cup event organizers in San Francisco, preparing facilities to host America’s Cup racing in 2012 and 2013.

“The last time I saw Bob, he was setting up to do America’s Cup commentary in a setting that, as Project Manager, he had orchestrated,” noted yachting journalist Kimball Livingston. “He showed no sign of the cancer or the treatments that had been in his foreground for years, and I never heard a word out of his own mouth about them. Nothing slowed Bob down until he hit the wall, and he hit the wall fast forward. In 2013, I heard a friend say that the America’s Cup was keeping him alive – to fill its demands – but Bob disappeared over the winter, and I started hearing of a fast slide, not to be talked about openly. Bob was never afraid of having a public presence, as long as it wasn’t ‘about’ him.”

When not involved with sailing projects, Bob had built a successful project management career overseeing design and construction of large projects from residential and office high-rise buildings to high end custom homes.

Gorgeous J/Fest West On the Bay!

J/70s on San Francisco BayFun Sailing For J/24s, J/70s, J/105s, J/111s, J/120s
(San Francisco, CA)- The annual salute to all things “J”, the St Francis YC’s J-Fest got a well needed shot in the arm this year with the addition of the J/111's and J/70's. A staple of the StFYC spring series for decades, the J-Fest originally featured dozens of J24's, J-30's and the then, elite J-35's. The fleet of these boats have lessened in years gone by and the introduction of the J/105's in 1991, the J/120 in 2000 enabled the J-Fest to enjoy a bit of a resurgence. Fast forward to 2014, the addition of the new J-Speedsters, the J/111s and the J/70s, were a welcome new addition to the regatta.

The fleet of forty-eight boats were treated to “beyond glam” conditions.  Starting with sunny, cloudless mornings, the StFYC PRO kept the fleet in the cozy confines of the harbor until 11am under harbor postponement.  As soon as the first whispers of the sea-breeze wafted in under the Golden Gate Bridge, StFYC PRO John Craig sent the fleet out to the starting line just off Alcatraz Island and the magnificent San Francisco city-front.  It is hard to imagine a more fun and challenging race course than having to divine the ins-and-outs of traversing tide-lines and playing wind streaks funneling over the peninsula’s headlands down through San Francisco Bay.

J/120s sailing San FranciscoWith some ongoing compression in the J/120 fleet underway, DESDEMONA’s former owner, John Wimer, joined forces with Timo Bruck and provided some insight and guidance, propelling TWIST’s stock to new highs in the J-120 division.  “The last race was a bit stressful for us after we fouled PEREGRINE, the wind died just as we were about to cross them, so we didn't make the cross, but were able to recover after we took our penalty. John did a great job of keeping us calm, focused, and fast. It was fantastic having him on board with us,” commented Timo Bruck.  In the end, it was Steve Madeira’s MISTER MAGOO crew on the “ultimate green sailing machine” that walked off with class honors with an astonishing (for the J/120 class) consistent score of 2-1-1-2-2- for 8 pts.  Timo’s TWIST was second in their nail-biter race followed by Dave Halliwill’s PEREGRINE in third.

J/105s sailing San FranciscoThe BLACKHAWK success continues in the J/105 class, Scooter Simmons with tactician Brent Draney and company held off Jeff Littfin's MOJO by 3 points after 5 races.  After starting in the “cellar”, Scooter’s crew rebounded to post an amazing 8-1-1-1-1 for 12 pts.  Third was Adam Spiegel’s JAM SESSION.

Dorian McKelvy's MAD MEN sailed a tight battle with Roland Vandermeer’s BIG BLAST and Rob Theis’s AEOLUS, in the end, consistency paid off with 1 point victory!  It was a very tight battle with these three musketeers.  MADMEN’s 1-1-4-1-3 for 10 pts just held off BLAST’s 3-2-2-3-1 for 11 pts.  The one “twist” in the regatta was the AEOLUS crew finding their spinnaker wrapped around Anita Shoal Light tower in the second race, having to take a DNF for the experience.

J/111s on San Francisco Bay"We are expecting eight J/111's for the Vallejo Race", said Drew Harper who was tugging on lines aboard Roland Vandermeer's BIG BLAST, which had consistently superb results over the weekend especially considering it was their 1st regatta.  "We were very pleased with the results of not only our boat but also the turnout of the regatta. Additionally the Bay Area fleet is expected to grow to 10 boats by April 29 as BAD DOG joins the fleet, going to former J-120 owner Dick Swanson, and another J-111 named BLAST is en route from Nova Scotia”.

"Roland is no slouch at the helm,” says Bill Colombo, who was calling tactics on board BIG BLAST. "Roland has done well on other boats, and his new J/111, just arrived from the Great Lakes where it achieved 3rd in last year's J-111 North Americans. Andy McCormack is running the program and is doing a very good job." Bill is no newby to the J-111 having sailed on Frank Slootman's original INVISIBLE HAND, J-111 hull #4, and sailing in the aforementioned NA's last year and the Verve Cup.

Commented Bill, “We got the J/111 because it is the perfect combination of fun to sail with family and friends and it is a blast to race. It is very agile and quick to respond. It is very easy to sail and still requires a good team to drive fast and hard. The first regatta proved this all and the fleet dynamics and people look great! Andy has sailed with me before and we just threw some friends together to race and it worked well. We still have so much to learn about all the modes of the boat, but not a bad set up for first time out.”

J/70 sailing fast in San FranciscoOn the J/70 side of the world, they also had many newcomers to their rapidly expanding fleet.  Ben Mercer had this to say about their experience, "Friday was a great opportunity to learn more about the boat from Stu Johnstone during Fridays J/70 Clinic. Rig tune, sail trim, and using the winch to keep the boat at a constant level of heel, were all highlighted points as we went through the weekend. Saturday brought on solid "Chamber of Commerce" sailing conditions on the city front in a burgeoning flood. As we learned in the clinic, aggressive mainsail trim and driving is needed to keep the J/70 tracking without making too much leeway so mainsheet trimmers got a workout but the drivers who trimmed their own mains were looking especially tired at the Rum Party. Sunday brought us a chance to relax and mingle on the dock in a postponement till the breeze filled in. It was all about rig tune and using the shifts to get to the current relief on the beach. The biggest takeaway was having a solid team that could all work together because every position has a crucial role on the boat. It was great to see all the J/Boat classes have such a strong showing, new and old designs alike! "

Josh Butler was working the strings and calling shots for Mark Nelson's J/70 SUGOI (which literally translates to- ‘terrible, dreadful, terrific, amazing, great, or wonderful’ depending on its context). "I think conditions were great for the J/70's and overall the Bay is a great place to sail them. The competition level is already high and there is plenty of room for growth in the fleet. The nice thing about the J/70 is a family can race them, the boat handles very well upwind and pops up onto a plane off-wind quite nicely.”

"The J-70s will add six boats to the 15 boat fleet very soon," says Drew Harper, who is working with Sail California. "Those six boats should sell at the Strictly Sail Show,” Drew adds.

The J/70 called 1FA, sailed by Scott Sellers and Geoff McDonald are in familiar territory in the J/70 fleet- they took delivery the day before the regatta of their brand new boat.  "Norm Davant from Sail California helped us tune the boat on Friday when we took delivery, and we were ready to sail on Saturday,” said Scott.  He continued, “It is a pretty easy boat to sail so there weren't a lot of tricks. Our crew has a lot of miles sailing together in small keelboats on the City Front so despite being a new boat for us, we felt we were playing a game that we have played before. Just like with any boat on the City Front in 15 to 20 knots of breeze, keeping the boat flat and tracking consistently through the puffs is the key to speed. Everyone in the fleet is fairly new to the boat so I am sure techniques will be refined and the class will get more competitive as more people enter the class and spend more time in the boats. The momentum in the class nationally and locally is undeniable. I expect 30+ boats on the Bay in the next 2 years."

J/24s sailing San FranciscoBehind the Sellers/McDonald team on 1FA, in second place was Peter Cameron’s much improved team on USA 29 “PRIME NUMBER”.  And, sailing equally consistently in the top three was Chris Kostanecki’s JENNIFER taking the bronze for the J/70 class.

On the J/24 front Michael Whitfield's TMC RACING sailed a near perfect regatta, with 4 aces and a deuce, to claim victory in the six boat fleet. Just behind them was a titanic duel for second.  After the dust settled, it was Darren Cumming’s DOWNTOWN UPROAR that took the tie-breaker over Alex Schultink’s FLY BY NIGHT.  The UPROAR gang amassed a 2-2-2-4-5 to salvage victory from the jaws of defeat on the last day.  The FLY BY NIGHT’ers took five straight 3rds to settle for, guess what(?), third place overall.   Sailing photo credits- Erik Simonson   Sailing photos credits- Chris Ray   For more J/Fest sailing information

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Race for the Case Regatta Announcement

(Lloyd Harbor, NY)- It’s already officially spring, although you wouldn’t know it in many parts of the northeast United States. Despite more forecasts for cold and rain, the Lloyd Harbor Yacht Club is already in race mode. Enrollment is open for the 2014 Race for the Case! The race will be held May 17 & 18, 2014 in central Long Island Sound.

As has been the tradition since its inception, the Race for the Case event offers one-design and PHRF racing, with a case of rum to be awarded to the overall regatta winner!

Sailing photographers 42Degrees will be on the course taking photos and videos of the action. LHYC will be hosting a post-race party, featuring your fellow anarchist DJ Aly and live video mixing of the day’s video footage from 42Degrees, raffle prizes and of course, rum. The first prize case will be awarded following the conclusion of scoring on May 18th.

While you’re thawing out, check out a little teaser by 42Degrees ( and “like” their Facebook page for updates (!

For more Race for the Case sailing information.

J-Cup Back To Hamble!

J/109s sailing in England(Hamble, England)- The J-Cup 2014 will be hosted by the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, the heart of sailing on the Solent. Racing takes place from Thursday 24th until Saturday 26th July, with registration on Wednesday 23rd.

The J-Cup is the only regatta in the U.K. exclusively for J-Boats and all models are eligible to compete. One-design racing will be available for almost everybody, including the exciting new J/70 class, and a rapidly expanding J/97 fleet. Fans of the brand will also be delighted to see a small number of J/88s out for the first time, following the model's launch at the end of last year. The vast J/109 fleet will no doubt be looking for another close competition after 2013's nail-biting series.

J-Cup winnersWith the event returning to its home turf, competitor numbers are expected to exceed 400. The teams will sail eight races across the three days, with live music and themed suppers available in the event marquee each night. New for 2014, the Club will host a “party on the pier” each afternoon, offering a cash bar and hot snacks for sailors as they come off the water. The final prize-giving will take place in the marquee, with live music keeping the revellers entertained until the wee hours.

As ever we are thrilled to have the support of a number of fantastic sponsors this year, including SLAM, North Sails, Grapefruit Graphics, Lombard, Peters & May and Solent Marine Surveys. Harken have also joined us as official hardware supplier of the event. This support means some of the best value entertainment on offer, as well as a mountain of prizes!   Sailing photo credits- Tim Wright/   For more J/Cup Regatta information, please contact Gemma Dunn at email- Gemma@keyyachting.comJ/Boat owners can enter online here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blustery Cold Conditions @ Warsash IV

J/80 sailing on Solent(Warsash, England)- An exhilarating day’s racing was completed for the fourth gathering of the Brooks Macdonald Warsash Spring Series on 6th April 2014. Competitors come from near and far for this early season contest and journeying through the driving rain to their boats early on Sunday morning, the sailors might well have been thinking an indoor sport could have been a better choice. During the racing however the visibility cleared, the deluge stopped giving way to glimpses of warm sunshine.

The weather forecast had suggested a brisk south-westerly in the 14 to 20 knot range but with, unusually, the possibility of double that in the gusts. The Black Group committee boat set up station at Bart’s Bash buoy just above the North Channel. Courses were set, largely cross-tide, cascading east with windward legs towards the Isle of Wight shore, giving protection from the heavier seas building up from the Western Solent. Nonetheless, flag “Yankee” was hoisted requiring life jackets to be worn. IRC1 and IRC2 shared a course and completed 15 miles. J/109 and IRC3 had a similar designed circuit of 12.5 miles. Tacticians were kept busy at times hugging the shallower water to avoid the worst of the rising tide on windward legs. Given the strong winds, there was many a spinnaker trawled in the water. Warsash Sailing Club member Iain Mcluckie, the Club’s photographer, multi-tasked to rescue several boats. There was close racing in all classes with many boats nip-and-tuck on the beats- altogether an exhausting but rewarding day’s racing.

In IRC1 the J/111 J-DREAM sailed by David and Kirsty Apthorp holds a five point class lead in the Series. Trailing them in second for the series is Simon Boadle’s MUNKENBECK and in third is Charles Ivill’s team on ETB TYRES- JUST LIKE THAT!

IRC 3 saw the return of the J/97 INDULJENCE sailed by Nick and Adam Munday.  Reveling in the breezy conditions, their team took a second to climb back into sixth overall, counting a DNS in race 3.  When it’s all said and done, it looks likely the INDULJENCE team make take over the series lead once “discard” races are factored into the equation.

IRC4 had a separate start on the White Group line and true to form produced a fourth different winner in four races. This week it was David Greenhalgh’s J/92 J’RONIMO which gained a good lead and now lies in second, just one point back for the series lead!

J/109 sailing on SolentIn the J/109s Iain Mackinnon’s TIGH SOLIUS Soluis II, out for the first time, took first place by 10 seconds from JUST SO (David McGough). When a discard cuts in next time, there could be changes in the leadership.  At this time, the series lead is based on a tie-breaker!  The action has been “hotting up” at the top of the 109 class.  While Paul Griffiths’s JAGERBOMB is still the series leader, David Mcleman’s crew on OFFBEAT have sailed consistently well to vie for the lead- both boats are tied at nine pts each.  Third is Marcus Wilson’s RED ARROW team from the Royal Air Force Sailing Club.

The White Group racing area was closer to the Meon shore. It was a blustery day and misty initially; sometimes the committee boat could make out the shape of the Isle of Wight, at other times they were pushed to see the windward mark. Although the visibility improved the wind was on the edge of 25 knots so again life jackets needed to be worn.

J/70 sailing on SolentThe forecast doubtless resulted in some sportsboat skippers deciding to stay ashore. With racing off the lee shore, there was definitely a more cautious approach to the leeward mark, many opting for an early but safe drop, which at times led to changes of position as later boats threw caution to the wind and gained places with good boat handling and mark rounding. As expected, given the conditions several boats took the opportunity to “rinse their spinnakers”.

The J/80s had competitive starts with the fleet on the line and individual recalls in both races as boats pushed that little bit too hard. In the first, BETTY (Jon Powell) recovered to win. Several boats were not able to finish. JENGA 8 (Andrew Barraclough), out for the first time, won in the J/70s ahead of JUST4PLAY (Simon Cavey).

The two-lap second race saw the wind building to 25 knots and the visibility closed in again. There were plenty more spinnaker incidents. This time JOYRIDE (Ian Wilson) beat JENGA 8 in the J/70s. BETTY again needed to return after starting early and took second place leaving the win to BOYSTEROUS (Ali Hall). With the wind at 30 knots, Peter Knight decided to call it a day after two hard races. It had been a white knuckle ride all round for everyone.

Tired but elated sailors gathered at Warsash Sailing Club after racing, well deserving the free beer! Tracey Gray, Investment Manager from Brooks Macdonald, presented the weekly champagne prizes to class winners and Douglas Struth of the J/80 DSP won the jacket donated by SLAM UK. Next week the pace hots up, with the start of the Spring Championship on 12th-13th April. 80 boats are already entered and more are welcome in all classes. The second weekend of the Spring Championship follows on 26th-27th April. There will be a party at Warsash Sailing Club on the two Saturday nights (12th and 26th April) with live music, food and a friendly bar available. The Spring Series continues on 13th April, then takes a break over the Easter holidays before reconvening for the grand finale on 27th April.  For more Warsash Spring series sailing information

Les Voiles de St Barth Preview

J/109 women crew in St Barts(Gustavia, St Barts)- The Caribbean racing season, which kicked off with the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Series in mid-January, now heads to the Les Voiles de St. Barth in Gustavia, St. Barth’s main port, on April 14-19.

Now in only its fifth year, Les Voiles de St. Barth has become a key stop on the Caribbean racing calendar, attracting 70 boats from Europe, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.  Six classes are taking part, the Spinnaker class stands out with no fewer than 35 boats, between 32 and 60 feet in length, that are among the most competitive boats in the Caribbean. They come to St. Barth fully prepared for racing and are often sailed by internationally renowned sailors.

The infinite beauty of the islands offers countless opportunities for technical and tactical race courses for all competitors. The cocktail so elegantly organized by the organizers brings together the delights of yachting and the incomparable assets of the island. This is without any doubt one of the reasons why Les Voiles is successful, as they have really understood and included what seasoned competitors are looking for, bringing together the enjoyment of the sea and the finer side of life ashore.

J/120 sailing St Barts regattaSeveral J/Teams will be participating.  Top of the totem pole may be Jim Madden’s beautiful grey-blue J/125 STARK RAVING MAD with a strong crew hailing from Newport Beach and San Diego, California.  They are sailing in the biggest class in the regatta- the 35 boat Spinnaker Class.  Two J/120s are sailing, the old EL OCASO has now been renamed SUNSET CHILD and will be sailed by Marcus Cholerton-Brown.  The other custom 120 is JAGUAR skippered by Ben Jelic.  The “newest kid on the block” has to be Eddy Chalono’s J/111 J-BOSS, they will be looking forward to the around the island race where they have the ability to surf/plane for extended periods along the eastern and northeaster face of the island.  Finally, the J/109 VOILES au FEMININ will be skippered by well-known Frenchwoman Sophie Olivaud, skippering her boat with an all women crew.

To get a good feel for the convivial atmosphere at Les Voiles de St. Barth, check out this sailing video here.   For more Les Voiles de St Barth sailing information

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kiel YC Wins Deutsche Segel-Bundesliga I

J/70s sailing Deutsche Segel-bundesliga23 Teams Qualify for DSBL I & II
(Glucksburg, Germany)-  The second annual Deutsche Segel-Bundesliga (DSBL), hosted by Flensburg Sailing Club in Glucksburg, Germany from April 4th to 6th was a resounding success.  Sixty-one of the best sailing clubs in Germany sailed in fleets of J/70s and J/80s on an arm of the Baltic Sea directly across from Denmark (see  In the end, the team from Kieler YC skippered by Martin Menzner were crowned winners and, therefore, the early leaders in the season-long series.  Twenty-three teams in total qualified for the next round of sailing in the DSBL.  The weather conditions were challenging for all, with a storm on Friday and medium winds on Saturday and Sunday testing everyone’s skills to their physical and tactical limits.

J/70 bundesliga winnersThe event has taken on a massive scale like never before seen in the history of sailing in Germany.  The cooperation of the German Sailing Association, the German Offshore Sailing Association HANSA (DHH) and the local host clubs like Flensburg S.C. are providing a fantastic sailing experience for all sailors; young and old alike, women, children and experienced sailors (both professional and amateur).  Tellingly, one would not be able to say after this unique weekend, “that there was a better place and a more perfect organization that would have all parties onshore and on the water that they would want to go to," said Joachim Hellmich, a manager of Project DSBL GmbH.

Florian Weser, Vice-Chairman of the DSBL, summarized the numbers for the qualifying regatta, “with 61 sailing clubs participating, there were 244 sailors from all over Germany, over 85 volunteer helpers at the FSC and DHH, and 86 races were conducted over three days with 600 exchanges (team switches per boat) between the races. Astounding!”

The format has proven itself over the 2013 season.  The suspense and “roller coaster” emotions for the teams continues this year as everyone watches “live” results on “Jumbotrons” from race-to-race, seeing their team members climb or drop in the standings as they cross the finish line.

The five clubs who qualify for the “Premiere League” in the Bundesliga this year, are the Kieler YC, the Bodensee YC Überlingen, the Seglervereinigung Itzehoe, the Segelkameradschaft "Wappen von Bremen" and the Düsseldorf YC.

The KYC commented on their victory in the qualification series, "We are obviously delighted that we are now in the Premiere League here. Our goal was to qualify for the DSBL II Series and, hopefully, make it into the Championship. From now on we need to practice even more to stay atop the standings," said a relieved KYC helmsman Martin Menzner.

J/70 sailing in Germany"The start of the season was perfect: great organization by the Flensburg Sailing Club and the German Offshore Association HANSA, enthusiastic participants and sailing at the highest level that the league format has provided for the sailors. We look forward to the upcoming season and the start of the first Premier League from 16 to 18 May at the Bavarian Yacht Club on Lake Starnberg," said Oliver Schwall, founder and CEO of the German DSBL Gmbh. Qualifying in the top three for Bundesliga II series were the Segel-Club Bayer Uerdingen, the Hamburg Sailing Club and Munich YC.

The first day of qualifying was spectacular. The organizers had to contend with a stormy wind forecast and some boat damage. After the first fourteen races in the Segel-Club Bayer Uerdingen from Krefeld was leading with Lennart Luttkus, Hendrik Coers, Holger Blumenkamp and Thomas Schubert as crew.

After the first grueling day of racing with a lot of crew and boat errors, the second day had very pleasant sailing conditions with moderate winds; good enough in fact to get in 39 races!  At this point, it was becoming evident the Kiel YC crew were both sailing confidently and with few mistakes, leading at the end of the day.  From that position, the third day of benign sailing conditions enabled the KYC crew to sail away from the series on Sunday.  Their crew of Martin Menzner, Mikael Rolfs, Frank Lichte and Julian Ramm are now the “team to beat” in the upcoming series on Lake Starnberg.   Sailing photos and commentary on Facebook  For more Deutsche Segel-Bundesliga sailing information