Monday, June 16, 2014

J/105 BELLA Crowned Chicago NOOD Champion

J/70 sailing NOOD Chicago (Chicago, IL)- Prior to the 2014 Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta Chicago, Skipper Steve Knoop had raced in the previous 25 Lake Michigan NOOD stops aboard his Tartan 10. Making his maiden NOOD appearance in the J/105 class this weekend, Knoop looked anything but a newcomer, sailing his way to Overall Winner honors at the country’s largest regatta series.

With conditions on Lake Michigan not up to NOOD racing standards today, Knoop and crew aboard BELLA were awarded the prestigious honor based on their overall performance during the first two days of racing in the highly-competitive J/105 Class.

“This was our first year in the J/105, before that I was with T/10 for 26 or 27 years,” said Knoop. “We took lessons learned from T/10 and brought it here. Chicago is a unique weather system, light air in the summer brings thermals out of the southeast and it’s a matter of how you play them. This regatta has been about what side of the course you were on and how it played out. Local knowledge was a huge factor.”

Here is how it all went down over the course of the three days.  Starting on Friday, the Windy City didn't entirely disappoint sailors. The first of three days of racing saw steady breezes on Lake Michigan, paving the way for three challenging races for all 11 classes.

J/109 sailing Chicago NOOD regattaThe regatta’s principal race officer, Sue Reilly, overseeing action on the regatta’s Blue Circle, which was comprised of a few of the regatta’s larger keelboat fleets, reported that conditions were forecast to be marginally sailable at best, but winds held strong enough to get one race off early before increasing up to 10 knots mid-day and then fading across the lake altogether. She added that larger progressive windshifts were prevalent throughout the day, allowing three quality races.

“We thought there would be a postponement [before the first race] because it was so light,” says Karl Brummel, co-owner and bowman for the J/111-series leading KASHMIR, which won all three of its races by significant margins. “We got caught off guard, were pretty far upwind, and barely made it back to the start.”

KASHMIR’s near miss aside, they were outstanding in the day’s light conditions. “We got off the starting line clean every time,” says Brummel. “In the last we were in a bit more traffic, but we were able to peel off the guy to weather and keep up off the guy to leeward. We were able to just keep an open lane off to the left [side of the course], which seemed to really pay today.”

J/111 sailing Chicago NOOD regattaThe team onboard KASHMIR, which came out of the local J/105 class, is in its fourth season with the J/111, and over the past few years, has put up top results in other regional regattas. “Our results have allowed us to attract good sailors that want to sail with us,” says Brummel, “and the program is getting better every event. That, and we’ve worked hard with the rig tune and sail development this year.

Friday was the first day with their new North Sails-designed jib, which Brummel says is a significant improvement over last year’s design. “We’ve have been diligent about rig tune,” he adds, “and I think we’re comfortable with the amount of headstay sag we have for the light conditions.”

KASHMIR’s speed team was happy with their light-air performance, says Brummel, but the team was looking forward to a stronger wind forecast on Sunday. “We like to play in big breeze, and right now they’re talking about five-foot waves, so maybe we’ll get some surfing in.”

For Saturday, the fleet was treated to a second consecutive day of favorable conditions on Lake Michigan; the prevailing theme continues to be the importance of local knowledge.  Thereafter, the forecast was all too reliable, with a powerful North East breeze powering in and creating such enormous waves and 20-30 kts breeze that the race organizers canceled sailing for Sunday.  Somehow, the sailor’s seemed to know this might take place.

Chicago NOOD bull riding masterThe sailing highlight on Saturday night was the “mechanical bull. The party theme was “country” and the bull (plus a few rum drinks) provided lots of laughs and entertainment for the participants. Here are some remarkable new foredeck recruits any serious offshore program should consider for the front-half of their boats.

Luckily, for the bull riders, this venue more than lived up to its nickname on Sunday. The “Windy City” delivered high winds combined with high swell forcing the race committee to call racing off for the day.

Not everybody stayed ashore on Sunday, as a video posted by Todd Jones explains: “When racing was cancelled due to high winds, we went out for a practice run on our J/70. We entertained the sailors on shore with a high speed blast down the waterfront!” Todd was sailing with Paul Hulsey and Alex Hume.
J/70 sailing fast off Chicago waterfront
Facebook J/70 sailing video here.

While the run-away winner in this year’s J/111 class was KASHMIR, posting five 1sts and two 2nds for just 9 pts, the balance of the top five went down to the wire in the last race on Saturday.  By winning the last race, the Dabrowski/ Edman duo on Team NIGHTHAWK secured 2nd overall with 22 pts.  Sailing steadily better in just about every regatta they’ve entered, Rich Witzel’s crew on ROWDY took third with 26 pts.  Narrowly missing third place was the trio of Dr George Miz, Peter Dreher and Mark Hatfield sailing IMPULSE.  They started off quite slowly but posted a 2-3-1-4 to rapidly close on the leaders on Saturday only to miss by 2 pts, settling for fourth in class.  Fifth was taken by Bill Smith’s WOOTON crew.

For the J/109s, a similar scenario occurred as the 111’s.  David Gustman’s NORTHSTAR gang were not to be denied enroute to winning their class in convincing fashion, posting four 1sts on their route to victory with just 17 pts, 8 pts clear of the next boat.   TIME OUT, skippered by Doug Evans, started off with a 1st in the 1st race, but had a rocky road ahead of them and hung on to take 2nd overall with 25 pts. Third just 3 pts back was Jim Murray’s CALLISTO.  In fact, third to sixth place must’ve been an anxiety-ridden ride for the four boats as they all finished within three points of one another!  Fourth, was Scott Sims’s SLAPSHOT with 29 pts and fifth was Peter Priede’s FULL TILT with 30 pts- close finish!

J/109 sailing off Chicago NOOD regattaAs described above, it’s no wonder Knoop’s J/105 BELLA was awarded to Overall NOOD Champion award as he not only had to win on a tie-breaker, but the top six boats all finished within four pts!  Holy heart attack, what a nail-biter!  Losing the tie-breaker for first was John Moore’s HERE’S JOHNNY, finishing second with 21 pts, too.  Only one point back was past winner VYTIS sailed by Tom & Gyt Petkus with 22 pts.  Fourth was Mike Sheppard’s FLYING PIG with 24 pts.  Then Clark Pellet’s SEALARK took fifth by virtue of a tie-breaker on 25 pts!  Starting quite slowly but closing fast with two bullets was Sandy Curtiss on ROCKING HORSE; but not enough to close the gap for the top three, losing the tie-breaker to SEALARK for sixth in the compact fleet.

For the J/70’s debut in the Chicago NOOD, the class had excellent racing with the top of five on the leaderboard trading places nearly every race.  When the smoke cleared on Saturday afternoon, John Arendshorst’s 20/20 narrowly took the win with 16 pts, winning only two races out of the six sailed.  Dan Cheresh’s “X” was second with 17 pts followed by the globe-trotting Bennet Greenwald on PERSEVERANCE in third.  The balance of the top five was taken by Paul Hulsey sailing BYC TEAM PRIDE in fourth and by Martin Johnsson skippering AQUAHOLIKS in fifth (by the way, they were “fast learners”- improving every race with an 8-6-4-4-2-1 scoreline!).

In the offshore racing world, the two J/122s dueled for ORR 1 Class honors but had a hard time beating a well-sailed TP 52.  Winning their battle, however, was Matt Songer’s EVVAI, taking 2nd in class while Mitch Padnos’s SUFFICIENT REASON (the 2013 Chicago-Mac Race overall and class winner) had to settle for third place.

Finally, the new NORTH SAILS Rally Race was fortunate to get their race in on Saturday with a great turn-out of boats.  In Offshore Racing 1 Class, Tom Papoutsis’s J/133 RENEGADE finished third in a 12 boat class.  Three other colleagues finished together in 6th, 7th & 8th- Jim Gignac’s J/130 SALSA, Adam Esselman’s J/124 STILL MESSIN and Frank Giampoli’s J/120 JAHAZI, respectively.  In Offshore Racing 2, Benjamin Wilson’s brand new J/88 RAMBLER took a third in her class!  Sailing Photo Credits- Tim   For more Sperry Top Sider Chicago NOOD Regatta sailing information