Monday, June 30, 2014

J/80 Europeans Preview

J/80 sailboat- sailing off Spain(Barcelona, Spain)- This year’s J/80 European Championship is being sailed off the beautiful coastline of Barcelona, site of the 1992 Olympic sailing events.  The regatta is organized by CN El Balís, the Spanish and Catalan Federations and the Spanish and International J/80 Associations. The event is supported by the General Secretary’s Office of Sports of the Catalan Government, the City Hall of Sant Andreu de Llavaneres and Spain’s National Sports Council.

Starting this Saturday, June 28th, the fifty-three teams entered will sail for one week, with 2-3 races per day planned.  Many of the best teams from across Europe are sailing, with teams coming from far and wide to test themselves against the powerful Spanish fleet.  There are 20 Spanish team, 22 French teams, 5 British teams, 2 German, 2 Swedish and 1 each from Italy, The Netherlands, Oman, Poland and Russia- a total of ten nations represented.

J/80 sailboat rounding markThe Swedes have two of their best teams in the mix, Mikael Lindquist’s ROCAD RACING and Lars Gellerhard’s MK-PRODUKTER.  From Russia is Andrey Samoylov from the Pirogovo Sailing Club; from Poland is Pawel Boksa on MOONRAKER; from OMAN Sail is Rajaa Al Uwaisi on AL THURAYA; from the Netherlands is Laura Vroon’s JOIE DE VIVRE; from Italy is Massimo Rama’s JENIALE!; from Germany are Sven Vagt’s CAMPAIGN and Bjoern Beilken’s PROCEDES DIVA; and from Great Britain are Patrick Liardet’s AQUA-J, Jon Powell’s BETTY, Mike Lewis’s JESTER and Dr Gillian Ross’s TEAM ROCK & ROLL.

What is very apparent for this event is that Team France have brought along all their “big guns” and then some.  Virtually all the top boats that are leading the Coupe de France J/80 are in attendance, including Matthieu Solomon’s EV CATASCHOOL, Alexis Henri’s VOILE AMBITION DUNKERQUE, Eric Brezellec’s COURRIER JUNIOR, Maxime Rousseaux’s J’RAFON (a top woman skipper), Simon Moriceau’s INTERFACE CONCEPT, Luc Nadal’s GAN’JA, and Simon Fabrice’s MARINE CHERBOURG DCNS.

The powerful J/80 Spanish fleet has clear possibilities to reach the top three places in the regatta.  A clear favorite is FACTOR ENERGIA skippered by Barcelona 1992 gold medalist José María van der Ploeg.  Other top Spanish teams include Hugo Rocha on NEW TERRITORIES (the 2013 J/80 World Champion in Marseilles, France), Marc de Antonio’s BRIBON-MOVISTAR, Javier Shercks’s GUNTER and Carlos Martinez’s DELTASTONE (another J/80 World Champion).

J/80 sailor Jose Maria van der Ploeg from SpainThe highly regarded Catalan skipper, Mr van der Ploeg, is hopeful his chances for success in local waters are better than even, as he explains in the following interview:

- What is your preparation for the J/80 European Championship? JMVDP- “For us it is the top race of the season, so we have been practicing very hard during the last weeks to be ready for it.”

- Is sailing at home, at CN El Balís, an advantage for you and your crew? JMVDP- “Sailing at home has many advantages. For example, you do not have to travel, you do not have to launch and retrieve the boat, you sleep at home, and you are with your family.  The sailing course is very complicated, so I do not think knowing it will give us an edge over other boats.”

- How has the season been so far? JMVDP- “We have participated in many national races like the Spanish Championship, where we finished in third place only a point behind the boat that finished second. We won the MedSailing race at CN El Balís. We came fourth at Trofeo Conde de Godó-Merchbanc. In this one, I feel we raced below our possibilities. A couple days ago, we joined the Catalonia Championship, finishing fifth but tied with the fourth place and only a point behind the second boat. We have always been at the top of the races, but first places are always very tight.”

- Are you planning to make any changes for the European Championship?  JMVDP- “We had a brand new boat last December and we have made the typical adjustments to it. We are working on our sails and yes, we will do some changes for the European Championship.”

- Spain has a very powerful J/80 fleet, having ruled the world championships for the past seven years. What are the main reasons for this?
  JMVDP- “I think there are many reasons. Amongst them, we can conclude that Spain has excellent sailors, so when they finish competing at Olympic classes they move to those classes where there are top competitors, like J/80. Besides, we are talking about a very affordable boat with excellent performance.”

- You have won an Olympic gold medal, an IMS 670 world championship, a prestigious race like Copa del Rey Mapfre, and the Audi MedCup TP52 circuit.  You have been racing since 2011 in the J/80 class, where you have finished in first and second place worldwide. Why do you like this class?
Aren’t you planning to go back to the big boats races? JMVDP- “The J/80 has given me the possibility of competing at a world-class level and to be able to do it with my son.  After having to leave the professional yacht racing world due to the economic crisis since 2008-2009, we are all experiencing a new world that makes it very hard to get private funds for big offshore professional yachting campaigns.  The J/80 provides excellent, affordable racing for many of Spain’s top sailors.”    For more J/80 Europeans sailing information