Wednesday, September 23, 2015

J/24s sailing off Portland, MECOUGAR Dominant @ J/24 North Americans
(Portland, Maine)- Home-boy Will Welles’ COUGAR survived a black flag penalty in Sunday’s opening race to become the 2015 J/24 Pape Chevrolet North American Champion.  After a slow start to their regatta, it was a courageous, anxiety-laden, roller-coaster performance by the hometown Downeast hero in J/24 racing circles.  Welles has been on somewhat of a roll in recent J/24 events, having won the J/24 Worlds in Newport, RI last year (yet another home-boy winning performance), placed 2nd as tactician in the 2015 J/24 Worlds in Boltenhagen, Germany sailing with Mike Ingham, now winning the NA’s in the home waters of his youth.

J/24 Fleet 43, Portland YC and the organizing committee of the annual J/24 Downeast Regatta (which was being held simultaneously), conducted a most excellent social experience and regatta for the 50 J/24 teams that came from far and wide to compete in the NA’s from Thursday September 10th to Sunday September 13th.  The daily drama for Welle’s come-from-behind victory started out with a dud in the first race, here is how it all happened over the four days.

J/24 sailing off MaineDay 1
No question, the first day of racing was less than epic.  In fact, for many teams, it was quite frightening.  The day dawned light and very shifty and simply stayed that way all day.  The teams ventured forth into the ozone layer offshore and came back either wide-eyed  or drowning their sorrows in the nearest Schlitz beer they could find.  Nevertheless, it was Christopher Stone’s VELOCIDAD that grabbed the lead on day one by winning the day’s only race. The New Jersey-based team topped competitors from Argentina, Canada, Mexico and the USA by simply not falling into any tactical traps and getting tangled up in the corners of the racetrack.

Dan Busch’s BUSCHWACKER, also from New Jersey, placed second, while local J/24 rock-star, Carter White’s SEA BAGS SAILING TEAM, rounded out the top three.

J/24 sailing off Portland, MaineDay 2
The second day was “legendary”, in more ways than one.  The partly cloudy day and good steady 13-15 kts breeze provided good, close, top-of-the-line racing for the very closely packed fleet.  Top end of the genoa on the J/24 has always separated the “men from the boys” and on this day, that was the case.

The original “legend from Downeast”, and certainly the Portland area, for the J/24 class has to be Tony Parker and his various BANGOR PACKETS.  Tony lived in Maine forever, then moved south to sail out of Annapolis YC in the last few decades.  However, as the saying often goes- “you can’t take the city out of that new country girl”, in Tony’s case it’s the reverse.  For him, it’s all about going back to his roots, despite the efforts of his Washington DC political cronies to “city-fy” him, and revisit fond memories of eviscerating his local fleet as BANGOR PACKET won yet another regatta (maybe that’s why they kicked’em out of Maine and sent him “packing” to DC?).

In any event, after four more races were sailed on Friday, lo’n’behold, the new leader of the NA’s was none other than the old home-boy from memories past- Parker’s BANGOR PACKET!  Tallying consistent scores of 5-2-7-7-2, Parker held a two point lead over yet another excommunicated local, Welle’s COUGAR!  Then, another two points back was Argentina’s top J/24 sailor from Buenos Aires, Nicolas Cubria skippering WORKNET.

In the opening contest, Welles took line honors. Parker and Tim Corbett’s Eskimo Sisters followed. John Mollicone’s Helly Hansen, Evan Petley-Jones’ Lifted and Travis Odenbach’s Honey Badger comprised the top trio in Friday’s second race. As the sun began to poke through, the breeze built to 15-20 knots at times with temperatures around 70 degrees. Welles again snagged a bullet in the next contest, with day one leader Christopher Stone’s Velocidad in second and Petley-Jones in third. Closing out the day with a victory was Mollicone, trailed by Parker and Odenbach.

J/24 setting spinnakerDay 3
On the third day sailing, the fleet ventured to the outside course on Casco Bay in winds between 6-10 knots. Odenbach got the day off to a solid start with a victory, while Martin Gallagher’s Shifty and Welles followed. Welles claimed the next win, ahead of John Mollicone’s Helly Hansen and Cubria.

The end of the day brought yet another leader to the top of the scoreboard. Will Welles’ COUGAR secured a 3-1 on Saturday to move into first place with an 11-point advantage over second-place Nicolas Cubria’s WORKNET of Argentina. Now able to drop a 10 from the first race of the Championship, Welles kept a scoring line of 1-9-1-4-3-1 for 19 points heading into the finale. With 31 points, third-place Travis Odenbach’s HONEY BADGER was hot on the heels of Cubria, who had 30 points.

Day 4
Heading into the final day, Welles held an 11-point advantage, but a BFD in race 8 made for an exciting end to the nine-race series. COUGAR nabbed a fourth in the final contest to end with 33 points, five ahead of Odenbach’s HONEY BADGER. Odenbach kept moving up throughout the four-day event, but settled for second place with 38 points. John Mollicone’s HELLY HANSEN took the bronze position with 47 points.

Welles has spent some time sailing in and around Maine (a mild understatement, to say the least), but noted that the conditions this week were not typical. “It was pretty tricky, but having a solid team is the key,” said Welles, whose crew was Chris Morgan, Jeff Linton, Erik Rexford and Monica Morgan. He thanked the local J/24 Fleet 43 and their volunteer base for taking good care of the competitors.

The balance of the top five was rounded out by “the man, the myth, the legend”- Tony Parker’s BANGOR PACKET in 4th only four points back from World Champion Mollicone.  Then, early regatta leader Chris Stone’s VELOCIDAD was yet only one point back from Parker to take fifth.

In Sunday’s two races, Ed Rowe’s FLYING CHICKEN and Evan Petley-Jones’ LIFTED were the race winners in winds of 8-10 knots.

Winning the Women’s J/24 NA Championship was Natalie Penner’s GIGGLES,
followed in 2nd by Gretchen Sullivan’s DRACO, and Erica Spencer & Jess Harris’ SEA BAGS WOMEN’S SAILING TEAM in 3rd.  For more J/24 North American Championship sailing information