Sunday, September 6, 2015

J/24 Worlds Update

J/24s sailing at Worlds in Germany (Boltenhagen, Germany)- All week, J/24 sailors have been facing challenging conditions off Boltenhagen, Germany sailing the J/24 World Championship on the Baltic coast.  The fifty-five boats from 14 countries (Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, USA) have seen just two teams leading the fleet after the first day of racing.  After day one, it was Japan’s Fumiya Kato winning, but thereafter, it has been Ian Southworth’s IL RICCIO that appears to be firmly in control of the top spot.  The latest news from each day shows that even Southworth’s position is tenuous if they fall from grace with the weather Gods!

J/24s sailing downwind at Worlds in GermanyDay 1- Japanese crew lead after 2 races
Light winds dominated the first races of the J/24 championships. The key to success was to find free winds and to sail the boat as smooth as possible. Fumiya Kato (JPN 4886) showed the greatest skills on the water. He is on top of the leaderboard after 2 races, followed by Ian Southworth (GBR 5219) and Ignazio Bonanno (ITA 416).

Not only the crews, also the Principal Race Officer had to find the right wind to get the fleet of 56 participants under way. After a short postponement, the first race of the J/24 worlds was started at 14:00 hrs in the bay of Boltenhagen. In very light wind conditions (5 to 10 knots from NW), Team “Rotoman” (GER 5420) helmed by Tobias Feuerherdt won the first race.

In the second race of the day, the J/24 class showed their favour for very aggressive starts. After 2 general recalls, PRO Klaus Lahme raised the black flag. The second race was also won by a German team: “Hungriger Wolf” (GER 5316) helmed by Johann Huhn took the line honours.

“We had a very bad start into the day with a position in the forties”, said Johann Huhn; “But in the second race, a good and clear start enabled us to move with the wind shifts. To stay in touch with the top 10, however, our performance needs to become more consistent. Tomorrow, the wind is expected to pick up and to blow mire from the shore, which means bigger wind shifts and even more tactical racing.”

Overall, the Japanese crew “Lull & Hachi” with helmsman Fumiya Kato (JPN 4886) did a great job on the water. With a second and a third place, the crew of 6 is on top of the fleet, divided by a gap of 7 points from Ian Southworth (GBR 5219).

After a hot and sunny day on the water, the crews are enjoying Caribbean flair at the Mount Gay beach party organized by the German Sail maker “Clown Sails”. First warning on Tuesday will be on 12:00 hrs.

J/24 women's team sailing Worlds in GermanyDay 2- Southworth leads,  but Mike Ingham in hot pursuit
Conditions were challenging on day 2 of the J/24 World Championships in Boltenhagen, Germany: Winds of up to 20 knots with huge 20 to 30 degree shifts caused some big changes on the leader board. Ian Southworth (GBR 5219) and his seasoned crew sailed two excellent races and took the lead, followed by Mike Ingham (USA 5443) and Pietro Diamanti (ITA 212)

On day two of the J/24 worlds, Boltenhagen on the Baltic coast once again proved to be a very tricky sailing area. “We are racing in a closed bay which makes things very difficult”, said Chris McLaughlin, crew member on the leading boat “Il Riccio”; “as the race course is close inshore, the tree lines make challenging 20 to 30 degrees shifts. The skill is to judge exactly when you need to tack.”

In the first race of the day, the fleet faced easterly winds up to 20 knots that is the critical limit between too much wind for the genoa and too little wind for the jib. With a first place and a second place, Ian Southworth and his crew delivered a very constant performance. Southworth, who has been racing with the same crew the last 10 years, has a team of very skilled sailors including tactician David Howlett, who is also head coach of the German Olympic team.

Southworth already has an impressive lead of 22 points over second-placed Mike Ingham who has the same number of points as third-placed Pietro Diamanti.

“Tomorrow will be even tougher,” said Chris McLaughlin; “In the J/24 class, there is nothing worse than getting excited about a good position. We have to stay cool and keep performing constantly. You just need one disqualification, and one of the other guys will get you.” Asked for his strongest competition, McLaughlin mentioned Mike Ingham (USA), Pietro Diamanti (ITA) and Travis Odenbach (USA), but also the Greek Iasonas Spanomalis who was sailing very fast on the course.

From a German point of view, Stefan Karsunke from Hamburg did an excellent job today. With a third and a sixth place, he and his crew are in fifth position overall. Stefan Karsunke is also a very experienced helmsman who has been racing J/24 for more than 15 years. Frank Schönfeldt, one of host nation’s top sailors, had some bad luck today when his rudder broke before the first start, and is currently in 27th position.

On Wednesday, the wind is expected to pick up even more, so racing will stay exciting.

J/24 World Championship- Germany- IL RICCIO- Ian SouthworthDay 3- Ian Southworth in a class of his own
On day 3 of the J/24 World Championships in Boltenhagen, Germany, the fleet faced winds of up to 20 knots. It was again Ian Southworth (GBR 5219) who sailed two excellent races and kept his lead over second-placed Mike Ingham (USA 5443). And today Travis Odenbach (USA 5432) also entered the stage.

With two more days to go, one team clearly has the form to win this year’s  J/24 World Championship. Ian Southworth and his crew, with a third and a first place today, are putting together a very consistent series. Southworth, who narrowly lost the worlds 2010 and ended up fourth in 2012 and 2013, is totally focused on finally winning this trophy. His crew has so far sailed five different J/24s and, with number 5, called “Il Riccio” which is Italian for “Hedgehog”, they seem to have found the ideal setup.

But competition remains tough as there are two excellent and experienced US teams hot on the tail of “Il Riccio”: Mike Ingham, with 2014 world champion Will Welles as a tactician, and Travis Odenbach, who is also a very skilled J/24 sailor.

J/24 women's team sailing J/24 Worlds GermanyDespite the strong winds, day three of the worlds saw the first all-female crew in the Top Ten: Ragna Thönnessen and her crew of “Juelssand” (GER 5313) finished in eighth position in the second race of the day. “This is our best result at a Word Championship so far”, said bow woman Laura Hatje. “Sailing was great fun today, though the conditions were pretty tough for a crew as light as we are. After a good start, we found very good boat speed and took the right tactical decisions.” The Juelssand Crew has been sailing together since 2008. With an average age of 25, they are one of the youngest teams in the fleet. “Ian and his crew are doing amazingly well”, said Laura Hatje; “Our bet is that they will be the new World champions. But up to now, the results are very mixed, so racing stays exciting!”

With just a few points apart, the fight for the Top Ten stays tight. For Thursday, the weather forecast sees the wind decreasing to an average of 11 knots, which may favor the lighter crews like that of Tokuma Takesue from Japan, currently in fourth place.

Tonight, the crews will gather for the traditional “Champions Dinner” held by the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein who is organizing the event. The first warning signal on Thursday will be at 12:00 hrs.  Race Tracking to follow the races live.   J/24 Worlds Facebook page.   For more J/24 World Championship sailing information