Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FLOJITO Crowned J/70 North American Champion!

J/70 North American champions- Fernandez's FLOJITO Y COOPERANDOFranco Tops Corinthians Division
(Seabrook, TX)- Thirty-nine teams competed in the third TORQEEDO J/70 North American Championship hosted by Lakewood YC in Seabrook, TX.  Teams from Brazil, Japan, Mexico and the USA sailed in a wide variety of conditions on the choppy and stormy Galveston Bay over the weekend of May 19th to 22nd.  The sailing was punctuated by a fairly classic setup of a stalled front over the Gulf of Mexico forming a ridge that continually spawned rain, clouds, thunderstorms, localized flooding and random bits of wind.  The Lakewood YC’s PRO and RC team demonstrated their experience and local knowledge and did a commendable job of getting in seven races over the four days.  In theory, fourteen races were possible, but a lack of wind on the first day, a wildly shifting breeze on the third day did nothing to help that matter.  In the end, reigning J/70 World Champion Julian Fernandez Neckelmann and his crew on FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO (Willem van Waay, Bill Hardesty and Danel Belausteguigoitia) were crowned the 2016 J/70 NA Champions.

J/70s sailing Galveston BayDay 2- Friday
After the first day of racing was canceled due to a massive line of thunderstorms laden with hail, lightning and tornado warnings, the fleet was chomping at the bit to get some racing done on Galveston Bay.  The indoor golf games and Formula One go-kart racing were not enough to satiate the competitive juices of the J/70 sailors on their impromptu “lay day”.  On Friday, the weather Gods cooperated, somewhat, ginning up a marginal day of racing in flukey 6-8 kts of wind.  The FLOJITO crew started off with a bullet, appropriately enough, and sailed off to an early lead with a scoreline of 1-3-1-11 over four races.  Just eight points back was Bruce Golison’s MIDLIFE CRISIS crew from Alamitos Bay, CA and Bruno Pasquinelli’s STAMPEDE from Fort Worth Boat Club in Texas was third.

FLOJITO scored the first win, ahead of Golison and Jack Franco’s 3 BALL JT. Those same three teams swapped places in the next contest, with Golison 1st, Franco 2nd, and Neckelmann 3rd. It was FLOJITO’s turn back at the top in race three, trailed by Peter Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY and current J/70 Midwinter Champion- Glenn Darden’s HOSS from Forth Worth Boat Club.  In the final race of the day, it was Phil Haegler’s CLOUD NINE from Rio de Janeiro YC in Brazil leading, followed by Will Welles’ SCAMP then Darden’s HOSS in third.

Keane's SAVASANA sailing J/70 NA's in HoustonDay 3- Saturday
Two more races went in the books on Saturday with very light breezes from the north (when it was cloudy) and to the ESE (when it was sunny).  It took a lot of patience by the LYC PRO to accommodate the sailors itching to get a race in.  However, 60 degree shifts and wind speeds fluctuating from 1 to 7 kts was not exactly a recipe for a “fair” race. For the FLOJITO team, it was feast or famine as a 13 in the opening meeting briefly dropped them out of the regatta lead. But, a bullet in the day’s only other contest gave the Mexican team 17 net points, four in front of Golison’s MIDLIFE CRISIS (who recorded a 5-8). Pasquinelli’s STAMPEDE held third place with 28 points, with Darden’s HOSS hot on his heals with 29.

In the 5th race, Pasquinelli bested Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY and Hughes’ HEARTBREAKER. Following a pause to allow the wind to stabilize (which it did at 6-12 knots from the ESE), Neckelmann and teenager Gannon Troutman’s PIED PIPER renewed their Charleston Race Week battle, with Neckelmann earning the win. Brian Keane’s SAVASNA was third. Jack Franco’s 3-BALL JT held a healthy lead in the 10-boat Corinthian division.

J/70 North Americans- sailing off startDay 4- Sunday Finale
After an hour postponement due to another series of fickle thunderstorms developing over Galveston Bay, the fleet departed LYC’s docks anticipating getting at least two more races on their scorecards.  The cloudy skies parted magically as the first start was about to get underway, the breeze built to 10-13 kts from the ESE, and all was good in the world of J/70 racing on the Bay!  After two general recalls, the fleet took off.  Many locals favored the right hand side of the course, local knowledge has seen that “sunny days, go right” after the seabreeze develops almost always pays.  But, not this time.  Several top boats tanked while others that had been forced left after the start magically saw the breeze swing left 20 degrees and increase 1-2 kts!  Can’t knock a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak!  At the end of the first race of the day, the seventh for the series, the FLOJITO gang worked hard to get back into 3rd place, effectively closing out any chances for other teams to catch them.  Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY took 2nd and winning was Darden’s HOSS with Olympic Gold Medalist Jonathan McKee calling tactics.

The LYC RC and PRO team tried valiantly to get in another race with just 20 minutes to go before time expired (1330 hrs) to start races on Sunday. However, the fleet was less than cooperative, with two general recalls and a black flag start producing yet another general recall.  After that ugly scenario, the PRO canceled racing for the day; it was unfortunate since the breeze and weather conditions were just about perfect for another great race- sunny and 10-15 kts from the ESE! 

Hughes' J/70 HEARTBREAKER sailing J/70 NA'sAs a result, the FLOJITO crew from Club Nautico Valle de Bravo were crowned 2016 TORQEEDO J/70 NA Champions with 20 pts net with a comfortable ten point lead.  Second was Darden’s HOSS from Fort Worth Boat Club with 30 pts net.  Third was Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY with 32 pts, 4th Hughes’ HEARTBREAKER with 34 pts and 5th Golison’s crew suffering a MIDLIFE CRISIS after such a strong start to the regatta.  Losing the tie-breaker for 5th on 37 pts each was Pasquinelli’s STAMPEDE.

Neckelmann, from Mexico, credited his team that has been together for more than a year. He also thanked the Race Committee, saying “It was just a very tough weekend with complicated conditions for them to run races. They did an outstanding job.” Expect to see Flojito y Cooperando at the J/70 World Championship this fall in San Francisco. “I’m just very happy to be sailing J/70s,” Neckelmann said with a smile. “It’s a lot of fun, and the Class is going the right way. We’ll keep growing and having big fleets.”

Winning the Corinthians Division was Franco’s 3-BALL JT with 71 pts.  Taking second was Doug Strebel’s BLACK RIVER RACING with 116 pts, third was Forbes Durdin’s MOJITO with 125 pts, fourth Tracy & Christine Usher’s CHRISTINE ROBIN from San Francisco and fifth Tim Molony’s JOUST from New Orleans.   For more TORQEEDO J/70 North American Championship sailing information