Tuesday, June 28, 2016

KASHMIR Crowned J/111 N.A. Champion

J/111 sailing North Americans (Chicago, IL)- The J/111 North American Championship, hosted by Chicago Yacht Club in Illinois in conjunction with the HELLY HANSEN NOOD Regatta, got underway Thursday in NNE winds of 10-15 knots, allowing two races to be completed. Recording a 3-1 for the day, Bill Smith’s WOOTON gained a two-point lead over Bennet Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE, with Richard Witzel’s ROWDY another notch back in third.

The fifteen J/111 teams got a jump on their fellow Helly Hansen Chicago NOOD entrants, as the North American Championship began a day earlier than the remainder of the fleets. After a postponement, Bradley Faber’s UTAH took line honors in the opening contest, with Greenwald and Smith hot on his heels. Smith’s bullet in the next battle gave him the day’s overall edge, as Witzel and Kevin Saedi’s MOMENTUS cracked the top three. That is how the third J/111 NA’s started.  From there on end, the players in the regatta had rather extraordinary scenarios confront them over the next three days.

J/111s sailing Chicago North AmericansFor the second day, the teams experienced a postponement that permitted the CYC PRO to run three more races on the Belmont Station course offshore of the cribs.  The conditions on Thursday were essentially duplicated on Friday.  Northerlies produced significant chop and “backwash” off the all steel/concrete Chicago waterfront, notorious conditions that produce near-impossible steering conditions for some skippers on the upwind legs.  Imagine a “washing machine”, then try to steer straight— that only begins the exasperation for both drivers and sail-trimmers.  After the second day, three more races on a spectacular sunny day continued to see Bill Smith’s WOOTON crew in the lead after accumulating a 2-4-4 to head home with just 14 pts after five races.  Climbing quickly up the ladder after a 1-3-2 into the second position were the KASHMIR trio (Brummel/ Henderson/ Mayer) for 17 pts total.  Third at the close of the day was Rob Ruhlman’s Cleveland, Ohio team on SPACEMAN SPIFF with a 3-1-1 record (winners on the day) to close with 19 pts total.

Bill Smith- owner of J/111 WootonSaturday morning dawned with hardly a whisper of wind and an onshore postponement that lasted until 11:30am.  At that point, the J/111 fleet had found out that one of their own had passed away overnight- the current regatta leader Bill Smith, the skipper/ owner of WOOTON.  Sadly, as crew of each team passed along their condolences to the WOOTON team members, they all slowly made their way out to the race course.  Perhaps fittingly, the wind never arose enough to start any races and respects were paid by many to the Smith family and the crew later at the docks as the day wound down- a “last race” was performed by the WOOTON crew on the water to commemorate their lost crewmate, with the finish punctuated by horns and teams clapping at the finish.

Sunday morning dawned with the potential for classic racing off Chicago.  The wind flowed in somewhat lazily from the southeast and, ultimately, developed into a nice breeze from the ESE at 7-12 kts.  After two races and two bullets, it was the KASHMIR crew from Chicago YC that won the regatta with just 18 pts.  Bennet Greenwald’s PERSEVERANCE sailed well to grab two 2nds and take the silver in his first J/111 NA’s.  Third was Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF with 29 pts.  Rounding out the top five was Brad Faber’s J/111 Spaceman Spiff with Wooton spinnakerUTAH with 40 pts and fifth was Smith’s WOOTON with 46 pts, even accounting for two DNC’s (the crew did not sail that last day in honor of their owner).

In fact, Smith’s crew took WOOTON out to spectate on Sunday, when their friends on SPACEMAN SPIFF (the Ruhlman family from Cleveland, Ohio) hoisted Smith’s spinnaker on the final run in a tribute to Smith- a much beloved character in the J/111 fleet. Smith was a self-made man who started as a carpenter and loved Chicago; he ended his life as a highly respected developer and project builder after a career the Chicago Tribune called ‘a towering achievement.’   Sailing photo credits- Paul Todd/ OutsideImages.com.  For more J/111 North American Championship sailing information