Tuesday, August 9, 2016

JELVIS Triumphant @ Epic J/111 Worlds

J/111 Jelvis sailing Worlds off Cowes, England (Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- It was apparent from the performance by a number of teams at the J/111 Pre-Worlds, hosted by Royal Southern YC in the Hamble, that the die was cast for the four-day J/111 Worlds on the Solent that was hosted by Island Sailing Club on Cowes.

Starting off where they left the Pre-Worlds, Peter Wagner’s SKELETON KEY from San Francisco, CA and Martin Dent’s JELVIS from Cowes, England were trading off the lead on the first day.  Amazingly, as the protagonists for this year’s 2016 edition, they were “trading places” at the front of the fleet after two races, both posting 1-2 finishes.  Ultimately, it was Dent’s young crew on JELVIS (pictured here) that won the regatta by J/111 Jelvis crew- victory swimjust four point after nine races in what can only be described as an epic week of sailing in 15-30 kt winds from the WSW nearly every day!

The fourteen-boat fleet featured seven nations, with six teams from the host country, plus two from the USA, two from the Netherlands, plus teams from Australia, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany.  Here is how the regatta went down with reports generously provided by famous UK journalist/ photographer- Louay Habib from Cowes.

J/111s sailing Worlds off Cowes, EnglandDay One- Three Winners Today!
The first day produced close one-design racing and the first day did not disappoint, with three different winners, with all races decided by less than 30 seconds.

The event started with three windward-leeward races in the Eastern Solent. The weather was more like the 1st of April than the 1st August, with a cold front arriving in the afternoon, bringing persistent rain and squally conditions. For the first two races, 8-10 knots of wind with a easterly going tide gave a smooth sea state, but the breeze was tending to shift south in the gusts, favoring the left hand side of the track. However, by the third race, the tide had turned and the right hand side came into play and a short Solent chop changed the mix. Principle Race Officer, Bob Milner elected to alter the course and his team did an excellent job of squaring the course after the shift.

Martin Dent's British team racing JELVIS finished the day with a 1-2-2 to lead the regatta; two points clear of Peter Wagner's American team racing SKELETON KEY. Tony Mack's McFLY won the last race of the day to finish in third.  Dent commented on their performance, “It was a tricky day today: a cross tide, plenty of shifts and pressure changes. The JELVIS team has put in a lot of training over the last month and so I am pleased with today's results, especially as all the boat handling went well: tacks, gybes, sail changes and a gybe set etc. There were multiple lead changes today and it was yet another day of close, tight one-design racing at its best.”

Tony Mack's McFLY had a great 2015, but 2016 has not been the best year for the team based in Hamble. However, after winning the last race of the day, the highly experienced skipper had a twinkle in his eye.  “We have not had a good season so far, a bit of a Mclroy,” commented Tony Mack, referring to the out-of-form golfer. “However today, we just seemed to get things right and, especially, the last race. We rounded the first top mark third and decided to gybe away, which really worked but we still had to work hard, especially with the two course changes. There are a lot of very good sailors in this fleet and we haven't seen all of them perform yet, so I expect there to be a lot of position changes during this regatta. We are pretty happy with our performance today and we hope we can build on that.”

J/111 Kestrel/Joust from Australia at Worlds in Cowes, EnglandDay Two- Flying Dutchmen win on Big Tuesday!
Full on conditions made for some exciting racing on the second day of racing. Gusts of wind topping out at close to 32 knots, and a building sea state, created highly challenging conditions. The Eastern Solent was frothing up all morning and by race-time a full on foam-up created thrilling downwind action for the World Championship fleet. There were broaches a plenty as the teams pushed themselves to the limits.

The Race Committee fired off two windward-leeward races in 20 to 32 kts winds and enormous 3-5 ft chop, conditions that pushed the J/111 crew to their absolute limits.  Without question, the best J/111 of the day was Paul van Driel's Dutch team racing SWEENY, who won both races, and were enjoying a pint of Dutch beer in the Pier View Pub in Cowes.  “We are so happy today, the big reason for our success was our downwind speed,” commented Paul van Driel. “We carried the A2 and really kept in good control, even at 17 knots, so that was the big difference and big fun as well. Upwind the mainsheet trim was first class, we had good height and speed and the crew really hiked well, especially through the gusts. We have sailed in conditions like this before, which obviously helps. The J/111 worlds is the big deal for us, we have been training all year. There are some fantastic teams here, but nobody beat us today! There is still a long way to go, but we are enjoying the regatta.”

Prior to the start, over night leader, Martin Dent's JELVIS, blew out a spinnaker and having consulted the Jury, returned to shore for a replacement, missing the first race. Paul Griffith's JAGERBOMB suffered a similar breakage during the first race of the day, which put them out for both races. Peter Wagner's SKELETON KEY put in a consistent performance with a 5-2 to lead after the second day. Tony Mack's McFLY scored a 2-4 to move up to second place and JELVIS dropped to third.

J/111's sailing World Championship off Cowes, England“Today we had fun, but challenging conditions.  We definitely wanted to enjoy the weather while avoiding a disaster and, thankfully, we managed to do that,” commented Wagner. “Once in a while we get that sort of weather in San Francisco, but today was the very high end of the range, probably the most wind that we have ever sailed the boat in. It gets choppy back at home but this was steeper and tighter than we are used to. It was another competitive day with great racing, a lot of boats put on some good performances. Our boat-handling was not the best today, but hopefully we can get that together. We are halfway through the regatta and we are still in the hunt with two more days to race. We want to put our best foot forward and see if we can finish it well. It is tight racing and that is what you want to see at a World Championship, there are a number of boats that have won races, SWEENY had a great day today and they are not the only team that are sailing very well.”

Apart from a proper soaking and a few bumps and bruises, all crew returned to shore safe and sound. You know it's windy when the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) Lifeboat tows in the Race Committee boat(!), after the engine was submerged for some time. Praise must go to the Island Sailing Club Race Team, for laying on two superb races in atrocious conditions.

J/111 sailing World Championship off Cowes, EnglandDay Three- Leaders Start to Emerge
With the wind speed in the 20 knot zone, it took Bob Milner's Island Sailing Club Race Committee three attempts, and a Black Flag, to get the fleet away for the first race. Peter Wagner's SKELETON KEY unlocked the door to first place with a win in Race 6. In the second race, the wind speed was well into the red zone. A southwesterly buster put the J/111s back in the 30-knot wipe out arena. The last race of the day was a three-hour coastal and despite the strong winds and vicious short chop, less than three minutes separated second from tenth in the race!  “Epic” could be the only description for the sunny, windy, very wavy 21nm race.

After seven out of the scheduled nine races, Dent's JELVIS rocked the house with a comeback in Race 7 to take the win and the championship lead from SKELETON KEY. Tony Mack's McFLY took a second on the last race to finish the day in a solid third for the regatta and there was a podium finish for the Chicago trio of Brummel, Henderson and Mayer racing KASHMIR.

J/111 Jelvis- World ChampionsDay Four- JELVIS Crowned Champion
The final day of racing delivered two windward-leeward races in a southwesterly gradient breeze. Once again, enhanced by thermal breeze the wind speed piped up to 24+ knots, giving thrilling conditions to the fleet. In the pre-start to the penultimate race, SKELETON KEY engaged JELVIS, with the two combatants weaving through the fleet. However, SKELETON KEY misjudged the line and arriving early, had to bear away. It was a position that the American team found hard to recover from, ending the race in 10th, which was discarded. Race 8 was won by Mike Mayer's KASHMIR. The team from Chicago became the fifth team to score a bullet. The intensity of the competition saw nine teams out of fourteen make the podium!

JELVIS had a five-point cushion going into the last race, but a poor first beat left JELVIS in 7th while SKELETON KEY took the lead. However, McFLY and KASHMIR, who were both in front of JELVIS, almost simultaneously ripped their spinnakers, and both BLACK DOG and the Australian KESTREL crashed with wraps in their spinnakers halfway down the run, allowing JELVIS to climb the necessary places on the leaderboard to win the Worlds!

J/111 McFLY- Tony Mack- 3rd at Worlds“I would like to thank our competitors, the locals we race against all the time, and to all the foreign teams that have come from so far away to compete, especially SKELETON KEY, who pushed us so hard,” commented Dent. “It has been great racing against SKELETON KEY, who never gave up, right until the end and raced so well. A big thank you to my own team, on the boat and off the boat. You have all put a lot of work in and it has paid off!”

Behind the two leaders (JELVIS and SKELETON KEY), third place was taken by Tony Mack's McFLY English crew (above), fourth was the Chicago trio on KASHMIR (Brummel, Henderson, Mayer) and fifth place was the Dutch crew on Paul van Driel's SWEENY.

J/111 Skeleton Key- 2nd at WorldsSKELETON KEY’s Peter Wagner (at right) spoke at the end of the Prize Giving about next year's J/111 World Championship. “This has been a great regatta, some of the crew have sailed here once or twice before but we have all had racing in Cowes on our bucket list. There are only a handful of places like this in the world and San Francisco Bay is one of them. Put August 24th in your diaries, the next J/111 Worlds is in San Francisco Bay, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club, and on behalf of all of the J/111s in North America, we encourage you to come and join us. This year was great racing, and our thanks to the Island Sailing Club RC for that and, hopefully, we can put on as good an event, where it will be a lot sunnier!”   Follow the J/111 Worlds on Facebook   For more J/111 Garmin World Championship sailing information