Tuesday, October 24, 2017

CATAPULT Swings to Victory @ J/70 North Americans!

Joel Ronning's J/70 Catapult wins North Americans (Rye, NY)- It was an epic regatta in more ways than one.  Fifty-three boats from thirteen States and two Canadian Provinces participated in the 2017 J/70 North American Championship presented by Domaine Chandon, hosted by American YC in Rye, New York.  There was no question the AYC volunteers, Race Committee and mark boat team, the PRO Mark Foster from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the entire AYC shore team made a magnificent effort to ensure everyone in the event were treated as “family” all weekend long- it is not often that an entire club rallies from members to volunteers to their shore teams to make everyone feel welcome- it was greatly appreciated by all the J/70 teams in attendance!

The sailing itself was challenging with winds, waves, and current literally coming from every quadrant on the compass.  Plus, the fleet was incredibly talented and very deep, with many champions of many different sailing classes pushing the starting line hard all weekend- reflected in the number of general recalls and U-flag/Black-flag starts. AYC’s “homie” and Commodore Peter Duncan on RELATIVE OBSCURITY were pre-regatta favorites, having just won the AUDI J/70 World Championship off Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy at YC Costa Smeralda.  However, success can be fleeting and it’s hard to maintain 100% perfection, even on your home waters.  In the end, with Duncan’s team leading the regatta going into the last day, it was the 2016 J/70 World Champion at San Francisco, California that prevailed; Joel Ronning’s crew on CATAPULT, including J/24 World Champion John Kostecki as mainsheet/ tactician, were declared the 2017 J/70 North American Champions!  Here is how it all took place over the course of four days.

J/70 sailing North AmericansDay One- Blow-Out Thursday!
With sustained winds over 25 kts and gusts breaking 30 kts, the race committee spared the sailors of the difficulties of broken boats and risk of injury. As result, a number of crews went exploring; which meant a quick visit to New York City to see the “bright lights and big city” that it can be on such a gorgeous day.  For the rest, the regatta hosts and sponsors did not disappoint. Thanks to the sponsors, Greatest Blaze & Co. and Watson's Catering, a barbeque of grilled delights calmed the nerves of the sailors eagerly awaiting the start of the Championship. Fine slices of filet mignon, mini-Reuben sandwiches, Kobe beef mini hot dogs, and skewered shrimp ... what a spread! Such a great party kept everyone engaged for the rest of the evening.

The raging Long Island Sound, only suitable for windsurfers and kite-boarders on Thursday, was expected to settle down to a perfect 10-15 kts on Wednesday from the east with huge waves, setting the stage for a fun and competitive day on the water.

J/70 North Americans - fleet reachingDay Two- Blustery, Head-banging Friday!
The morning weather conditions arrived as expected, though a bit misty, chilly and grey with the forecast predicting partly sunny, warmer weather later in the afternoon. The wind had been mostly out of the East all week, blowing across the longest fetch of Long Island Sound, creating nasty, steep 4-5 ft waves in a tight frequency; somewhat reminiscent of Lake Michigan “chop” off the Chicago lakefront.

The AYC Race Committee was able to pull off four action-packed races by 1700 hrs- a long day for the exhausted sailors! The entire fleet was very competitive with the top four boats earning a bullet each. Current J/70 World Champion, Commodore Peter Duncan on RELATIVE OBSCURITY was in first, but Joel Ronning and the CATAPULT crew were right on his heels only two points back. The MIDLIFE CRISIS team from Long Beach, California, led by Bruce Golison, held third, and only a few points separated them from the next two boats.

Sarah Renz from the Chicago Yacht Club, sailing BERTEAU GROUP, led the Corinthians Division, only one point ahead of Heather Gregg and Joe Bardenheier on MUSE and yet another point back was Jen & Ray Wulff’s JOINT CUSTODY.

J/70 sailor enjoying refreshmentUpon reaching the docks after racing by 1730 hrs, the tired and satisfied sailors were treated to fine sparkling wine given out with white glove treatment, thanks to main sponsors- Domaine Chandon. Domaine Chandon is from California's famed Napa Valley region and uses the same three noble grape varietals as used in French Champagne.

The American Yacht Club put on a wonderful feast to accompany the bubbly, while Tanqueray gin provided fine spirits. The evening was topped off with a generous quantity of great raffle prizes provided by Eric Magnuson and Patrick Aylward's Landfall Navigation, specializing in gear for the adventurous.

J/70s sailing on SaturdayDay Three- Saturday Glass-out!
Many throw-outs were likely used on the only race that was sailed on Saturday, as the breeze lightened and began to turn southeast and die across the Sound- a familiar scenario for many Long Island Sound sailors!  However, AYC past Commodore, Peter Duncan, managed to stay consistent with a 6th place in the lone race. Ronning's CATAPULT, currently 2nd, did not fare so well, finishing in 18th place- that's a number that would likely remain a throw-out for them, leaving no room for error on the final day.

Victor Diaz de Leon, sailing with Peter Duncan said, "today we tried to focus on minimizing maneuvers. When we did t, to tack or jibe, we did it in a puff because that makes it so much less painful."

An impressive light-air performance was delivered by John and Molly Baxter, sailing Team VINEYARD VINES to a 1st today, moving them up to 9th overall. Current 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place boats all posted big numbers making their final day a challenge.

J/70 MUSE sailing past markMeanwhile, competition for the Corinthian crown had become fierce. The Wulff’s JOINT CUSTODY was now equal on points with Sarah Renz’s BERTEAU GROUP. Gregg/ Bardenheier’s MUSE was holding on just one point behind. The stage is set for a critical final day where the breeze will be back but from another new direction- the southwest. Anything can happen on the race course Sunday, as the southwester will inevitably throw a few curve-balls at the fleet, a very tricky direction based on current and winds coming off the high-bluffs of Long Island to the south.

On land, the hospitality at AYC remained consistent all week- superb!  Saturday evening, the sailors settled in with chili, clam chowder and a fantastic drink selection. The finest Scotch whiskeys Johnny Walker has to offer were on display for tasting. Aficionados be jealous! Sailors were able to come off the water and enjoy several blends including the 18-year-old Platinum Label blend. All of these fine delectables led the sailors into our second Doyle Sailmakers debrief. Tony Rey guided the discussion and called upon several top pro sailors to give their thoughts and opinions on sail trim and boat-handling techniques. Victor Diaz de Leon and Willem van Waay shared their secrets on how they make the J/70 go fast, while Judd Smith shed some light on how to deal with the tough sea state while on the helm.

J/70s sailing SundayDay Four- The Dramatic, Tricky Finale
Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY team controlled this regatta from day one. Not surprisingly, coming off a J/70 World Championship title, his crew was at the top of their game. But, there was a twist to the plot. Ronning's CATAPULT never fell very far behind in points, always lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. And, pounce they did in the final race; a bullet in the final race by CATAPULT, coupled with a 10th place finish by RELATIVE OBSCURITY, was enough to push them ahead with a 3 point cushion.

Sunday’s conditions were challenging. A new wind direction with varying intensity made for a tactician's nightmare. Credit to Bruce Golison for staying in the hunt and finishing 3rd overall with line honors in race seven. This was not an easy task with Brian Keane’s SAVASANA and Mary Kullman’s NEW WAVE right on his heels, in 4th and 5th, respectively.

Joint Custody- J/70 Corinthians NA winnersThe Corinthian title was no easy achievement either. The lead swapped multiple times throughout the day.  After race 6, Gregg’s MUSE crew was leading the division on a tiebreaker.  After the 7th race, Renz’s BERTEAU GROUP was leading by one pt. But, with a 7th in the 8th and final race, Jenn Wulff’s JOINT CUSTODY managed to win in the end. BERTEAU GROUP and MUSE held their top three spots, finishing in that order. What is remarkable about that outcome was that it was the first time in J/70 class history that three women skippers swept the Corinthians Division!  Notably, women crews were also present on the next two boats- Mallory Loe on DIME in 4th and Melissa Fisher on BUTTON FLY in 5th place!

Ashore after the racing and the frenetic process of hauling and preparing boats for traveling home, the AYC Team hosted a wonderful awards presentation with crystal and framed photographs as prizes. Tanqueray took center stage in relaxing the tired sailors with their signature gin & tonic for any and all in attendance- it was a warmly received and generous effort by the Domaine Chandon team and their team of hostesses to look after the sailors!

What a fantastic regatta it was. In addition, it would not have been possible without the generosity of the sponsors of the event:
  • Presenting sponsor Domaine Chandon and their portfolio of fine spirit brands - Lead Sponsor Doyle Sailmakers who generously shared their knowledge and expertise in sailor with all the competitors
  • Lead Sponsor Tanqueray traditional gins and cocktails
  • Supporting Sponsor Landfall Navigation - "Your journey starts here…”
  • Supporting Sponsor Greatest Blaze Co.- offering exotic kiln dried wood, fire pits, and 41 sorts of grilling essentials
  • Supporting Sponsor Coral Reef Sailing Apparel, second to none in outfitting sailors
  • Supporting Sponsor Sail 22, the premier sailing concierge service providing all of your campaign management needs.
Additional Sponsors included: Captain Lawrence, Don Julio, Captain Morgan, Bulleit Bourbon, Watson's Catering, Summerties, Anne Arundel Dive Services, and Poland Spring.

Sailing photo & video credits- Tim Wilkes Media Productions  American YC Promotions Team- Donavan McSorley/ Steffie Pomp

J/70 NA’s Facebook sailing videos
Day 1   Day 2 first day racing   Day 3- second day racing   Day 4- third day racing   American YC Facebook page   For more J/70 North American Championship sailing and scoring information Add to Flipboard Magazine.