Monday, September 24, 2018

UNCLE FLUFFY Dusts J/22 World Championship

J/22s sailing World Championship(Annapolis, MD)- The Annapolis YC hosted the 2018 edition of the J/22 World Championship from September 9th to 14th on the Chesapeake Bay, for a fleet of sixty-three entries from the USA, Canada, South Africa, and The Netherlands. Winning the event was a last-minute, come-from-behind victory by Zeke Horowitz’s UNCLE FLUFFY.

Zeke’s team accomplished what none of the other teams could avoid- a high-number finish in the nine-race series hosted by Annapolis Yacht Club in Maryland. As a result, Zeke and crew Jackson Benvenuti, Jo Ann Fisher and Emmy Stuart were named the 2018 J/22 World Champions. Rounding out the podium were Allan Terhune’s THUNDER CHICKEN with the silver and Jeff Todd’s HOT TODDY with the bronze, based on a tie-breaker with Mike Marshall’s BAD NEWS.  Taking fifth place was Chris Wentjes.

J/22 World Champion- Zeke HorowitzSurviving the battle to win the war
This report from Bill Wagner, of the local newspaper Capital Gazette, provides some great insight on what took place to win the regatta for Zeke Horowitz.

Annapolis skipper Zeke Horowitz won the regatta on the water, then survived a lengthy challenge in the protest room to capture the 2018 J/22 World Championship on the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s an incredibly humbling thing, for sure,” Horowitz said. “We were going over some of the other names on the perpetual trophy and it’s a very impressive list. It’s certainly quite an honor to get my name on there.”

Horowitz was a member of the College of Charleston sailing team and had Greg Fisher as head coach his last two years. Remarkably, the inscription on the J/22 World Championship perpetual trophy listing Horowitz as 2018 winner was placed adjacent to the one recognizing Fisher as the 2008 champion.

“Greg Fisher is my ultimate mentor, and made a major impact on my life, both as a sailor and as a person,” Horowitz said. “So it was really cool when I saw the columns lined up perfectly so that our plaque is right next to Greg’s.”

Allan Terhune led the regatta at the end of racing on both Day One and Day Two and carried a nine-point lead into the final day of an event ending one day early due to the threat of Hurricane Florence. Horowitz held second place, but readily admitted he needed Terhune to make a mistake in order to have a chance of claiming the title.

Terhune did just that, drawing a “U” Flag penalty in Race 7, for committing a rules violation during pre-start maneuvers. That saddled the Annapolis skipper with a finish of 65th, which he was forced to throw out.

That meant Terhune had to count an 18th place finish in Race 5, that he had previously used as a throw-out. Meanwhile, Horowitz tossed his worst result of 11th in Race 4, and his consistency made the difference.

“Allan’s team sailed an incredible regatta. They were really fast, and in the right place a lot of the time,” Horowitz said. “We had to hope they made a mistake and that’s what happened.’

It took almost two hours for the final results to become official as a series of protest hearings dragged on through the scheduled awards ceremony and held up formally crowning the 2018 J/22 World Champion.

Horowitz and Terhune, who worked together at the North Sails-Chesapeake loft in Eastport, were adversaries in a protest that potentially could have changed the final outcome.

Terhune alleged that he was fouled by Horowitz in the ninth and final race. That protest was ultimately dismissed by the International Jury after hearing testimony from both sides.

Terhune then protested being assigned the “U” flag penalty in Race 7, hoping to receive redress and a result that would have wiped out the three-point deficit. That protest also was eventually denied.

“I really don’t want to comment on any of that,” Horowitz said of the protest ordeal. “I’ll just say it’s not the way anyone wanted the regatta to end.”

With Jackson Benvenuti on tactics, Jo Ann Fisher handled the foredeck while Emmy Stuart worked the pit aboard Uncle Fluffy, which represented Eastport Yacht Club.

“I owe it all to my team. They were on point the whole event. They were all calm, cool and collected even when things weren’t going well,” Horowitz said. “Everyone was totally focused on doing their job. It’s a really, really cool thing to be able to focus solely on driving boat and going fast while letting the team worry about everything else.”

Horowitz was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he developed into a top-notch youth sailor. He became an All-American competitor at the College of Charleston, where he was a teammate of Benvenuti. Those two have been friends since they were competitors on the Optimist class travel circuit as pre-teenagers.

“I can’t say enough about Jackson’s contributions this week. He is such a gifted sailor. It’s really a pleasure to sit next to him and watch his brain work,” Horowitz said. “How Jackson can focus on trimming the jib and also concentrate on watching the race course in order to make sound tactical decisions is truly remarkable.

“Jackson is a brilliant, but conservative sailor who is always looking to hit singles instead of home runs and that was really the key to our success in this regatta,” Horowitz added.

Horowitz also had high praise for Stuart and Fisher, former of whom just happens to be his girlfriend and latter of whom is a past J/22 World Champ as crew for her husband.

“We set this goal two year ago and it’s been a long process,” Horowitz said. “This is particularly special because I got to do it with my closest friend, my girlfriend, and a veteran sailor, who I respect immensely, in Jo Ann. Getting this outcome with people you love is really rewarding.”

As an up and coming professional with North Sails, Horowitz readily admitted this result was a big boost for his career. The 28-year-old previously captured the 2016 Viper 640 World Championship off Bermuda.

“It means everything. My career revolves around winning championships, so getting my name on a World Championship trophy is a huge steppingstone,” he said. “Winning a World Championship in a class as competitive as the J/22 is very validating.”

J/22 Netherlands Youth teamBringing a Dutch Youth Team to J/22 Worlds- a retrospective
There were eight foreign entries in the 2018 J/22 World Championship on the Chesapeake Bay.  None was a more interesting backstory than RSZV-RWG, skippered by Auke Holtrop from South Africa.

Holtrop was leading a youth entry from the Netherlands that was representing the Rotterdam Student Sailing Association. The official name of the organization in Dutch is Rotterdamse Studenten Zeil Vereniging, hence the RSZV in the boat name.

Holtrop was the helmsman, while Anique Noordam was trimming the main and calling tactics. Sipke de Man was the headsail trimmer and strategist, while Lotte Brasser was on the foredeck and assisting with tactics. Holtrop, Noordam and Brasser are all 22 years old while de Man is 23.

Those four team members were selected to campaign a J/22 owned by the Rotterdam Student Sailing Association for one year and have competed in regattas throughout the Netherlands, performing well and posting impressive results. Holtrop was so encouraged by the showing in national events, that he entered the youth team in the J/22 European Championship, held in Brest, France. The young sailors from Holland stunned a talent-laden fleet, by placing second overall.

That result led the youngsters to consider a bid for the J/22 Worlds. It was not going to be easy to travel all the way to Annapolis, but several notable members of the J/22 class made that dream a reality.

Veteran North Sails professional Mike Marshall finished behind the Dutch team at the European Championships and came away impressed. Marshall reached out to current U.S. Class president Matt Dunbar, who had purchased a used J/22 for the express purpose of providing a platform for youth participation in major class events.

“We need to do whatever we can to grow the class, and that starts with encouraging younger sailors to get involved,” said Dunbar, who raced his boat, Wharf Rat, in the 2018 J/22 World Championship. “I wanted to do my part to pull younger members into the class to help keep it vibrant.”

Needless to say, Dunbar was totally on board when told by Marshall about the talented group of youth sailors from the Netherlands that were looking for a ride for the J/22 Worlds.

“Having a team from Holland show up, and use my boat to enter the J/22 Worlds, is a real bonus. It is very valuable and a huge boost for the event,” said Dunbar, whose intention was to eventually donate this particular J/22 to a Rhode Island-based sailing foundation, with the caveat that it be made available to youth teams for participation in major class events.

Holtrop and crew arrived in the United States and spent a week in Newport getting the boat sorted. Marshall, a resident of Jamestown, RI, helped with the process of tuning the rig and setting up the sail package.

“I went out on the water with the team and answered a lot of questions about tuning and sail shape,” said Marshall, who welcomed the four Dutch sailors into his home.

Marshall also played an instrumental role in getting some sponsorship help from Harken (deck hardware), Vela Sailing Supplies (standing rigging, ropes) and North (sails).

“We are grateful to all the companies that came aboard and helped with the boat. It has turned into quite a nice overall boat package,” he said. “Auke and his crew are very adept at fixing things themselves. They have worked really hard to get this boat prepared for worlds.”

Dunbar lent the Dutch team his own vehicle to trailer the restored J/22 to Annapolis, borrowing a friend’s truck to get his own boat here. More assistance for the Netherlands’ program was provided by Canadian sailor Michele Cimon, who was housing the young sailors in Annapolis.

“Michele Cimon, Matt Dunbar, and Mike Marshall, have been super important to making this happen, and we cannot thank them enough,” Holtrop said. “It’s unbelievable that this is possible, and we are going to be racing in the J/22 World Championship.”

Holtrop felt good about the boat setup, which was quite different from the J/22 his team sails in the Netherlands. “We had a lovely week of training in Newport, and put a lot of effort into rigging the boat, and optimizing everything the way we wanted,” he said. Holtrop knew the competition at the 2018 J/22 World Championship would be the toughest the Dutch crew had faced to date.

“We know the level of J/22 sailing in the United States is a lot higher than in Europe, so this will be a great learning experience,” he said. “Our goal was to finish Top 15, or somewhere around there. I think the most important thing is that we have a lot of fun and we definitely plan to do that. We are already having a wonderful experience over here.”

There are six Canadian boats entered in J/22 Worlds, with most coming from the Quebec province. Ron Harris, who served as President of the Canadian J/22 Class Association for six years, was competing in his fifth world championship and had a top finish of 11th in New Orleans in 2011.

“This is one of the best turnouts of Canadian boats at the J/22 Worlds in a while, so we are pleased with that,” said Harris, who is currently chairman of the Technical Committee for the International J/22 Class Association.

Harris said the six Canadian boats in Annapolis all come from Lac des Deux Montagnes (“Lake of Two Mountains” in English). Several of the owners are members of the Hudson Yacht Club, including Harris and current Canadian class president Trevor Collins (Alternative Girlfriend). “We have really pushed the class in the greater Montreal area,” said Harris, who bought his first J/22 in 2005.

Canada has hosted one J/22 World Championship, the 2016 edition that was held as part of the legendary Canadian Olympic Regatta at Kingston (CORK). It was a tremendous success and has the Canadian Class Association, which includes approximately 20 members, to bid for future North American and World championships.

“Kingston is the best location for fresh water sailing in Canada and I think all the teams that came to the world championship we hosted enjoyed the venue,” Harris said. Harris has an extremely experienced crew aboard Broomstick and is quite familiar with Annapolis, having sailed several North American and East Coast championships here.

“Annapolis is quite different from what we are accustomed to in Canada. When we sailed here in the past, the tidal currents were a major issue,” he said. Rounding out the list of international entries is Solstice, which will be representing South Africa. Skipper David Waiting and his wife Natalie both grew up sailing on Table Bay in Cape Town – he an avid Laser racer and she aboard various sport boats.

Waiting was introduced to the J/22 while in college, crewing for Buddy Phillips who won the World Championship one of the four times the World Championship was held in South Africa.

Natalie Burls is a Professor at George Mason University, and the couple joined Severn Sailing Association shortly after moving to Fairfax, VA. Waiting is the current J/22 fleet captain at SSA but is also a member of the South African Class Association and chose to race this year’s J/22 Worlds under the banner of his home country.

“I’m very proud that we were able to put together a fully South African crew,” said Waiting, who will have his wife doing foredeck and longtime friend Neil Mackeller– a Cape Town resident– in the middle.

“We have no expectations of doing well in the regatta. We’d be happy to finish in the middle of the fleet,” Waiting said. “We are still learning the J/22 so this opportunity to sail in a big fleet is invaluable. We’re the only blue boat in the regatta so we’ll be extremely conspicuous on the starting line.”  For more J/22 World Championship sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.