Monday, April 15, 2019

Welles Crowned J/24 North American Champion

J/24 champion- Will Welles
(Valle de Bravo, Mexico)- Who knew that the Mexican-hosted J/24 North American Championship would come down to two “gringos” from “el norte” that are “buenos amigos” from “el estado de Maine”. What? Yes! True story.

Having known each other from way, way “Down East” for well over three decades, it was more than ironic that the two leading protagonists for the 2019 J/24 North American Championship both hailed from the state of Maine, and had sailed against each other in J/24s at various events ranging from Portland to further Downeast in Southwest Harbor off Mount Desert Island! That they found themselves battling “hammer & tong” for the 2019 J/24 N.A. finale was a bit of a “back to the future” experience for both Will Welles on BRUSCHETTA and Tony Parker on BANGOR PACKET. No one was going to “pull the wool over the eyes” of the other boat, they both know each other all too well!

The 2019 J/24 North American Championship was hosted by Club Nautico Valle de Bravo on their gorgeous lake in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.  The twenty-seven boat fleet consisted of USA, French and Mexican teams from across the top fleets in the respective countries.

In the end, it was Welles’ BRUSCHETTA that withstood a hard-charging Parker on his BANGOR PACKET to return the J/24 North American Championship to Newport, RI. Welles, two-time J/24 World Champion and now four-time J/24 North American Champion, came into Friday’s final two races with a slight two-point advantage over Parker. With Mexican boat owner Aroldo de Rienzo aboard, as well as Rich Bowen, John McCabe and PJ Schaffer, BRUSCHETTA took the victory in Race 9, with Parker still hot on their heels in second. The pair dueled in the final contest, with Welles placing ninth and Parker 10th, giving Welles and team the Championship with 24 points to Parker’s 28. In third place overall, and top Mexican finisher, was Kenneth Porter’s “S” with 32 points.

Welles had never sailed in Valle de Bravo before this week, when he also competed in the Mexican National Championship (placing first overall). Although this marked the first time paired with local Valle de Bravo boat owner de Rienzo, the remaining crew are good friends from Newport, RI, who sometimes race together in the famous Newport Fleet 50 Thursday night races (considered the world’s “hottest” fleet since it has at least five J/24 World Champions sailing on some Thursdays!).
J/24 sailing Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Welles summarized the conditions in Valle de Bravo, saying, “It’s funky out there. The puffs don’t move quickly, so you have to get to them. That doesn’t happen in Newport or other places we have sailed.”

As for strategy in the final two races, Welles said, “We focused on getting good starts, so we could go the way we thought we should.  The goal was to just keep Bangor Packet behind us!  Of course, we know them, and Tony is a great friend. Kudos to them for pushing us so hard!”

Rounding out the top five were top Seattle, WA sailor Mark Laura with buddy Mark Thomas onboard, sailing BABA LOUIE to 4th place.  Fifth was another Mexican team, one of the early regatta leaders- Javier Velásquez’s TRINQUETE.  For more J/24 North American Championship sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.