Howth Yacht Club in Howth, Ireland hosted the 2013 J24 World Championships the week of August 25-30, 2013. Howth is a beautiful coastal town about 15 miles outside of Dublin and the Howth Yacht Club was a spectacular venue to host this well attended event. My crew and I were impressed with the hospitality we were shown – from the Yacht Club to the nearby market and restaurants, everyone was incredibly friendly. The surrounding countryside was beautiful with dramatic rock formations underscoring the lush green beauty that Ireland is known for, all of which was compounded by the presence of the moody Irish Sea.
When we first arrived in Ireland, a week before the event was to start, we realized that our boat needed a bit more work than we anticipated, and we were happy we had the time to dedicate to boat work. The beautiful scenery and the great vibe of Howth made our boat preparation time seem a little less arduous as we ended up spending the better part of three days working on the keel, which had a few dings, and two more days setting up the deck and tuning the rig.
Forty teams sailed all ten scheduled races over five days, in conditions that ranged from 4-24 knots. The first day, Monday, was very light wind which diminished through Tuesday, when racing was called due to a lack of wind. After that, however, the breeze built throughout the week and was capped off in Fridays penultimate racing with the wind for the last race requiring the blade instead of the genoa.After the first day of racing, we found ourselves a bit humbled by the Irish Sea which was providing a steep learning curve for us. W found we still needed to tune and tweak a few things, and the team took on the task of finding a bit more speed from our chartered boat and, by the end of day two, we felt we were up to speed and back in the game. The time we spent on Monday and Tuesday really helped us finish off the week strong and we felt, on Wednesday, as we approached the first race of the day we had the confident feeling that the boat (and the team) was ready to go.
Obviously there is a lot that goes into traveling great distances and competing with the top sailors in the class. In reflection I think there were a couple of things we did throughout the week that helped us to stay focused and really helped our team be successful in Howth.
First, we had a great tuning partner in Keith Whittemore and his crew. We tuned with him each morning on the way out to the race course, tuning and tweaking the whole way out. Once we hit the course, we would split tacks with Keith for five minutes, which helped tremendously in terms of getting our heads out of the boat and getting in tune with the wind shifts and current.
Second, most races were started with a black flag, which, in the current, added a lot of tension to the start. We therefore approached the starting line knowing that yes, we wanted to be in a certain area of the line, but more importantly, we wanted to control our own destiny and not let another boat push us over early. This conservative approach allowed us to slow down and head off any time we needed to and we were able to keep our starts clean.
Our team is very grateful to the Howth Yacht Club and the organizing committee of the 2013 J24 World Championships. They ran a first-rate event in a beautiful, challenging setting that was set up perfect for a World Championship. While my team and I are thrilled to be able to have been able to win the event it is also satisfying that seven of the top ten finishers were boats and customers that choose North Sails.
I hope to see many of you at the 2014 J24 Worlds in my hometown of Newport, RI.