The 2014 J/70 North Americans opened on Thursday, July 17th with a beautiful 10-15 knot northwest sea breeze on Lake Ontario. Regatta PRO Hank Stuart and RYC race officials were able to score five of the event’s six races on Thursday and Friday. Winds tapered off completely by the end of day two, leaving flukey conditions for the 71-boat fleet over the weekend.
North Sails customers claimed six of the top ten rankings at the regatta, with Tim Healy's Helly Hansen (USA), Ruairidh Scott on Boats.com (GBR), and Brian Keane’s Savasana (USA) finishing first, second, and third place respectively. The top Corinthian team was the father-son duo on Aquaholics, skippered by Martin Johnsson. Consistency played a major role in the weekend’s overall standings. “As always, good starts were key in a big fleet like this. We normally stuck to the middle of the line until late in the sequence, and never committed to one side of the course too early” said Healy, president of North Sails One Design and skipper of J/70 Helly Hansen.
After Saturday's racing was abandoned due to lack of consistent wind, Healy and fellow North Sails teammate Geoff Becker joined fellow competitors for on-the-water light air speed testing. 2013 North American Champion Heather Gregg Earl (Muse), Brian Keane (Savasana), and Jen and Ray Wulff (Joint Custody), all participated in the impromptu practice session. “The J/70 is still a new class, with sailors who are eager to learn more about the boat in varying conditions. Saturday offered a great opportunity to spend informal time on the water and learn more about the boats alongside our clients” said Geoff Becker, who represents North Sails One Design in Annapolis, MD. Healy and Becker also lead a post-race dock talk on Thursday, debriefing the day’s events with the fleet.
All North Sails customers at the J/70 North Americans used North Radian race mainsails and jibs, and asymmetric race spinnakers. "NorDac Radian sailcloth is a patented formula that represents a new and higher level of racing product, exclusive to North Sails" said Healy. The original North Sails J/70 sail inventory was designed by Doug Slocum of North Sails Design Services (NSDS), who worked in collaboration with Southern Spars to create a synchronized ‘engine above deck’. Using North’s proprietary software, North Sails Design SuiteTM, Doug produced a coupled sail and rig tuning guide. This provided an ideal starting point for the North team and customers alike, which has changed very little since. "Our sail shapes have not been altered since their introduction in late 2012. North designs are proven, giving our customers confidence in their sail shape and energy to focus on fine-tuning their rig and sail trim” said Healy.
An award for the Top Youth Skipper at the regatta was presented by North Sails One Design at the awards ceremony on Sunday, to nine-year-old skipper Dylan Flack. Dylan and his father Brandon Flack jumped on the J/70 scene early with their boat Torqeedo, which they typically sail with mom, Cindy, and sister, Lilly. "Through dedication and time on the water, Dylan has shown great promise in the J/70 Class. The Top Youth Skipper award is a significant achievement, and we hope he accepts it as a token of our encouragement for his future sailing" said Healy.
North Sails One Design would like to thank the Rochester Yacht Club for their exceptional hospitality, and for making the most of the event's flukey conditions.Thanks to the event organizers and many volunteers, the fleet had full access to a wonderful facility, and not one boat was left without a slip.
Reports from Geoff Becker, Team Helly Hansen:
Team Helly Hansen survived light and shifty conditions on the final day to win the 2014 J/70 North American Championship hosted by the Rochester Yacht Club. Skipper Tim Healy and crew John Mollicone, Gordon Borges and myself finished 10th in the final race of the regatta earning us the overall victory. I think every boat in the event would agree that the racing was very challenging because the talent level was so high and the course conditions made the racing more than tough. From the beginning of this "no drop score" event, staying out of trouble was one of our major goals and we were just able to do that in the final race. We felt to be successful at staying out of trouble tactically on the race course we needed to keep our tactical options open early in each and every race. This strategy isn't flashy and we may not be the first boat to many marks, but during the regatta, it allowed us to have opportunities to be near the front of the fleet at the first mark and finish near the front in every race.
On Sunday, like every race of this event, we wanted to get a start that put us in a position to control our options as much as possible early in the race. So, like most of the races in this event, we decided to start near the mid-line committee boat and continue on starboard early on the first leg. From there we would evaluate and adjust our position to fit the conditions we encountered on the leg to the first mark.
In the final race, our starting plan worked and we were able to sail on starboard tack until we made our first tack decision. A few minutes into the race, wind began to lull in our area and then shift to the right up the first leg. Our centered position off the starting line allowed us to tack and sail toward the right side, in an effort to stay in touch with a large group of boats on the right who jumped ahead as the wind shifted. Even though we were only able to round 25th or so at the first mark, our strategy helped limit the damage from the unfavorable shift. After the first mark, being near the front of the fleet gave us opportunities to work our way up to 10th by the finish of the final race and win the event with our consistency.
Day 1 of the 2014 J/70 North American Championship is in the books with three races completed. Team Helly Hansen with skipper Tim Healy and crew John Mollicone, Gordon Borges and myself, finished the day leading the 71 boat fleet with finishes of 3-3-6. Knowing the unpredictable nature of the conditions on Lake Ontario in the Rochester Area, our overall plan going into the regatta was to play it safe and keep our options open as much as possible. Our scores reflect that as our consistency was our best result on the day.
Of course rig tune and boat setup are both large factors in a boat’s race performance in larger fleets, like we see in many J/70 regattas. Boats that are able to sail at full speed for the first several minutes or more, are the most likely to be in the front group on the first leg and boats that are forced to tack because of bad air, or duck handfuls of boats early in a race, are at a significant disadvantage. Maximizing your speed early in any race is the first step to getting to the first mark with the leaders.
Our team takes the time, before each start, to make sure our boat is prepared to sail upwind at full speed. To accomplish this, we are diligent about taking time to sail upwind before each start in full race trim. This allows us to check our rig settings and all other controls for the conditions we will have for the first leg after the start. During the same time, we note the setting of all the control lines and preset things like the main traveler position, the backstay tension, jib halyard tension, etc.. By doing this we can have the boat ready to go from luffing on the starting line to full upwind trim as quickly as possible after to starting gun.
While making a habit of a pre-race setup routine will surely make any crew more prepared for the next race, it can also help mentally reset after a less than favorable finish in a previous race. Every crew has had the “what else can go wrong” race and those are sometimes tough to put in the past. Taking a drink of water and going straight into you pre-race routine for the next race can sometimes help a crew get back focus and motivation. Give it a try.
Full results | Regatta website
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