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North Sails NEWS

Story Contributors: Tim Healy, Will Welles, Zeke Horowitz, Mike Marshall
Images © Chris Howell

JOEL RONNING WINS J/70 NORTH AMERICANS

J-6 proves to be the most user-friendly High-Clew Jib available

Team Catapult, 2017 J/70 North American Champions. © Chris Howell

Fifty-three teams met in New York at American Yacht Club for the 2017 J/70 North American Championship. Going into the first day, the wind was sustained at 25, with larger gusts to 30. The waves were very steep, due to the current going against them. Keeping safety of the teams and regatta personnel in mind, PRO Mark Foster made the right call to stay ashore.

Day two brought lighter sailable conditions with the wind ranging from 12 to 18 knots. The challenging aspect of the day was the steep chop that was left over from the previous days’ strong winds. Pounding through the disorganized, at times 1.2 meter waves, increased the difficulty of holding a lane off the line. To make up for lost time from the previous day, 4 races were sailed, each lasting about 1.5 hours. Exciting planing conditions downwind allowed sailors to exercise a variety of techniques, including wing on wing in the lighter patches.

Day three was a stark contrast from the start of the event, with winds from the same easterly direction, only peaking at ten knots in the morning tapering to almost nothing in the afternoon. Strong up-course current made starting and sailing downwind in the light air difficult. A late shift to the right on the last downwind in one race saw a bit of fleet inversion with the some of the boats that were last around the final top mark making it into the top ten. With the overall windspeed dying and oscillating between 40 degrees, racing was called for the day.

Due to the lack of races so far for the event, an earlier start time was in store for day four, meaning anything could happen with the scoreboard. Winds started out at 5-12 knots out of the southwest for the first two races of the day. Shifty conditions gave the edges flatter water and ended up paying for those who committed to the sides. For the final race of the regatta, the wind picked up to 15 knots, and by the end of the first beat , teams were back up to planing conditions for downwind. Joel Ronning and his team Catapult won the final race of the regatta, claiming the title. Congrats to Joel and his crew on some great sailing, and a special thanks to Mark Foster for getting in as many quality races as possible in trying conditions.

Catapult sailed with North XCS-1 Mainsail, J-6 Jib and AP-1 Spinnaker. We are very proud of the way our new J-6 jib performed at the North Americans. It delivers an untouchable mode of upwind speed and height. The new J-6 jib has again proved its top end speed in a wide range of conditions.

“The results at the NAs reinforce that the J-6 is the most user-friendly high-clew jib available.” said  North Sails One Design President Tim Healy.

Here are some tips from the North Americans:

Setting Up the J-6 Jib for Max Speed

One key element of setup is the weather sheet. It is imperative to sail with enough weather sheet to give the sail some depth and power down low, while generating twist and keeping the upper leech open. Make sure the weather sheet comes on as quickly as possible after the tack as the boat needs the power from the bottom of the jib to get up to speed immediately after a tack. Some teams even experimented with “pre-setting” the weather sheet as they steer through the tack!

Another key to trimming the J-6 for maximum speed is to make sure that the main sail is flat enough down low to be sure that you aren’t getting too much return from the lower leech of the jib. Your lower shrouds shouldn’t be too tight, keeping in mind that you have enough outhaul on and, in over 13 knots, that you have some vang on to keep that lower main flat. Look for pre-bend wrinkles in the lower third of the main to be sure you’re set up correctly.

Detach from the Pack

In big fleets, it is incredibly helpful to be able to separate from other boats and give yourself the opportunity to use your boat speed to make gains on other packs. Packs create high traffic, and disturb the airflow. It is important that the tactician looks for the lanes that might allow them to “detach” from these packs and move up that half ladder rung, which leads to getting a narrow cross later on up the beat. This can make a difference between a top 10 rounding, and being stuck in the middle.

Having a good start in the front row is the first way to get yourself out and running away from the big pack of boats, but it doesn’t stop there in a 50+ boat fleet. The tactician needs to think ahead and ask themselves, “If I tack here, am I going to have a lane?” Or will I be putting the boat in a position to make a gain using my extra gear of boat speed?”

The same can be said for the downwind legs as well. Rarely it works to sail the middle of the course downwind because there is so much disturbed airflow from the big fleet. Pick a side and commit to it – doing your best to separate from other boats and keep your lane and air clear.

When picking which gate to round in a congested fleet, make sure you predict which mark will have the cleanest “escape”. Which mark does it look like the pack in front of you will round? After you round the leeward mark, there will still be boats coming down the run. Which side of the course has less boats on it? Even if you want the right side of the course on the next beat, it might be better to round the course-left gate mark if it means staying clear of downwind boats coming at you with spinnakers, creating a ton of chop. Every bit of separation you can get can lead to big gains at the finish line!

For more information contact our on-site support team at the NAs:  Zeke Horowitz, Mike Marshall, Eric Doyle or Max Skelley.

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Story Contributors

New J-6 Jib Shines at the 2017 J/70 North Americans headshot
Tim Healy

One Design Expert — Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Tim has won 18 major titles including two World Championships in the J/24 class. A three-time All-American Sailor at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, Healy also won a Gold Medal at the 2003 Pan American Games. His recent success in the...

New J-6 Jib Shines at the 2017 J/70 North Americans headshot
Will Welles

One Design Expert — Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Will Welles has been a member of the North Sails Rhode Island team since January of 2007, although in total he sports more than eighteen years of experience in the sailmaking industry, including a six-year apprenticeship at the North Sails...

New J-6 Jib Shines at the 2017 J/70 North Americans headshot
Zeke Horowitz

One Design Expert — Annapolis, Maryland

Zeke Horowitz grew up in Sarasota, Fla. where he quickly took to sailing and began racing in the Optimist Class at the age of nine. His Optimist racing took him all over the world and inspired his passion for sailing...

New J-6 Jib Shines at the 2017 J/70 North Americans headshot
Mike Marshall

One Design Expert, Sail Designer — Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Mike won the 2016 J/22 Worlds, which led to a Rolex Yachtsman of the Year nomination. He has also won the J/22 North Americans and finished top ten at multiple J/24 Worlds, North Americans, and Nationals. He graduated with a degree in Geophysics from Connecticut...