North Sails NEWS

September 30, 2018


Interview with Chip Johns

Team Cavitics – Chip Johns, Zander Gryska, Bill Marvel and Cam Tougas. Photo Anne Converse

We caught up with Chip Johns, winner of the 2018 J/80 North American Championship sailed in Marion, MA. Team Cavitica won the event with only 11-points in the 4-race series.

Congrats on your win! What was the key to Team Cavitica’s success?

Thanks. Doing well in this event was THE racing goal for me and our team for this year. Unfortunately, we had a setback in the pre-season when I dislocated my shoulder. This injury kept me out of the J80 until July and we did not have any August racing planned, so our time in the boat before the event was a bit limited. I think that our many years of experience in the boat allowed us to adjust as the event went on and get faster and better each day. We were fortunate to come out of the blocks on the 1st day with 2 wins in the first two races. We did not think we were fast on the 1st day, but we did feel that we were able to pick the shifts better than others. Given our speed deficit, we made sure we started safely and had the ability to tack when we wanted to. This allowed us to land at the top mark in the top few almost every race.

We made some tuning adjustments in Day 2 and found our upwind speed. This allowed us to be a bit more aggressive in starting and since we were still picking the shifts well, we were always in the top few boats at the top mark. Day 3 brought on more breeze and we had a comfortable lead. So we started very conservatively, but were still able to sail through the fleet and finish in the top few boats in each race.

I think our key to this event was the ability to pick the shifts on the upwind legs and over the course of the event get faster and faster through better tuning.

Tell us about your team? Have you sailed together for a long time?

Our team has been sailing the J80 for 10 years. Three of us own the boat together – me, Bill Marvel, and Zander Gryska and we really enjoy sailing together. We have also sailed other boats and done a few Bermuda races together, so we know each other pretty well. Billy is a great trimmer (and helm) and we are in constant communication about pointing, speed, waves, and puffs all the way around the course. Zander is the best fwd guy out there. He is athletic, has a great sense on the water, and has a 7’ reach so spin hoists and jibes are always great. He also takes care of problems when they happen because his sense of what might happen on the boat is so great. We always are searching for the right fourth person. Cam Tougas grew up in Marion doing a lot of sailing and was a great tactician to have aboard. Cam and Zander did a great job calling puffs and waves which for this event was critical.

Buzzards Bay is known for good wind, what were the conditions like throughout the regatta?

Well, as they say, “it never blows like that here” and this event was no different. Buzzards Bay is known for a thermal driven southwest breeze with big, steep waves. We had a shifty northeast breeze blowing about 13 to 20 knots during the entire event. While we didn’t get to showcase our “typical” breeze, we had great wind and the shifty conditions allowed for boats to come back if they had a rough start.

I have sailed and raced out of Marion for over 50 years. It is great to be able to host an event like this and have different wind that “normal” so there is less local advantage.

Did you do anything special on rig tune, mast butt position or did you use the numbers straight from our tuning guide?

We would start off with what the tuning sheet defined and then make small adjustments after setting up on the course before every race. We have never moved our mast butt in 10 years, but can understand how it might be important. I mentioned that we were a bit off the pace on day one. This was due to our lowers being too loose. Once we got these snugged up a bit, we had our speed.


Images © Anne Converse
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