North Sails NEWS

Story Contributors: Sam Sakai

UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF NORTH CLUB RACING SAILS

J/122 Racing in Hong Kong

📸 Takumi Images / Panda Man

Nicolas (Nico) Cohen-Addad’s J/122 Jinn captured the attention of the North Sails team in Hong Kong after winning a host of recent regattas, including the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Summer Cup (IRC) and the Waglan Series (IRC 1). We spoke with Nico about these recent triumphs in the popular club race class and also learned how a Frenchman who grew up in the Alps came to live, work and sail competitively in Hong Kong.

Nico was introduced to sailing at age four by his father, who was keen for his children to get their sea legs as early as possible, near Chambery in France. In 2001, Nico followed his finance career from London to Hong Kong, and even though he’d never been to Asia he instantly knew he would never leave. “I got the job, jumped on the plane, landed in Hong Kong, and it just struck me,’’ he remarks.

His first racing was on an Etchells he bought to race against 21 highly competitive Hong Kong teams. After five years, however, work and family duties took precedence—until 2018, when his wife spurred him to mark his 50th birthday with a unique purchase. “Buying Jinn became a pet project, some sort of experiment,’’ says Nico. “I wanted to know what could happen if you buy a racer-cruiser to optimize and build the crew from the ground up. Our crew are family and friends from completely different backgrounds; some had never sailed, only a few had raced (mostly small boats), and one of them was entirely new to water sports. That was the diversity of the crew, and I decided to see what we could do!’’

The extensive fleet of North-powered J/122 boats in the UK made it clear that North Sails knows best in this club race class. Sails are a sizable yet critical investment, and choosing the right setup translates into better results. I think every boat owner should put a lot of thought into choosing the right sailmaker.’’ 

2020 was when things started to fall into place for team Jinn. Restricted travel allowed the crew to commit more time to sailing, and they racked up an impressive 60 days on the water; that would set them up well for regattas to come. 

Nico also decided to replace the original set of sails. “Changing sails was an essential step for us to get the boat to where it is now,’’ he explains. “We now have lighter, 3Di RAW sails which maintain their great shape, and we are happy with the performance in all conditions so far. The extensive fleet of North-powered J/122 boats in the UK made it clear that North Sails knows best in this club race class. Sails are a sizable yet critical investment, and choosing the right setup translates into better results. I think every boat owner should put a lot of thought into choosing the right sailmaker.’’ 

“Most notably, moving to North Sails has improved the overall handling of the boat.’’ he continues. “Trimming and helming consistency has improved, which has, in turn, made us quicker. We are now better at sailing on an optimal TWA closer to the expected maximum boat performance. We found it hard to unlock this potential with the previous sailmaker, and North has enabled us to do that.’’ 

“We are now better at sailing on an optimal TWA closer to the expected maximum boat performance. We found it hard to unlock this potential with the previous sailmaker, and North has enabled us to do that.’’

Nico also says the support of North experts in Hong Kong has been critical. Nico and Isamu Sakai have raced and won doublehanded races together and hope to compete in the Hong Kong to Vietnam Race in October.

Now that the team has unlocked their speed potential, they can afford to play it safer at the start and count on upwind boat performance to give them an edge against their closest competitors, a J/109 and J/111. “Ultimately, it comes down to training, time spent on the water, and striking the right balance between the boat design and sail design,” Nico says. “Winning races is rewarding, and the more you win, the higher the pressure on every race – but as Doc Rivers says, ‘pressure is a privilege.’’

For other sailors looking to make a similar leap from a small keelboat to a 40-foot racing yacht, Nico says the skills translate better than one might think.  “The pace and maneuvers are the biggest difference; a larger crew requires a different approach to coordination and communication, so it is all about getting used to that.’’ 

Aside from the occasional typhoon, Hong Kong weather permits year-round racing. “The sailing community is thriving,’’ Nico says, adding that the pandemic has encouraged many to upgrade their boats as a way to get out on the water. , “There are not many places in the world where you can drive 15 minutes, get out of your car and jump on your boat.’’ He also enjoys taking Jinn day cruising to the hundreds of islands, pristine white beaches, and small Hong Kong harbors. 

“All the crew loved the journey we have been on with Jinn,’’ Nico concludes. “The fact that none of us had experience racing bigger yachts meant it was a great learning experience to optimize the boat, crew, and sails which we feel has now come together. If I had the opportunity, I would do it again.’’

📸 Takumi Images / Panda Man
📸 Takumi Images / Panda Man
📸 Takumi Images / Panda Man
📸 Takumi Images / Panda Man

Story Contributors

Unlocking the Potential of North Club Racing Sails headshot
Sam Sakai

Sales Manager, Service Manager — Sai Kung, Hong Kong

Sai Kung, Hong Kong