North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Sam Cooper


J/88 Tigris Takes the Lead in Class 1

The fleet racing towards the Nab Tower 📸 Rick Tomlinson

136 boats made up three classes who raced on the Solent last weekend for the Junior Offshore Group (JOG) Lonely Tower Race, marking the most entries for a local regatta so far this year. The 35 nm course had the fleet racing to and from Cowes, sailing around the Nab Tower which lies just offshore to the east of the Isle of Wight. Built for anti-submarine protection in World War I, the tower marks the deep-water entry into the Solent for sailors.

As well as providing an amazing spectacle for all those on the water, the day also proved to be a great success for North clients. We talked to 26-year-old Sam Cooper who, alongside main trimmer Mike Haliburton, took the top spot with Gavin Howe’s J/88 Tigris in Class 1 after a total elapsed time of 5 hours, 45 minutes and 24 seconds.

The Race Course

The conditions at the start were not easy as converging air made conditions light and changeable. “The start was hard as we were one of the smallest boats on the line, with the shortest mast,’’ Sam says. “We knew the wind was going to be fickle, so we just set our course and tried our best to make the sails work around that. We could see some spinnakers flying close to the mainland shore which matched our 1km weather model, so we headed there, sacrificing the good tide. It paid off as we reached a light 5-8 knots of wind and had a good battle with Mark Spearman’s JPK 1180 Dawn Treader.’’

Dawn Treader flying their North Sails Code Zero 📸 Rick Tomlinson

The breeze eventually reached a steady 13-18 knots, and the pair rounded the Nab Tower just astern of Chris Jones’ J/111 Journeymaker, who they battled with throughout the race. After rounding Winner Buoy, Sam and Mike made the tactical decision to sail towards Portsmouth to escape the lighter air close to the Isle of Wight. “We sailed within 20m of the beach at Stokes Bay. The tide gave us good gains there, but the challenge with this leg was changing gears whilst maintaining good speed.’’ The pair followed the breeze and shifts on the upwind beat home before tacking onto starboard outside Cowes and finishing on the JOG line.

Having sailed the race two times before, this result was their best. “We had said during the race that it didn’t matter much where we finished as long as we were happy with our performance in the boat. We were happy and it just so happens that we got a good result too!’’

The Sails

With a full North Sails inventory, the team raced with a 2016 3Di RAW 680 Mainsail, 2014 3Di RAW 670 J2, and a 2014 A2. “The 3Di RAW Mainsail is remarkable; we’ve pushed it since our very first outing in 2016’s Round the Island Race. It remains fast and the shape has held up extremely well. We’ve never had a sail repair either.”

Team Tigris works closely with Ronan Grealish and Sam Richmond at North Sails UK. “We find them both to be full of knowledge and always there to help with our questions,”, Sam says.

“The 3Di RAW Mainsail is remarkable; we’ve pushed it since our very first outing in 2016’s Round the Island Race. It remains fast and the shape has held up extremely well. but it remains fast and the shape has held up extremely well. It has also never been repaired.’’

Winners of JOG Lonely Tower Race Class 1, Sam Cooper and Mike Haliburton with J/88 Tigris 📸 Rick Tomlinson

Shorthanded Sailing

The J/88 is different from today’s trend of doublehanded boats. It is fairly light, has moderate ballast and low form stability, with less power than the Sunfast 3300, JPK 1010, or even the J/99.

“You have to sail the J/88 differently, with a focus on efficient maneuvers and sail selection,’’ Sam says. “Doublehanded sailing is great as you are freer to sail the boat exactly how you want. It also gives you a good feel for every role onboard, which I think ultimately improves each crew member onboard. For this race, I helmed, trimmed the mainsail, and had the spinnaker sheet in the hoists. Mike focused on the spinnaker drops, as well as headsail and spinnaker trim.’’

Singlehanded or Doublehanded?

Sam got involved with shorthanded sailing as his parents owned a J/92/S which they won the doublehanded class in the JOG Cowes-Dartmouth Race with. He is also known to sail solo, so we were interested to know which he preferred: “Both singlehanded and doublehanded sailing has its merits and I change my mind all the time! The J/88 is exhausting to sail solo as it is harder to keep it sailing fast compared to a wider, more stable boat. Right now I’m enjoying doublehanded sailing but ask me in a month and it could change…’’

Looking Ahead

Up next for Sam and the J/88 Tigris is this weekend for the JOG Great Escape Race where he will be racing with bowman/mastman Tim Villain. Good luck!

North Sails expert Neil Mackley at the start line on the North RIB
North Sails designer Kevin George sailing with Chris Frost onboard the Swan 36, Finola 📸 Rick Tomlinson
📸 Rick Tomlinson
North Sails expert Pete Redmond sailing with Dave Bart on the Cape 31, Tokoloshe 📸 Rick Tomlinson


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