North Sails NEWS

Story Contributors: Will Welles, Zeke Horowitz


Class Veteran Tony Parker Finally Finishes First

2020 J/24 Midwinter Champions 馃摳 Chris Howell

After 41 years in the class, Tony Parker on Bangor Packet finally won the J/24 Midwinters in Melbourne, FL鈥攂y one point. After eight races, only two points separated the top four teams, indicating unusually close racing among the top group including John Mollicone, Mike Ingham and 2019 World Champion Keith Whittemore.

We caught up with Tony after the regatta to get his insights.

You’ve been sailing J/24s for a few years. How have the class and boat evolved?

To say 鈥渁 few years鈥︹ is an understatement. My first major regatta was the 1979 Worlds. We sailed with 4 people, weighing in at most 600 pounds, with a reefable mainsail. The self-proclaimed 鈥渇amily cruiser鈥 had the required cushions below. If only I had known then 25% of what I know now!

What was your team’s strategy to pull off this win?

We just tried to get off the line clean, look around about halfway up the first leg to see how we stood, and then started to play against the others up there. Our tactician, Zeke Horowitz, called a great regatta. He was very patient, probably more than I would have been. Because of that we never got too out of phase and when we lost distance, we would gain it back in the next shift.

The top people were all very close. The fourth place boat averaged a 3rd for the regatta out of 33 boats. I haven鈥檛 seen such a tight top group in years 鈥 and all the top five boats at the Worlds were there, so the competition was really tight.

The fun part was that this was the first major J/24 regatta I have ever won. I bet I have over a dozen 2nd places. I never thought it would take me until I was 74 to get there!

Team Bangor Packet 馃摳 Chris Howell

Tell us about everyone’s role on your boat.

Each person has an assigned role. We are quite good about keeping the talking down and we are quite gentle when one of us screws up. I screw up more than anyone else but most of the time they don鈥檛 yell at me. Our second person back was really helpful because he was very active calling puffs. So many who do that job just never stop talking and finally I start ignoring them. He was particularly adept at not 鈥渙vertalking鈥. It really helped me anticipate puffs and lulls. We have a terrific team.

Zeke Horowitz, our tactician, is as good as anyone in the world. He is patient, clear and never panics when it gets tight. We are very clear who has the 鈥渃on鈥. Sometimes it is our spinnaker trimmer; sometimes it is me; most of the time it is Zeke. The transitions are very seamless.

James Niblock, our jib and spinnaker trimmer, has been sailing with me for over a decade. He is as good as they get. We know each other so well that we almost don鈥檛 have to say anything to each other. He always anticipates what is needed in terms of trim, besides being a wonderful shipmate.

Will Bomar, our bowman, does everything. He makes sure the boat is in perfect condition. I am a man of leisure before and after the race because I know he and James have the boat perfectly set up.

We were lucky to have Emmett Todd, who usually sails with Finn Hadlock, act as our twing man, replacing my 鈥済o to鈥 forever shipmate Ross Dierdorff. We all miss Ross, but Emett did a first class job and I will always be on the lookout for him if Finn can鈥檛 make a regatta. They are really good.

馃摳 Chris Howell

You sailed some races in the Genoa and some races in the Blade jib. How did you decide on which sail you used?

That ultimately was very simple: we looked at our competitors. If all of my major competitors were sailing with a particular sail, we just followed suit. The price for being wrong is too high!

A few of your team members had flown straight from sailing J/24s in Argentina. Can you tell us about the 2021 Worlds venue?

It was very different. They sailed with 4 people at that regatta and the venue is too narrow to be able to sail to a layline, so there was much more tacking. The breeze is quite consistent but the shifts are not. The hosts were very welcoming and will put on a fun Worlds next year.

Job well done! 馃摳 Chris Howell

Story Contributors

2020 J/24 Midwinters: A Well Deserved Win 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...

2020 J/24 Midwinters: A Well Deserved Win headshot
Zeke Horowitz

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...