Friday, December 9, 2016

The Healing Powers of Sailing!

Treasure Island Sailing Center- J/24 youth/ kids sailors(Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA)- Travis Lund, Executive Director at Treasure Island Sailing Center (TISC), offers an example of how sailing J/24s (and dinghies) on San Francisco Bay can provide a helpful distraction to life.  He comments,

“I’m often asked what the TISC is or what we do here in San Francisco, CA. I’ll admit it is sometimes difficult to accurately describe what a youth-driven sailing center does and harder yet to transmit why my staff and I are so dedicated to the mission of TISC.

For most of us who sail, we typically don’t ponder how sailing has affected our lives…we just know it has. Most of us seldom think about what our lives would be like if we never learned to or had the enjoyment of sailing.

Growing up in a small industrial town of 23,000 people in Northern Michigan, there were few entertainment options. I really didn’t know much else other than playing in the water in the summer and playing in the snow in the winter. My parents owned a small sailboat and I somehow found ways to sail and race and eventually got good at it.

I have been able to make a living at it for most of my life, and yet I still find it difficult to articulate how and why it has become so important to whom I am. I think the best way to answer this question is to envision my life without it. And, I cannot.

However, a recent event has helped provide some clarity.

On November 9th, TISC ran a recruitment event to help our Envision Academy Sailing Team (EAST) gain new members. Envision Academy (EA) is a tuition free charter high school in downtown Oakland whose population is mostly underserved.

About a year and a half ago, with the help of Anthony Sandberg, owner of OCSC Sailing, we formed a sailing team for this school. With the financial support of the St. Francis Sailing Foundation, we’ve been providing boats, transportation and instructors for the team at no cost to the students and their families. The current team is all upper level students and we wanted to bolster the team numbers.

Treasure Island Sailing Center- youth sailing kids programWe had the day planned for weeks and didn’t really think about the actual date as we had enough on our plates to simply organize the event. But the morning of the event, I received a call from EA’s Athletic Director, Coach Henry, to inform me that he was going to do what he could to get the kids on the bus as quickly as he could. As it was the day after the U.S. national and local elections, the school was in a state of pandemonium.

He explained that kids were looking like they were leaving school, that parents were coming to pick their kids up, and that helicopters were flying overhead in wake of what might be either protests or riots later in the day. He warned me that we would not have the 42 kids we had hoped for, and that I should prepare the staff for what might be a sullen, scared or confused group of kids.

Anthony Sandberg chipped in and we chartered a bus to bring what became 27 freshmen and sophomore students out for a 3-hour introductory sail. As they arrived it was clear that Henry’s call was right.

What should have been an excited, frenzied group of 14 and 15 year olds was replaced with some very quiet and reserved children while others were wrought with anger. The regular team was also there, and was also visibly distraught. We provided the kids with pizza and snacks, and they were feeling a bit better when they hit the water.

Before EA’s arrival we had launched four J/24s and as many RS Ventures. We had several volunteers who were instructed to show the kids a good time, introduce them to sailing, and relay their experiences with sailing. I had prepared everyone for what might be the attitude of the group and so everyone was a bit on edge. While the EA student body is very diverse, our staff and volunteers were not, and I was concerned how the day might play out.

Once the kids got into life jackets and began to load onto the boats something unexpected happened. Faces went from frowns to looks of interest and investigation. The loud and frank talk of the election results turned to questions and quiet.

We loaded kids one by one onto the boats and off they went. There were four girls who stayed together, all wearing Hijabs. I have never seen anyone wear one while sailing and was surprised when these girls were completely unaffected by the wind and more affected by the sail.

I hopped into our chase boat and went out on Clipper Cove with our Program Manager to take pictures. What we saw as we went from boat to boat brightened our day. The kids’ demeanor had changed.

Right there before our eyes in the span of a few moments these kids, all of them, were either engaged with their coach, dipping their hands in the water or sitting on the decks with the wind in their faces looking skyward.

They marveled at the older EA students who were practicing around buoys in their FJ’s for an upcoming regatta. We could tell many of them were envious. As we went from boat to boat the kids each took a turn giving us their best pose or goofy look, each one trying to outdo the other.

Eventually the kids came in and switched boats from keelboat to dinghy and vice versa after a very short break. During this second sail, I radioed the coaches and volunteers to come in. I had received another call from Coach Henry who now informed me that I had better get the kids back a bit early as some streets near the school were being closed due to protesting!  We could not imagine, nor believe, that some adults were behaving like impetuous, petulant teenagers!  God, help us!!

While I hastened the boats back to the dock, it was difficult to organize the group to leave. They needed to get a group photo (several really, with different poses and funny looks) and were chatting up their coaches and my staff. The mood and the voices were boisterous, giddy and loud; like kids. Before they left, 22 out of the 27 signed up as being interested to join the sailing team!

While I do not know what they went home to, I do know that while they were here, for those brief moments on the water, they were at peace. And not just them, all the staff and volunteers became one group, united for a purpose and connected by the water and the sport of sailing.

That is what we do at Treasure Island Sailing Club! And, while I still have a difficult time describing how sailing has affected my own life, I can tell you it has, it does, and so long as I’m in this position and likely still breathing, it will! I hope in some small way that day that it affected these kids, too. I think it did!”

If you would like to learn more about or support Treasure Island Sailing Center on San Francisco Bay, visit   Thanks for contribution from Travis Lund and Scuttlebutt.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mystic Seaport Museum- America & Sea Award video

Mystic Seaport Marine Museum's American & The Sea Award- for Bob & Rod Johnstone(Mystic, CT)- Mystic Seaport Marine Museum’s “American & The Sea Award” that was awarded to J/Boats’ co-founders (Bob & Rod Johnstone) has been produced as a beautiful HD video presentation.  You can watch the YouTube video here.

Presented annually by Mystic Seaport since 2006, the "America & The Sea Award" recognizes an individual or organization whose contributions to the history, arts, business or sciences of the sea best exemplify the American spirit and character.

Mystic Seaport presented its prestigious award to the brother’s Johnstone on Saturday, October 22 at a gala black-tie dinner held in their honor at the Museum. The gala was the first and only dinner held in the Collins Gallery in the new Thompson Exhibition Building, prior to its on-going use to display upcoming marine exhibits.

“Over the past 39 years, the Johnstone family and their company have influenced American yachting and sport of sailing in incomparable ways. They have established a record of accomplishment that few will ever challenge, and they have instilled in countless Americans a passion for enjoying time on the water with family and good friends aboard good boats,” said Steve White, President of Mystic Seaport. “For these reasons and many more, Mystic Seaport is proud to bestow its America & The Sea Award to Bob and Rod Johnstone – co-founders of J/Boats.”  Learn more about J/Boats here.   Learn more about Mystic Seaport Museum "America and the Sea Award" here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stadium Sailing: Re-defining Sailboat Racing

J/70s sailing Grosse Pointe YC sailing league off Detroit(Grosse Pointe, MI)- Sailmaking professional and Grosse Point Yacht Club Sailing Director Wally Cross shares his plan for changing the way we view the sport of sailing.  Wally has been coordinating with Ben Klatzka, founder of the Premiere Sailing League USA, to help jump-start broad-based participation in one-design keelboat racing for Corinthian yacht club members.  This past fall, Grosse Pointe YC co-hosted their first “test event” for the “college-style” sailing league program using their fleet of J/70 class sailboats; all participants considered it an enormous success.  Here is Wally’s commentary on what he considers to be THE evolution of sailboat racing for kids, parents, families and friends.

Grosse Pointe YC's Sailing Director- Wally Cross“Ben and I have been discussing this concept of sailing in front of sailing clubs for two years. His business is the Premier Sailing League. His goal is to provide boats around the country in specific yachting venues, and create live entertainment in a ‘stadium sailing’ environment that has never been realized for the sport in America. The goal is to have regional yacht club challenges and eventually crown a national champion.

This past September, we decided to try a stadium sailing concept event at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. We had ten J/70’s from the Detroit area divided into four divisions; the goal was a four-hour schedule with a total of 18 races. Each team sailed during half the schedule to complete their nine races, splitting time on the water with time ashore spectating. On the dock, we had a grill and bar set up for spectators and participants (a very popular place to be!).

With so many demands on our time with family, work and competing sports, it is my belief that our passion for any sport can only be justified for a shorter period of time than what it takes to do the conventional sailboat race.

I always thought 18 holes of golf would be the maximum time we could set aside for a sport, yet even with that four to five hour time frame, golf is struggling with participation rates due to the various elements required to play; their challenges are similar to sailing- total travel time, actual play time, and the cost involved.

Stadium sailing is set up to be a four-hour experience, yet participate for half that time.  More importantly, the stadium-style event creates a far better ratio of actual sailing/ racing time to your total hours invested!  Compare that to the normal day of racing from your home yacht club or on the road for a travel event! That is one of the key goals – to maximize actual racing time relative to the entire time devoted to sailing for a given day or weekend.

Spectators at Grosse Pointe YC J/70 sailing league eventThe sailors are the ‘actors’ on the water and, then, the ‘ambassadors’ on land. We asked the participants to mix in with the audience to explain what is happening on the water, so there is a natural synergy that evolves both onshore and on the water. Coincidentally, this interaction naturally helps grow the sport! It is a byproduct of the stadium concept that fosters more participation for a sport that has been challenged to grow!

To sail the 18 races, each race had to be between 11 and 13 minutes. There is no down time and practicing is not allowed. Once the first flight completed the three races, the next group had to be ready to go without any gap in time, thus helping to maximize the actual race time for the sailors.

The course had three movable buoys that provided a windward-leeward course. The start, finish and leeward gate are all the same. The race is four legs and each leg is less than four minutes. The starting sequence is a 3-minute control box on shore (just like college racing) and a judge for the line sits in a RIB with a loudhailer.  We also followed the boats and whistled/ flagged the teams for any fouls. The penalty was a 360-degree turn or a last place finish for that race.  Fouling was not an option if you wanted to do well!

This style of sailing places a premium on quick tactical decisions and boat-handling skills and, consequently, focuses participants on rapidly improving their game!

The sailors faced many more strategic/ tactical situations in one day, than they would in a traditional 2-3 race day regatta!  The goal was to make racing quick, easy and decisive, so you provide instant gratification for all competitors and virtually continuous action for the spectators.

In order to run 18 races in four hours, the marks had to move a lot. The wind speed and direction directly affect the time the fleet takes to sail the course, so the marks have to adjust fast!  Based on the first lap time, the windward mark was either increased or decreased in distance.

To facilitate mark movement, Grosse Point YC is working with a buoy manufacturer that expects to produce a motorized mark that can be controlled with a smart phone. The mark will lock into a GPS setting, unless changed by the ‘course manager.’ On top of each buoy will be a Go-Pro style video camera that can wirelessly transmit images back to the sailing center. As a result, one person can adjust the course constantly for wind direction and speed; the goal is to keep the time close to 11 minutes and the course true to the wind.

We have plans for three events next summer with each event concluding with awards, but at the end of the three event series we will have a grand prize that will be awarded to the top three overall finishers. All the awards will be items the sailors can use to improve their performance.  Here is GPYC’s 2017 sailing league schedule:
  • May 20 – concurrent with Great Lakes Boating Festival
  • June 24 – concurrent with Great Lakes USODA Optimist Regatta
  • September 16 – Grand Championship Finals
We plan to sell sponsor branding on the moving marks, along the sailing wall (the pier in front of the club), on our new sailing center (located on-the-water), and on the asymmetrical spinnakers.  As the concept takes off, we anticipate strong sponsorship interest as well as significant growth in spectator attendance.

It is important to note that sponsors will get VIP treatment for seating and food/beverage service. The GPYC’s sailing center will allow spectators to watch the racing from a balcony looking over the water and race course area (just 50 yards away!), plus we plan to add bleacher seating for better viewing.”

To learn more about Grosse Pointe YC’s sailing league plans for 2017, please contact Wally Cross at phone# 313-640-7014 or email-  And, for Premiere Sailing League USA information, contact Ben Klatzka at phone# 617-480-8775 or email-

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hamble Winter Series Penultimate Report

J/88s racing Hamble Winter Series- Hamble River Sailing Club(Hamble, Great Britain)- Despite awaking to biblical rain showers, and the best efforts of winter Storm Angus to obliterate the proceedings on the infamous Solent, the braver souls in the Hamble Winter Series fleet ventured forth onto the high seas and were rewarded with truly champagne sailing!

The HRSC PRO and regatta management team were quietly confident that the high winds seen the night before would moderate in time and, true to form, the wind dropped to a west to northwesterly of 10 knots by the end of the day's racing – leading much of the fleet to do hurried headsail changes before the final beat!

J/122E sailing the Hamble Winter Series on the Solent, United KingdomIt was a cold day on the Solent and kudos to the race volunteers who braved the chill in RIBS and committee boats to run some great racing.  Moreover, the racing was certainly close!

In IRC 2 class, the suspense and anxiety are arising to epic proportions.  In the last race, Simon Perry’s J/109 JIRAFFE won with their principal competitor, the Elan 37 ELAIINE, posting a 4th place.  That means Perry’s JIRAFFE is just two points astray of winning the overall Winter Series title for IRC 2!  The second J/109 continues to be Chris Burleigh’s JYBE TALKIN and the third is Rob Cotterill’s MOJO RISIN.

J/97E sailing Hamble Winter Series off EnglandWith one race left to sail, it is Robin Stevenson's J/92S UPSTART that leads the class by 2.5 points, having given up one more point over the weekend on their lead by finishing 4th (a counter).  Fellow J/92 sailor David Greenhalgh knocked it out of the park on J’RONIMO, winning the 12th race handily over their enormous fleet to hang on to 4th overall.  Now in 5th place is Annie & Andy Howe’s J/97E BLACKJACK II, just 3.5 pts back.

In the J/88 class it was Kirsty & David Apthorp’s crew on J-DREAM that won Sunday's race, finishing comfortably ahead of Gavin Howe's TIGRIS and Richard Cooper's JONGLEUR. That leaves J-DREAM six points clear of second overall, Paul Ward's EAT SLEEP J REPEAT, themselves one point clear of TIGRIS.  Rounding out the top five, Tim Tolcher’s RAGING BULL is fourth, just 2.5 pts clear of Paul & Marie-Claude Heys’ JENGA in fifth place.

Crews could not believe their luck and swapped tall tales of floods and gales once back ashore for the prize-giving at HRSC, supported this week by the J/88 class, which supplied bottles of champagne to day prize winners. Special prizes this week went to the J/88 JONGLEUR for the best start of the day.
Sailing photo credits- Paul Wyeth/ and Hamo Thornycroft  For more Hamble Winter Series sailing information

Monday, December 5, 2016

Salon Nautique/ Paris Boat Show- New J/112E!

J/112E sport cruiser- a cruising sailboat for families
(Paris, France)- On display at the 2016 Salon Nautique/ Paris Boat Show from December 3rd to 11th will be the fabulous new 35 foot cruiser from the J/Design team- the J/112E Sport Cruiser.  The show takes place at the Parc de Exposition at Port de Versailles, Paris and the 112E will be on display at Hall 1- Stand G55.

The J/112E SAIL Magazine Best Boats winnerJ/112E Sport Cruiser has been nominated for European Yacht of the Year 2017.  And, recently was presented with SAIL Magazine’s Best Boat Award in the “Best Performance Boat Over 30 ft” category.  She is the newest addition to the J/Boats “E” Series of versatile performance sailing yachts.

A welcome 36 feet in length, she features a spacious two-cabin accommodation plan and a comfortable, ergonomic cockpit. The J/112E is as well suited for the annual family cruise as she is racing in the local club regatta or short-handing through rough weather.

Take the opportunity to view this gorgeous sailing yacht this coming week- a great way to also spend a weekend in Paris!  For more Salon Nautique/ Paris Boat Show information   Read more about SAIL magazine’s J/112E review in the Best Boats 2017 article here.   Learn more about the J/122E sport cruiser here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

J/Sailors Leading America’s Cup!?

Ben Ainslie's America's Cup AC45 Land Rover BAR team winners (Hamilton, Bermuda)- What do Ben Ainslie and Jimmie Spithill have in common?  Both have sailed various J/Boats over time.  Ben has raced J/80s and J/109s in the United Kingdom on the Solent (off Cowes) as well as down in Plymouth.  Jimmie moved to San Diego, CA after the last America’s Cup in San Francisco to settle down with his wife and friends.  In that process, Jimmie bought Dennis Conner’s J/105 #3 and renamed it “17”, Jimmie’s lucky number for all his sailboats.

In Fukuoka, Japan, Land Rover BAR, the British challenge headed by Olympic legend Ben Ainslie– won the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series with a first place finish at the final event in Japan. Ainslie’s team sailed extremely well to secure the overall title with a race to spare.

ORACLE TEAM USA and skipper Jimmy Spithill pushed hard, finishing ahead of BAR in the first race of the day, but Ainslie was able to post a 4, 2, 3 scoreline, and into the overall series win.

“This has been a goal for us for the whole season and for this event,” said Ainslie. “The guys have done an incredible job,” Ainslie said from the water following the second race of the day. For us as a new team it sends out a strong message for all our supporters that we can do it.”

For the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Fukuoka, it came down to a tiebreak with Land Rover BAR clawing into a tie with Artemis Racing in the final contest, and taking the regatta by virtue of a better result in the last race.

However, with attention shifting to Bermuda and the America’s Cup racing next year, the focus was on the overall title and bonus points it confers.

By taking first place on the overall Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series leaderboard, Land Rover BAR has collected two bonus points to carry forward into next year’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda. With a second place finish on the overall leaderboard, ORACLE TEAM USA secured one bonus point for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers next year.

America's Cup AC45 foiling catamaransSir Ben commented on the weekend's racing, “It’s been an incredible day of racing and for our team, Land Rover BAR, to come out on top here in Fukuoka, Japan in the final race of the series, and to win the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, that was our goal and to achieve that is special for us. We are a completely new team, two and a half years ago we were a blank sheet back in Portsmouth in the UK and now, for our designers, our shore team and everyone back in the UK, it’s a real boost, so now we set our sights on Bermuda for the America’s Cup.

“Looking at this weekend, I think for all of us it’s what we love, when it gets aggressive. We had really good battles with Jimmy and with Emirates Team New Zealand and to go into that final race with the overall series sewn up, we were trying to get that bonus point off ORACLE TEAM USA and make life hard for them, but to their credit they did a good job of recovering.

“So, now we go ahead to next year. It is going to be neck and neck and I can see it being incredibly tight. I think the bonus points are going to be a factor next year. They’re 20% of the points on offer in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers so it’s definitely worth having them, but also, for a new organization like ours, we need to show that we can perform at the highest level, for our own team, or our partners and our supporters, to show them all that we have a team with the capability of winning the America’s Cup, and I think we’ve shown that.

“I think this series has showcased just how tight it’s going to be in Bermuda next year. The level of competition and the skillsets of the sailors have been phenomenal, and now we move into our own race boats, our own designs, and I think that’s going to be fascinating for all the fans to see.”  For more America’s Cup sailing information

Wirth Munroe Miami to Palm Beach Race Preview

J/160 Pipe Dream sailing Wirth Munroe race(Palm Beach, FL)- Storm Trysail Club and The Sailfish Club of Florida in Palm Beach are hosting their annual Wirth Munroe Invitational Race.  It is a quick offshore sprint of 70nm north, up the Gulf Stream from Miami to Palm Beach.

The weather looks promising for the fleet, with breezes on Friday starting in the northeast quadrant at 10-15 kts and increasing to 15-20 kts ENE later in the day.  With the Gulf Stream flowing “hot” offshore in a northerly direction around 5.5 kts, that means it could be a beat or close-fetch up the shoreline on starboard tack for most of the race, a great scenario for J/teams participating in the race.

J/88 sailing Wirth Munroe raceIn the seventeen-boat fleet is a trio of J/sailors in the PHRF classes.  In PHRF A division we find Bernie Blum’s J/88 ONEUP from Buffalo YC (New York) taking on Scott Piper’s world-traveling J/160 PIPE DREAM IX from Biscayne Bay YC for class honors.  Then, in PHRF B division, the local hotshots from the Palm Beach Sailing Club are all sailing aboard Don Lasky’s famous J/30 PAPARAZZI- a beautifully restored boat with an amazing record in offshore PHRF events!  For more Wirth Munroe Invitational Race sailing information

Saturday, December 3, 2016

J/Sailors Leading Vendee Globe!?

Thomson's Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 sailboat (Les Sables d'Olonne, France)-  It’s all “glam” at the front of the fleet.   The phrase 'the rich get richer' has rarely been more fitting than when describing the current state of the Vendée Globe fleet in the third week of the solo round the world race.  Experienced J/sailors at the top include race leader Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS), Morgan Lagravière (SAFRAN), and now up into 7th place- Jeane-Pierre Dick’s St MICHEL-BIRBACK.

The gap between the seven frontrunners and the 21 skippers trying desperately to keep up with them has turned from a gully into a chasm.  Life could not be much better for those at the head of the fleet; with winds of more than 30 knots transforming their 60ft IMOCA yachts into waterborne rockets blasting southeast at top speed. The frontrunners, led by Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss who had the biggest 24 hour tally of 492.4 nm, are due to arrive at the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of South Africa and the gateway to the Southern Ocean, on Friday, four days ahead of schedule.

Nevertheless, while the rich get richer, it stands that the poor get poorer. And those in the middle of the Vendee Globe fleet are among the hardest up, snared by the St Helena High with little sign of her relinquishing her grip.  Continue to follow these intrepid adventurers on the high seas here.

SOLSTICE Eclipses J/22 Turkey Bowl

J/22s sailing Chesapeake Bay (Annapolis, MD)- The Severn Sailing Association held their annual pre-Thanksgiving regatta- the Turkey Bowl- in Annapolis, MD for the local J/22 fleet on the weekend of November 12th to 13th.

After enjoying a weekend of delightful racing on the Chesapeake Bay, the SSA PRO managed to run four races.  Taking the honors as Chief Turkey was the team on the mighty SOLSTICE, comprised of David Waiting, Natalie Burls and Pedro Espina with a record of 2-1-1-1 for 5 pts- a virtual eclipse of the fleet.  Second overall was determined on a tie-breaker at 12 pts each!  Taking the tiebreak was the crew of HOT TICKET with Jason Goscha, Jonah Seiger and Dan Wilson.  Losing based on having just all 3rds was Team VENTUS, with Scott Gelo, Jennifer Bickford, and Grant Beach on the rail. Sailing photo credits- Dan PhelpsFollow the J/22 Turkey Bowl social media here on Facebook  For more J/22 Turkey Bowl sailing information

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dark’n’Stormy J/105 Bacardi Bermuda Invite

J/105s sailing Bermuda (Hamilton, Bermuda)- The prognosticators who sail Bermuda’s Great Sound (e.g. local knowledge) were convinced the weather forecast was perfect for this year’s Bacardi XL Catlin Bermuda Keelboat Invitational.  From November 17 to 19, Bermuda Weather Service, as well as the European Community Model Weather Forecast service (ECMWF), were in agreement that winds would be near gale force from the westerly quadrants for most of the weekend.  A “nice breeze” for locals, by the way, is 15-25 knots in this beautiful little island community about 635nm offshore southeast of Newport, RI.  For J/105 sailors, especially for those familiar with San Francisco Bay conditions, such breezes are just a “walk in the park” on a Sunday afternoon.  It really only begins to get a bit challenging when puffs start to peak into the 30-35 kts range, like that experienced in the recent J/105 North Americans in Larchmont, NY.

As the teams wandered down Thursday morning for the 0930 hrs skipper’s briefing at the Royal Bermuda YC regatta HQ, it was abundantly clear that weather conditions were bordering on the extreme end of the range.  The Bermuda Weather Service has four AWOS (automated weather observation systems) spread across their island nation from the west (little Pearl Island in the Great Sound) to the east (Bermuda Airport in St David’s).  Both locations were reporting steady 15-25 kt winds, gusting to 32 kts by 0930 hrs.  The forecast was for the breezes to increase to 20-30 kts, gusting to 40 kts by midday and abating back to 15-25 kts, gusting 30 by mid-afternoon.  After a harbor postponement was posted for the J/105, IOD and Etchells 22 classes, it became abundantly clear it was (a) a good decision to postpone and (b) the weather forecasts were, as usual, wrong.  By 11am, gusts at Pearl Island were in excess of 45 kts with intermittent rain squalls flooding the streets and there was no indication the “micro-low” positioned just north of Bermuda was slowing down anytime soon. So, by noon, the RBYC PRO canceled racing for the day.  Most teams made the most of their newfound “tourist pass” and went exploring all over the island, with many headed over to the famous Dockyards to take a tour of some America’s Cup bases- ORACLE Racing Team and Team SOFTBANK JAPAN. 

The regatta is a unique format.  It’s invitation-only.  Local Bermuda J/105 teams “invite” a non-Bermuda team to join them, so three “foreigners” join three “locals” to form a team of six crew.  Then, the skippers of each group (Bermuda/ foreigner) take turns skippering each race.  Awards are given for the top three Bermuda skippers, the top three foreign skippers, and for the overall team leaders.  It is a fun regatta format that produces copious amounts of camaraderie between the crews, particularly since the event sponsors include Bacardi.  In fact, the welcoming Captain’s Reception on Wednesday evening is truly a bacchanalian festival of feasts at Bacardi’s World Headquarters on the front street next to Royal Bermuda YC.

After Thursday’s race-day cancellation, the crews were anxious to get in some good racing since the forecasts had actually taken a turn for the worst.  There was a distinct possibility that a three-day event might turn into one-day’s racing only!  Friday dawned partly cloudy and sunny with a 10-12 kts westerly breeze caressing the Great Sound.  As the teams took off to get some early practice, it was evident it was going to be a difficult day to get in 4 to 5 races (the race day’s schedule).  The weather radar showed large cumulous formations with rainy, squally conditions beneath them marching across the horizon towards Bermuda, a by-product of two fronts colliding as they moved east.  Over the course of the day, the wind direction changed 70 degrees at least twice, and during the racing there was little rhyme or reason to the wind shifts as the cloud lines passed by, often producing 30-45 degree shifts per leg and at least twice per race!  Needless to say, it was a dilemma for most teams as the fleet kept splitting into “wolf packs” heading into corners of the race course upwind and downwind.

After four races on Friday, local Star World Champion, Peter Bromby’s team on AIRFORCE from the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club posted a very consistent 1-2-3-1 to take the lead with 7 pts total.  Just behind them was Jon Corless’s MAYHEM from Royal Bermuda YC posting a 4-3-2-3 for 12 pts and James McDonald’s PASSION from RBYC in third with a 3-7-1-2 for 13 pts.

Saturday dawned with one rain squall after another sweeping the Great Sound, truly another “dark’n’stormy” morning.  It was a rather foreboding weather forecast for even the most jaded offshore sailors.  Again, BWS and the ECMWF showed a Low depression 100nm to the north deepening and heading south (!) towards Bermuda over the course of the day before it took its “hockey stick” course off to the east by early evening.  Forecasted was a rapid increase of breeze from 10-20 kts to 20-35 kts, accompanied by massive rain squalls.  The RBYC PRO took no chances and simply postponed for one hour.  As expected, the weather did not improve at all and simply got dramatically worse, again.  At that point, the gig was up and it was time to put the boats away and celebrate the coronation of the winners of Friday’s racing by early afternoon.    For more Bacardi Keelboat Invitational sailing information