Sunday, August 21, 2011

J/111s Win Cowes Week

J/111 Jenga sailing upwind at Cowes Week, England VELVET ELVIS Rocks J/109 Class
(Cowes, IOW, England)- Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week simply had an epic week, bashing and crashing around the buoys on the Solent in winds ranging from 10 to 30+ knots, with boats literally flying downhill under spinnakers at 20+ knot boat-speeds!  It was the "thrilla from Manila" reincarnate on the famous Royal Yacht Squadron starting line.  The competitors played "rope-a-dope" with each other, battling for advantage on every gybe and tack, trying to avoid spinnaker wraps, launching crews overboard (by mistake), or "shrimping" spinnakers for the umpteenth time!

J/111s sailing Cowes Race Week- EnglandThe big battle for supremacy on the Solent was seen in the huge IRC 2 Class.  Sailing like maniacs and trumping the J-Team clean sweep of IRC 2 was the J/111 SMHOKIN JOE sailed by Duncan McDonald & Phil Thomas- they put on an amazing performance and a remarkable display of boat-handling in the demanding conditions-- perhaps an outgrowth of having sailed outrageously high-performance dinghies called International 14s and winning a few Worlds, to boot.  Never far from throwing a punch back at them was Ian Matthew's beautifully sailed J/122 JINJA, garnering a few wins during the week on their way to second in class.  Paul Hey's J/111 JENGA VII was third (read more about their experience below in the J/Community section).  Fifth was the Dutch J/111 J-XCENTRIC sailed by John van der Starre & Robin Verhoef-- they were part of the J/111 clean sweep of the podium on Thursday's epic, "blowing dogs off chains" race around the cans.

In IRC 3 Class, the J/39 SLEEPER sailed by Jonty Layfield finished third, sailing an excellent regatta and put on a quite remarkable performance for a design that was originally optimized for light-medium wind conditions!  In IRC 4 Class, the J/105 KING LOUIS sailed by Fiona & Malcolm Thorpe finished 6th place overall, loving especially the long downhill slides criss-crossing the Solent on all-out planes.

Amongst the IRC 5 Class, the J/Teams were dominant in the top 10, with the J/97s dueling for the top of the fleet-- FEVER sailed by Grant Gordon finished second, in third was MCFLY skippered by Tony Mack and sixth was INJENIOUS sailed by Dr Gillian Ross.  The J/92 J'RONIMO sailed by David Greenhalgh & John Taylor finished 8th.  Ed Holton's J/110 SHADES OF BLUE finished 11th.  Richard Sainbury's J/92s BOJANGLES was 10th and Andrew Dallas' J/92s HULLABALOO finished 16th.

J/109 one-design sailboat- sailing downwind at CowesFor the huge thirty boat, insanely competitive J/109 class, the team of Adam & Helen Wright on VELVET ELVIS won by a whisker with just 12 pts.  Just behind with 13 points was the Maltese family team lead by the Ripard's and Calascione's sailing the J/109 YEOMAN OF WIGHT.  Third was LEVANTE led by the triumvirate of Stanley, Walker & Williams.  Fourth was Malcolm Boyle racing SHIVA and fifth was INSPARA sailed by Christopher Sharples & Richard Acland.

J/80 one-design sailboat- winners sailing J/80 class- boats.comAmongst the twenty-five boat J/80 class, Ian Atkins and crew on BOATS.COM missed the first race Sunday, but came on strong and sailed very consistently to win with just 14 pts over six races sailed-- a terrific performance by Ian since they had not sailed many races prior to Cowes Week.  Finishing second was TEAM BALTIC skippered by Henry Bomby, followed by William Goldsmith on TEAM EXESS in third.  The RAF "fly-boys" were tough, the well-sailed TEAM SPITFIRE skippered by Tony Hanlon finished fourth and JUMPIN JENGA sailed by Stewart Hawthorn hung in there for fifth.

J/111 owner Duncan MacDonald- sailing Cowes WeekFor SHMOKIN JOE J/111 co-owner Duncan McDonald- former I-14 World Champion pictured at right- it was a tough week.  Wednesday's strong wind resulted in a few problems aboard the "Joe" with Duncan suffering an injury as a result of a heroic maneuver. According to Dr McDonald he had to save two holes discovered in the mainsail from getting worse. “We were sailing downwind in pretty fresh conditions and discovered these two holes in the main. Naturally I didn’t want the whole mainsail to explode when we gybed so I made every effort in the world to stop the mainsail hitting the spreaders. While doing that my leg got taken away by the traveller block that whipped across the boat.”

McDonald’s leg was in a poor state when he arrived back on shore, with a cuts and grazes to the knee, and swollen ankle, but he assured us he was going to be fine. “Actually I am not so worried about the scrapes but the internal injuries in my ankle. I put a lot of ice on it and rested it when we got in so I am hoping it will be okay to continue racing. Although I have to say it is slightly worrying. It is not broken it is just going to be a soft tissue injury. Phil Thomas my co-owner has had a look and we’ve come to the conclusion it’s just a sprain, so we just need to strap it up, take lots of pain killers.”

The good news, in this bizarre situation is, McDonald managed to save the main. “If I hadn’t, and the holes had increased it probably would have shredded and we wouldn’t have finished the race.”

Chatting about the new J/111 class, which seems to have turned a few heads on the race course this week, McDonald concluded. “We’ve had our boat for two months and all I can say it is a great boat. In every condition we’ve raced it, it has been great fun, fast, enjoyable to sail and I think the J/111 is a fantastic class.”

J/109 one-design sailboat- sailing off Cowes, IOW, EnglandWednesday summary:
As to the conditions for Cowes Week, after a strong start on Sunday through Tuesday (as reported last week), Wednesday saw more high adrenaline racing in strong winds and bright sun- a sailing photographers dream come true! The Solent was sandwiched between areas of high and low pressure and as the day progressed, the wind began a relentless non-stop upwards trend that lasted for five hours, peaking with mean speeds of 25 knots and gusts well over 30 through the afternoon.  It was another day of hard, wet beats to windward, followed by high speed downwind blasts that had competitors grinning from ear to ear as they came ashore. Unsurprisingly, there was also a lot of gear damage, including three J/109s, among them William Edwards’ SARDONYX and Robert Stiles’ DIAMOND JEM, who retired with broken rigs.

The J/109 fleet started in a tight bunch towards the inshore end of the line. Adam and Helen Wright’s VELVET ELVIS made an excellent start, far enough ahead to cross in front of the fleet on port tack. Next were five boats all tied neck and neck – the Calascione/Ripard family’s YEOMAN to leeward of a bunch that included Jamie Sheldon’s JIGSAW and Stanley, Walker and Williams’ LEVANTE. Despite her apparent disadvantaged position, YEOMAN managed to pull four lengths ahead of the others a couple of minutes into the race. VELVET ELVIS extended her lead to more than four minutes at the finish. However, the next three places were super-tight, with only 24 seconds separating JIGSAW, YEOMAN and LEVANTE.

J/105 sailing downwind at Cowes Race Week, EnglandThursday summary:
The big winds continued, powering the biggest J's to blistering speeds approaching 25 knots. Most dayboat classes were set short courses that ensured they had finished racing before gusts to 38 knots were encountered in the afternoon.  Pip Tyler’s J/105 NIELSON REDEYE was fifth, his team’s best result so far in IRC Class 4. “We’ve had another really fantastic day,” he said after stepping ashore. “We were cautious and didn’t use the spinnaker, but we still hit more than 16 knots. It was a perfect length of race and everyone had massive great grins on their faces as we flew down the big waves in the western Solent.”

Friday summary:
The penultimate day of the event was a more gentle day than those earlier in the week, starting with bright sun and a gentle breeze that built to 15-18 knots. It also saw incredibly tight racing across dozens of classes.  The top of Class 2 turned into a super-tight battle between three fast J's. The start of the day saw Duncan McDonald and Phil Thomas’s new J/111 Shmokin’ Joe on 10 points, Ian Matthews’ J/122 JINJA on 11 and another J/111, Paul Heys’ JENGA 7, on 12 points. These three boats took the top three places in the class in Friday's race, in exactly that order on corrected time!

In the J/109 fleet Adam and Helen Wright’s VELVET ELVIS has again been the boat to beat this year. Starting the day only three points behind VELVET ELVIS, the Calascione/Ripard family’s YEOMAN had the opportunity to beat her for the overall class win Friday. However, Stanley, Walker and Williams’ LEVANTE won by a substantial margin, with YEOMAN second. VELVET ELVIS finished fourth, just 8 seconds ahead of Boyle’s SHIVA, to retain the overall lead by just one point.

J/80 one-design sailboat- sailing fast downwind at Cowes Race WeekSaturday summary:
A blanket of cloud over Cowes in the morning quickly gave way to bright sun and a rapidly increasing wind. Weather forecasters outlined several possibilities for Saturday, but the most likely scenario prevailed-- the initial south-westerly wind of 10-14 knots building to a west-south-westerly of 13-19 knots by midday, with gusts adding as much as 40 per cent to the base wind speed.

“It’s the first time I can remember such a consistently breezy Cowes Week,” said CEO Stuart Quarrie “It’s certainly the first one with an average windspeed over 20 knots, but the feedback we’ve had so far was that it’s been one of the best Cowes Weeks ever.”
Sailing photo credits- Rick Tomlinson-
For more Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week sailing information