Friday, August 31, 2012
Long-time members of the J/105 Class, the Case Family actively campaigns WINGS, and as Conner's neighbor, just might have had a little influence on DC's recent purchase. "Case is the favorite to win the championship," Conner said proudly of his friend. Although he has yet to race on a J/105, Conner plans to learn his way around DC's PHOLLY in the coming weeks prior to the North American Championship. With almost 700 J/105s in existence, hull #3 has obviously been around for a while. Does DC's PHOLLY need a little TLC? "It needs a little help because it hasn't been sailed much," he admitted. "Our local fleet takes excellent care of their boats, so I'll have to get mine up to those standards. They are such beautiful boats."
Conner noted that J/105 Fleet 8 has a reputation for its intensity and he commended the Class for its favorable reputation. "The boats hold their value quite well, which is a testament to the Class." Regatta participation has gone down in many classes over the past year or two, but Conner complemented the J/105 Class for holding its own compared to other fleets. "The J/105s really are a robust Class. We've seen the Etchells fleet drop locally from 45 to 12, but not the J/105s." He called out two primary factors in the current struggle facing many fleets and yacht clubs in maintaining members and participation-time and money. "With two people working, not everyone has the time it takes to be competitive."
In his opinion, the J/105 Class has built-in cost control with its sail purchase limits, plus used boat prices are very reasonable. "This bodes well for the J/105 Class." In a career with a plethora of achievements, three particular accomplishments stick out in Conner's mind. "Winning the Star Worlds in 1977 with 89 boats," he recalled. "It was in Kiel, Germany, and we won every race." And it would be hard not to recall the four America's Cup victories and a bronze medal from the 1976 Olympics.
The champion was quick to tip his cap to a few other fellow contestants, including Buddy Melges, runner-up in the "America's Greatest Sailor" contest, and legendary Lowell North. "I really look up to Lowell," Conner commended. "Imagine, four Star National Championships and being the world's best sailmaker. He is my hero." Conner is registered for the J/105 North American Championship, and predicted entrants will see ideal conditions on the race course with steady Southwest breezes of 7-14 knots. He also expects stellar shoreside activities at the San Diego Yacht Club. As far as his own expectations, "I'm not sure what to expect. I'm realistic, and my goal is to be competitive and enjoy the regatta. I'm just excited to be part of it!"