Wednesday, February 27, 2013

J/70 CATAPULT Wins St Pete

Brown Takes J/24 Class & Overall NOOD Title
(St Petersburg, FL)- It’s hard to remember a class that has hit the ground running faster than the J/70 class. Amateur sailors from a variety of other classes are scrambling to get in and get good, while representatives from every sailmaker are investing a lot of time and effort to get the early jump on sail design, rig tune, and boat-handling techniques.

None of this will diminish the importance or satisfaction gained from a regatta win, but it does add another layer of intrigue to any J/70 regatta in 2013. Who won is as important has how they did it.  The Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta was the NOOD debut for the J/70 class, and it did so in style with 20 boats signed up to sail.

Unseasonably cool conditions dominated the 16th edition of the Sperry Top-Sider St. Pete NOOD. But with the cool weather came breeze, and sailors generally prefer wind and cool weather to balmy temps and glassy seas. Those who braved the wind chill on Tampa Bay Friday through Sunday were rewarded with near perfect racing conditions, which enabled the race officials to run up to 11 races for each of the nine classes.

The biggest class was the fledgling J/70 class, with 20 entries. As the J/24 did when it debuted the late 1970s, the J/70 is attracting a lot of interest in its first full year of one-design racing. Joel Ronning, of Minneapolis, MN sailed his brand new boat, CATAPULT with Willem Van Waay and Jeremy Wilmot and a St Pete YC Sailing Center Opti sailor to win the J/70 class by 20 points with a 1-4-4-1-1-2-1-6-2-2 record.  It wasn't easy as the CATAPULT team was challenged by several boats over the course of the regatta, but a combination of incredibly shifty conditions, OCS's and misjudged boat-handling (shrimping and broaches) in the 15-25 kt breezes encountered on Saturday's and Sunday's racing practically eliminated CATAPULT's principal competition.  Nipping at their heels the entire regatta was the team of Will Welles (Newport, RO) and Ethan Bixby (local sailor from St Pete) sailing RASCAL, winning two races, but having to recover from an OCS in a critical race meant the RASCAL boys had to settle for a 3-6-3-5-3-1-8-10-4-1 scoreline for a total of 44 pts to take second overall.  Just behind them in third overall was MENACE, on-board were past J/22 and J/80 World Champions sailing as a team, Kerry Klingler (Larchmont, NY) and Terry Flynn (Houston, TX), sailing their best series to date and compiling a 6-19-2-7-4-8-3-4-1-4 tally for 58 points.

Behind the top three was a real battle for the balance of the top five.  In the hunt were the teams of LIFTED (Jim Cunningham- Tiburon, CA), USA 171 (Peter Vessella- San Francisco, CA), MUSE (Heather Gregg-Earl & Joe Bardenheier- Boston, MA), JUNGLELAND (Chris & Carolyn Groobey- Annapolis, MD), SURGE (Jeff Perini) and USA 69 (Joe Colling- Bath, OH).  With all six teams within ten points of one another going into the last day, anything could happen to settle the score for the top five.  In the end, Jeff Perini's team sailed well in the final day's extremely shifty winds filled with enormous puffs and holes to beat out the others to secure 4th overall.  Fifth went to Jim Cunningham's LIFTED team, beating out USA 171 by 3 pts and MUSE by 4 pts!  It was fun, close racing overall with lots of reports of J/70s hitting 15-16+ knots in the windy, wavy conditions!

St. Pete local Robby Brown dominated the 15-boat J/24 class winning seven of 11 races. By virtue of the impressive win over some top competition, Brown, whose boat USA 799 first touched water 35 years ago, was selected as the overall winner for the regatta. That honor includes a trip to the British Virgin Islands in November, where Brown and his crew will get a chance to battle for national bragging rights  against the overall winners from the other five Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regattas.

Robby Brown (seen here second from the left) and the crew of the J/24 USA 799 celebrate their overall win in the 2013 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta. This is Brown's second time winning the overall honors, but after being unable to go to the Caribbean the first time he is determined to make it to the BVI in November for the NOOD Championships.

Robby commented about his win, "A huge thanks to everyone aboard Team 799 this past weekend! Seen here rounding first with our complete North inventory. A fantastic job by all. Despite Travis Odenbach and Team Honey Badger's attempt to cripple our trimmer on Saturday night, our team performed at top speed all weekend. We were honored to be chosen the Overall event winner for the second time and will definitely represent Tampa Bay in the Virgin Islands for the Championships this November. A HUGE thanks to Nate Vilardebo, Stephanie Karidas, Karen Regan (the future wife) and Matt, our newly discovered secret weapon. Thanks to the event organizers for an outstanding regatta, and we were absolutely blessed with some superb sailing conditions on Tampa Bay all weekend!"    Sailing World's Stu Streuli Interviewed Robby Brown, please see it here.   For more J/70 and J/24 Sperry Topsider NOOD St Petersburg Regatta sailing information