(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- Hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron from Friday 14th June to Sunday 16th June 2013, the rapidly growing J/70 class and the large J/80 fleet held their National Championships in widely varying, challenging sailing conditions on the Solent. Winners in the J/70s were Ruairidh Scott on NORTH SAILS and in the J/80s was Rob Larke on J2X.
Expectations were high amongst the J/80 fleet following a stellar 2012 season. The J/80 World Championships came to the UK for the first time in seven years, and hosted an incredible seventy-six boats from nine nations including the USA and Hong Kong. Twenty-six boats then went on to compete in the J/80 UK Nationals in September. The Nationals provided a nice warm up for UK teams sailing the 2013 World Championships in July, where more than 130 boats are expected to travel to host city Marseille.
The J/70 UK Nationals were the first major UK one-design regatta for the new sportsboat that is storming the world. J/70 crews will then go on and sail one-design at Cowes Week and at the fabulous J-Cup Regatta at the end of August.
The first day of the regatta on Friday could not have been nicer. Both fleets were presided over by PRO Captain Simon Van Der Byl. Conditions on the race-track (in the area of Brambles Bank) were some of the Solent’s finest with a brisk but variable 10 to 18 knots from South to South West. Captain Van Der Byl explained, "We really did have the best of days. We had to use the Z flag on the first start for the J/80 fleet but after that the behavior of both the J/70s and the J/80s was immaculate."
The J/80s were first away for Race 1 of the two races scheduled. Once the fleet had settled down following the deployment of the Z flag, Kevin Sproul led Race 1 from the start in J.A.T and took the bullet at the finish line. Sproul said, "The Squadron did a fantastic job with the course. We sailed well and we had good boat speed. In the second race Stewart Hawthorn just got past us. It was great racing." Hawthorn and his crew on board J’ai Deux Amours were clearly pleased with the way things went for them. "We managed to get away from the fleet and get ourselves inside the leading pack at the penultimate mark. From then we managed to stay ahead until the line." But, it was a day where consistency delivers its own rewards and a mid-fleet result for Hawthorn in the first race countered by consistency and some strong and intelligent sailing by Allan Higgs with Team Juicy and Jon Powell with Betty put them in second and third place respectively, each on eight points at the close of the first day.
The first race for the J/70s saw newcomer to the Class, Russell Peters and his team on BOB in first at the first windward mark! But, Race 1 and Race 2 ultimately belonged to Ruairidh Scott and his boys on board North Sails who scored bullets in both. Ben Field, tactician for North Sails explained, "We got the boat going well, we took the shifts and tried to play every little lift and header. Russell did a tremendous job keeping the pressure on, as did the guys in Team RABF Spitfire." Ruairidh added, "The first race was really close but at the start of the second we saw a potential fight brewing at the pin and we came up to avoid it. We got a clean start and then worked the shifts as they arrived to our advantage." At the close of racing, North Sails led the J/70 UK Nationals with Bob in second place with five points and Simon Ling’s Team RABF Spitfire in third, also on five points.
It was a challenging day on the water for all on Sunday. Having completed the first two races of the championship on Friday in sublime race conditions, competitors were sent ashore and racing was abandoned before the first start sequence on Saturday, as an easily sailable 21 knots quickly built to a steady 33 knots in the course area near Mother Bank on the Solent. Three races were scheduled for Sunday, of which two were completed by the J/70s and the J/80s in a fading breeze of between 6 and 12 knots which swung between 230 and 190 degrees.
Sunday was a ‘double bullet’ day both for Rob Larke and his crew in the J/80 National Championship fleet on J2X and also for Ruairidh Scott and the boys on the J/70, North Sails. For Ruairidh, these two wins completed his perfect regatta score-line and stamped convincing authority on this first J/70 UK National Championship title. Conversely, for Rob in the J/80 fleet, two wins on the final day of racing, although impressive, were not sufficient to overhaul Kevin Sproul and his crew on board J.A.T who had led the regatta from Race One and, having never posted a result outside of the top two across the series, were deserving winners of the 2013 J/80 UK National Championship.
Both fleets were invited to a Pimms loaded prize-giving on The Platform at the Royal Yacht Squadron on Sunday afternoon, which, unsurprisingly, was extraordinarily well attended. PRO Captain Simon Van Der Byl thanked competitors for their sportsmanship throughout the weekend and presented prizes alongside the Rear Commodore for Finance, the Honourable Patrick Seely.
In the J/80 fleet, Gillian Ross and her crew from Rock & Roll were presented with the prize for Most Improved J/80 which was sponsored by Race Yacht Services. Rock & Roll’s results got better and better as the championship progressed, perhaps aided and abetted by the team’s visit to the Isle of Wight Festival.
The Best Corinthian J/80 Team at the J/80 Nationals was Jon Powell and his crew on Betty. There are many full-time professional sailors racing J/80s and J/70s and both classes acknowledge that recognition is due for outstanding achievement by the ‘amateurs’ in each fleet. In the J/70 Class The Best Corinthian Team was Simon Ling and the boys on board Team RAFBF Spitfire Powered by SLAM. The prizes were generously sponsored by Fastnet Insurance.
It was a short hop back to the podium for Jon Powell: he and his crew on Betty finished third overall at the 2013 J/80 UK National Championship with 15 points across the series. Rob Larke and J2X finished in second place with 11 points. J.A.T finished on just 7 points and the 2013 UK National Champions, Kevin Sproul, Phil Taylor, Chris Taylor and Chris Fisher were presented with the silverware and were congratulated by the assembled fleet.
In third place at the 2013 J/70 UK National Championship was Simon Ling and his crew from Team RAFBF Spitfire Powered by SLAM with 12 points on their score-sheet. Second overall was class newcomer Russell Peters and his team from Bob with 9 points. Ruairidh Scott, Hugh Fletcher, Ben Field and Matt Curthoys sailing North Sails stepped up to accept the J/70 UK National Championship title, never having lost a race. They were presented with a stunning J/70 half-model, sponsored by Wilson Covers.
On behalf of the J/70 and the J/80 fleets, Ruairidh thanked all at the Royal Yacht Squadron for the Club’s unrivaled hospitality and for the excellent race management delivered by Captain Simon Van Der Byl and his team. He went on to congratulate and thank his crew for their skill and support throughout the season so far and all of those racing at the championship for their competition and sportsmanship. Sincere thanks were also proffered for the other supporting sponsors of the event, Grapefruit Graphics, Peters and May, Wight Vodka and SLAM.
The next key event on the 2013 calendar for J/80 and J/70 sailors is AAM Cowes Week and then both fleets will race at the J-Cup in Plymouth later in August. The 2014 J/70 and J/80 UK National Championships will take place at Poole Regatta from the 24th to 26th May 2014. Sailing photo credits- Rick Tomlinson For more J/70 & J/80 UK Nationals sailing information