Monday, September 2, 2013

The B&G J-Cup Enjoys Dramatic Finale

J/109 sailing past Plymouth harbor light (Plymouth, England)- With gusts close to 20 knots ripping through the race area in Plymouth Sound, the final day of the B&G J-Cup 2013, produced some ballistic action for the forty-five J/Teams that were in attendance. Hosted by the Royal Western Yacht Club, the J-Cup was also the venue for the Lifedge J/109 UK National Championship and the 2013 edition produced the closest finish in the 10 year history of the event. It was a fitting end to another fabulous weekend of sailing-- the sailors enjoyed near-perfect sailing conditions for most of the regatta, closing with an epic final day of sailing.

Day One Report:
The first day of racing could best be described as the "Champagne Opener".  A building sea breeze, topping out at 15 knots provided great sailing for the 300+ sailors that competed in four races, inside and outside of the Plymouth Breakwater. With several one designs taking to the race course, there was plenty of thrilling boat-on-boat action.

J/109s crossing tacks upwind off Plymouth, EnglandThe J/109 UK National Championship got off to a cracking start with some close encounters especially at mark roundings. Tony Dickin’s J/109 Jubilee came out on top of the 21-yacht fleet. After four races, Jubilee leads the class by just two points from Iain MacKinnon's Tigh Soluis II. David Richards’ Jumping Jellyfish is just a point behind in third.

“The starts were absolutely the most important part of the day.” highlighted Jubilee's skipper, Tony Dickin. “Our goal is to win and become national champions but this is a great fleet and we have only had one day of racing; there is plenty more to come. We picked up a fifth in the first race trying to fight for the Committee Boat end but after that we really just concentrated on getting into clear air and our results were much better because of that. The courses were good especially the course length, we loved the windward leewards but the last race, with the line right in front of the Royal Western, was a great way to finish a fantastic day on the water.”

Led Zeppelin music fan, Stuart Sawyer, owner driver of J/97 Black Dog (named after a famous Zeppelin song), finished the day as top dog in IRC 2. The team from Cornwall must have been covered in pixie dust, scoring 4 straight bullets.  Sawyer commented on their good fortune, “We all live near Falmouth and sail out of the Helford Sailing Club and the standard of the competition at the event is first class but we did a lot of things right today. In the last race, we made a big call, changing to the A3, as we approached the Plymouth Breakwater. We were right on the edge but we managed to carry it all the way and we really stretched our legs. It was a cracking day, proper champagne sailing.”

J/111 sailing fast off Plymouth, England- in the J/CupTony Mack's McFly produced the goods on the first day, scoring three bullets in the J/111 fleet but Jamie Arnell's J/111, Jeez-Louise, which won the J/111 Class at Cowes Week, led IRC 1 at the J-Cup.

“We weren't very consistent today but we were bloody determined and we made up very well from poor positions, especially downwind.” said Jamie Arnell. “The crew work today was excellent, typified by the penultimate mark in the last race. It was a spinnaker drop to harden up with a lot of tide and the maneuver went like clockwork, super-fast, that gave us that few vital seconds but tomorrow we will need to improve if we are to succeed. Well done to Tony (Mack), he has had a bit of bad luck at Cowes Week and the European Championship, so it was great to see him score so well today.”

J/70 sailing fast off Plymouth, England- J/Cup regattaRuairidh Scott, skipper of J/70 North Sails knows a thing or two about sportsboats. The Scot is a former J/80 World Champion and three time 1720 European champion. J/70 North Sails swept the board, scoring 4 bullets. Plymouth local, Nigel Passmore, was second and Mike Flood was in third position but the day belonged to Ruairidh Scott and a crack crew of Ben Field, Matt Curthoys, and Stuart Miller.

“It was a tricky day with a big range in wind speed and tuning the rig was made more difficult because of that,” commented Scott. “We started the day below our base setting (8 knots) and by the second race there were times when we should have had a stiffer setting but I always like to set the rig for the wind at the start. In one design racing, getting off the line in good shape is the key, it is easier to defend a lead than try and catch up and pass a competitor later in the race. The J/70 is a great little boat; simple but rewarding and compared to similar boats, the good thing about a J/70 is that it goes upwind quite nicely. The single spreader carbon rig is great for tuning but it is also forgiving as it is a stiff spar, so if you do get stuck on slightly the wrong setting the rig isn't going to break.”

Day Two Report:
Day two was perhaps the trickiest day for sailing on Plymouth Sound. In stark contrast to the previous day's sublime sailing conditions, racing was delayed by lack of breeze.  Eventually, everyone got underway in the early afternoon, once a light and just race-able breeze stabilized. All classes got one good race in but the second was abandoned, as light rain killed off the gradient wind completely.

J/111 sailing under spinnaker- J/Cup- Plymouth, EnglandJamie Arnell's J/111, Jeez-Louise continued to excel in IRC One, winning the day's race to open up a three point margin at the top of the leader board. Tony Mack's J/111, McFly wasn't far behind and with one more day to go, McFly could still catch Jeez-Louise. IRC Class One is likely to be won by one of these two yachts. However, there was a close battle for third place. David & Kirsty Apthorp's J/111, J Dream was lying third but four other J-Boats were still in the hunt for third place; Martin Miller's J/111, Velvet Elvis, Ian Dewhurst's J/133, Jump, Richard Barnes' J/111, Biela Munkenbeck and Jackie & Robert Dobson's J/133, Jeronimo.

In IRC 2, Stuart Sawyer's J/97, Black Dog scored yet another win but it wasn't easy for the Cornish team. Chaz Ivill's J/97, Jiggery Pokery led for most of the race but was eventually passed by Black Dog, which crossed the line just 15 seconds ahead. Andy Howe's J/92, Blackjack could only manage a 7th place today but was still lying third in class. Andy Roberts' J/105, Jin & Tonic scored their first podium finish of the regatta propelling them to fourth in IRC 2 and lead the J/105 Class.

“We had our share of luck today, especially as an anchored yacht made as tack, just at the right moment to get a good lead on the first beat.” Admitted Andy. “Well done to the race committee for getting a good race in, under difficult circumstances. We were over-joyed with our result today and we are thoroughly enjoying a great regatta.”

J/70s sailing upwind off Plymouth, England- J/Cup regattaIn the J/70 Class, North Sails kept up their perfect scoreline but Nick Haigh's crew on Lightly Steamy was kicking themselves. “We got a great start by winning the pin end, which was a hard fought victory and we should have gone on to win the race but we made a school boy error.” confessed Nick Haigh. “We were a long way ahead and didn't cover North Sails, we managed to put ourselves in a wind hole and that was that. You don't expect to beat a class act like North Sails with that sort of mistake and I only have myself to blame. However, I think we had good boat speed today and we have learnt a few tricks upwind.”  In the J/70 Class, Nigel Passmore's Apollo was now second, after five races, with Mike Flood's J7t in third.

J/109s racing past Plymouth, England fairgroundsDay Two marked a change in the overall lead for the 20-strong J/109 fleet and the winner of the Lifedge J/109 UK National Championship was now wide open. The overnight leader, Tony Dickin's Jubilee, could only manage ninth, dropping the team to third in class. David Richards’ Jumping Jellyfish took the gun, propelling them into pole position but a protest against them resulted in disqualification. This led to Iain Mackinnon's Tigh Solius II taking the lead in the championship, with Tony Dickin’s Jubilee and David Rolfe’s Shadowfax in second and third respectively, with one day to go. However, with a discard kicking in after six races, Jumping Jellyfish could still win the championship.

“One Design racing is all about staying out of trouble and getting off the start line well.” said Tigh Solius II tactician, David Bedford. “We got a great start today but unfortunately got the wrong side of a wind shift and we had to dig deep to get back to fifth. The boat is going well and we still have another day racing and it's all to play for.”

J/crew working, sailing fast- Plymouth, England- J/CupDay Three Report:
The final day of racing was filled with drama, with lots of anxiety faced by tacticians on how best to handle their blood-thirsty competitors in the 15-20+ kts of big breeze and big seas.

In IRC One, Jamie Arnell's J/111, Jeez-Louise finished the regatta in style, winning the last race to take the class title from Tony Mack 's, J/111, McFly. Jackie and Robert Dobson's J/133, Jeronimo reveled in the big breeze winning race seven and finished third in class.

In the J/70 Class, Ruairidh Scott's J/70 North Sails conducted a master class of sportsboat racing, winning the class with straight bullets and a race to spare. However, it was a highly rewarding experience for the entire J/70 Class as the North Sails team were happy to share their knowledge dockside after racing. Nigel Passmore's Apollo 6 finished second and the young team on Mike Flood's J7t won the last race of the day to secure third for the regatta.

J/97 Blackdog- winners of J/Cup- Plymouth, EnglandIn IRC Two Stuart Sawyer's Cornish team on J/97, Black Dog were unstoppable all week, scoring seven wins out of eight races. Victories in both IRC Two and the Lombard J/97 UK National Championship, made them deserving winners of the coveted J-Cup overall winner’s trophy, to enthusiastic applause by all involved. “A lot of effort has gone into preparing the boat and the crew for this regatta and all of that hard work has paid off.” Smiled Stuart. “There are some great regattas in the West Country but this is by far the most competitive regatta we have raced this season and we had to be at the very top of our game to win it.”  Chaz Ivill's J/97, ETB TYRES Jiggery Pokery was second in IRC 2 with Andy Howe's J/92, BlackJack in third.

In an extremely close J/105 class, just four points separated the top three boats at the end of racing on Friday. A win for Chris Jones’ Journeymaker in the final race, their third bullet of the regatta, was not enough to beat Andy Robert’s Jin & Tonic, who never placed outside of the top two throughout the three days.

J/109 winners- Shadowfax- J/Cup- Plymouth, EnglandYou couldn't have written the script for the even more dramatic conclusion of the Lifedge J/109 UK National Championship. Going into the last day, six yachts had a chance of becoming national champion and after the final race, the top four yachts were separated by a single point. In the penultimate race, David Richards' Jumping Jellyfish was leading by a handsome margin but hit a top mark and lost seven places, whilst performing their turns. Todd Well's Je Vante went on to win the race to stake a claim for the title and everything hung on the final race. A general recall, had the race officer hoisting the Black Flag for the restart and you could feel the tension mounting.

In the last race, Iain Mackinnon's Tigh Solius II was over at the start and was disqualified and later in the race, Je Vante caught a spinnaker sheet around their prop, slowing their speed but even more drama was to follow. Tony Dickin's Jubilee led the race but David Rolfe's Shadowfax and Jumping Jellyfish were not far behind. It was too complex a picture to work out on the race course, as the leading yachts concentrated on boat speed to get through the finish line right outside the Royal Western.

Jumping Jellyfish hoisted a spinnaker in a last desperate throw of the dice to win the race but Jubilee took the gun, by just one second. It was sometime before Shadowfax crossed the line in eighth but after doing the mathematics, Shadowfax was declared Lifedge J/109 UK National Champions on count back. Literally one second had decided the result after three days of intense racing!!

David Rolfe was too shell-shocked to speak about the win but having been thrown in the marina by his crew he managed to stutter. “I really can't believe we've done it, we are all great friends that have sailed with each other for years and this is by far the greatest moment in all that time, thank you to the organisers and all of the competitors for making this such a fantastic regatta.”

The official prize-giving was held at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth with a fine buffet supper celebrating the B&G J-Cup 2013. Surrounded by the UK's biggest collection of marine life, the regatta came to a close and the organisers are not aware of anyone ending up in the shark pool!  The organisers would like to thank the principle sponsors of the regatta; B&G, Fusion, North Sails, Fastnet, and Grapefruit Graphics. Thanks also to our supporting sponsors SLAM, Peters & May, Lombard, RS Divers, Ocean Safety, Lifedge and Harken.  Thanks for story contribution from Louay Habib.  J/Cup sailing video on YouTube:    Sailing photo credits- Tim Wright/    For more B&G J/Cup Regatta sailing information