(San Francisco, CA)- The annual salute to all things “J”, the St Francis YC’s J-Fest got a well needed shot in the arm this year with the addition of the J/111's and J/70's. A staple of the StFYC spring series for decades, the J-Fest originally featured dozens of J24's, J-30's and the then, elite J-35's. The fleet of these boats have lessened in years gone by and the introduction of the J/105's in 1991, the J/120 in 2000 enabled the J-Fest to enjoy a bit of a resurgence. Fast forward to 2014, the addition of the new J-Speedsters, the J/111s and the J/70s, were a welcome new addition to the regatta.
The fleet of forty-eight boats were treated to “beyond glam” conditions. Starting with sunny, cloudless mornings, the StFYC PRO kept the fleet in the cozy confines of the harbor until 11am under harbor postponement. As soon as the first whispers of the sea-breeze wafted in under the Golden Gate Bridge, StFYC PRO John Craig sent the fleet out to the starting line just off Alcatraz Island and the magnificent San Francisco city-front. It is hard to imagine a more fun and challenging race course than having to divine the ins-and-outs of traversing tide-lines and playing wind streaks funneling over the peninsula’s headlands down through San Francisco Bay.
With some ongoing compression in the J/120 fleet underway, DESDEMONA’s former owner, John Wimer, joined forces with Timo Bruck and provided some insight and guidance, propelling TWIST’s stock to new highs in the J-120 division. “The last race was a bit stressful for us after we fouled PEREGRINE, the wind died just as we were about to cross them, so we didn't make the cross, but were able to recover after we took our penalty. John did a great job of keeping us calm, focused, and fast. It was fantastic having him on board with us,” commented Timo Bruck. In the end, it was Steve Madeira’s MISTER MAGOO crew on the “ultimate green sailing machine” that walked off with class honors with an astonishing (for the J/120 class) consistent score of 2-1-1-2-2- for 8 pts. Timo’s TWIST was second in their nail-biter race followed by Dave Halliwill’s PEREGRINE in third.
The BLACKHAWK success continues in the J/105 class, Scooter Simmons with tactician Brent Draney and company held off Jeff Littfin's MOJO by 3 points after 5 races. After starting in the “cellar”, Scooter’s crew rebounded to post an amazing 8-1-1-1-1 for 12 pts. Third was Adam Spiegel’s JAM SESSION.
Dorian McKelvy's MAD MEN sailed a tight battle with Roland Vandermeer’s BIG BLAST and Rob Theis’s AEOLUS, in the end, consistency paid off with 1 point victory! It was a very tight battle with these three musketeers. MADMEN’s 1-1-4-1-3 for 10 pts just held off BLAST’s 3-2-2-3-1 for 11 pts. The one “twist” in the regatta was the AEOLUS crew finding their spinnaker wrapped around Anita Shoal Light tower in the second race, having to take a DNF for the experience.
"We are expecting eight J/111's for the Vallejo Race", said Drew Harper who was tugging on lines aboard Roland Vandermeer's BIG BLAST, which had consistently superb results over the weekend especially considering it was their 1st regatta. "We were very pleased with the results of not only our boat but also the turnout of the regatta. Additionally the Bay Area fleet is expected to grow to 10 boats by April 29 as BAD DOG joins the fleet, going to former J-120 owner Dick Swanson, and another J-111 named BLAST is en route from Nova Scotia”.
"Roland is no slouch at the helm,” says Bill Colombo, who was calling tactics on board BIG BLAST. "Roland has done well on other boats, and his new J/111, just arrived from the Great Lakes where it achieved 3rd in last year's J-111 North Americans. Andy McCormack is running the program and is doing a very good job." Bill is no newby to the J-111 having sailed on Frank Slootman's original INVISIBLE HAND, J-111 hull #4, and sailing in the aforementioned NA's last year and the Verve Cup.
Commented Bill, “We got the J/111 because it is the perfect combination of fun to sail with family and friends and it is a blast to race. It is very agile and quick to respond. It is very easy to sail and still requires a good team to drive fast and hard. The first regatta proved this all and the fleet dynamics and people look great! Andy has sailed with me before and we just threw some friends together to race and it worked well. We still have so much to learn about all the modes of the boat, but not a bad set up for first time out.”
On the J/70 side of the world, they also had many newcomers to their rapidly expanding fleet. Ben Mercer had this to say about their experience, "Friday was a great opportunity to learn more about the boat from Stu Johnstone during Fridays J/70 Clinic. Rig tune, sail trim, and using the winch to keep the boat at a constant level of heel, were all highlighted points as we went through the weekend. Saturday brought on solid "Chamber of Commerce" sailing conditions on the city front in a burgeoning flood. As we learned in the clinic, aggressive mainsail trim and driving is needed to keep the J/70 tracking without making too much leeway so mainsheet trimmers got a workout but the drivers who trimmed their own mains were looking especially tired at the Rum Party. Sunday brought us a chance to relax and mingle on the dock in a postponement till the breeze filled in. It was all about rig tune and using the shifts to get to the current relief on the beach. The biggest takeaway was having a solid team that could all work together because every position has a crucial role on the boat. It was great to see all the J/Boat classes have such a strong showing, new and old designs alike! "
Josh Butler was working the strings and calling shots for Mark Nelson's J/70 SUGOI (which literally translates to- ‘terrible, dreadful, terrific, amazing, great, or wonderful’ depending on its context). "I think conditions were great for the J/70's and overall the Bay is a great place to sail them. The competition level is already high and there is plenty of room for growth in the fleet. The nice thing about the J/70 is a family can race them, the boat handles very well upwind and pops up onto a plane off-wind quite nicely.”
"The J-70s will add six boats to the 15 boat fleet very soon," says Drew Harper, who is working with Sail California. "Those six boats should sell at the Strictly Sail Show,” Drew adds.
The J/70 called 1FA, sailed by Scott Sellers and Geoff McDonald are in familiar territory in the J/70 fleet- they took delivery the day before the regatta of their brand new boat. "Norm Davant from Sail California helped us tune the boat on Friday when we took delivery, and we were ready to sail on Saturday,” said Scott. He continued, “It is a pretty easy boat to sail so there weren't a lot of tricks. Our crew has a lot of miles sailing together in small keelboats on the City Front so despite being a new boat for us, we felt we were playing a game that we have played before. Just like with any boat on the City Front in 15 to 20 knots of breeze, keeping the boat flat and tracking consistently through the puffs is the key to speed. Everyone in the fleet is fairly new to the boat so I am sure techniques will be refined and the class will get more competitive as more people enter the class and spend more time in the boats. The momentum in the class nationally and locally is undeniable. I expect 30+ boats on the Bay in the next 2 years."
Behind the Sellers/McDonald team on 1FA, in second place was Peter Cameron’s much improved team on USA 29 “PRIME NUMBER”. And, sailing equally consistently in the top three was Chris Kostanecki’s JENNIFER taking the bronze for the J/70 class.
On the J/24 front Michael Whitfield's TMC RACING sailed a near perfect regatta, with 4 aces and a deuce, to claim victory in the six boat fleet. Just behind them was a titanic duel for second. After the dust settled, it was Darren Cumming’s DOWNTOWN UPROAR that took the tie-breaker over Alex Schultink’s FLY BY NIGHT. The UPROAR gang amassed a 2-2-2-4-5 to salvage victory from the jaws of defeat on the last day. The FLY BY NIGHT’ers took five straight 3rds to settle for, guess what(?), third place overall. Sailing photo credits- Erik Simonson Sailing photos credits- Chris Ray For more J/Fest sailing information