Tuesday, August 12, 2014

JITTERBUG Crowned J/111 European Champion!

J/111s sailing Europeans off Cowes (Cowes, England)- With just over 2 weeks to go till the start of the inaugural J/111 worlds, the J/111 Eurocup couldn’t have come at a better time to get everybody back out on the water. This mini series over the first 4 days of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week comprised of 8 races and out on the water there was no let up in the tension.

Day one in the Eastern Solent saw a very shifty SE breeze and huge East going tides which caught many boats out when it came to laying the windward mark. In contrast to the usual straight windward leewards the race committee put in some reaching legs which gave the crews something different to contend with. The first bullet of this regatta went Stuart Hawthorn on Plan J. Race 2 didn’t see the fleet get off to a clean start and the second attempt was black-flagged. Jitterbug got away and kept clear of the rest of the fleet to take the gun followed by the West Country team on Black dog. Day two returned to the eastern Solent and over night protests had created very interesting results and there was everything to play for. Throughout the day the pressure increased with gusts up to 20 knots, but it was Tony Mack’s Mcfly that kept a level head and took both races today and Jitterbug had to settle for 2 seconds.

Day three broke to light airs which saw a short postponement until the breeze filled from the west. The fleet had a change of scenery in the western Solent, which would mean a need to play the shoreline and keep out of the tide. Again the starts were very close and too close for some. The fleet made a quick break to the mainland shore and started short tacking and playing a game of chicken with the depth gauge. The closeness of the boats at time showed the skill of the crews in keeping a cool head and luckily all the boats came out unscathed. An early break from the shore paid off for Journeymaker which saw them first round the windward mark, but in this fleet there is no room for mistakes and the fleet remained close throughout, Jitterbug took the gun again. In the Second race, it was Jeez Louise who saw an opportunity for clear air and took it which saw Jamie Arnell’s boat take their first bullet of the series.

The final day dawned to gray skies and the wind had shifted back to a SSE direction. So, it was back to the Eastern Solent and with only 3 points separating the top 4 boats there was no room for mistakes. The first course was a short 4 leg windward leeward but the positions of the boats were constantly changing in the course of each leg, playing the shifts was vital and would allow for huge gains or devastating losses. The downwind finish saw the boats being pushed to their limits to get height over the rest of the fleet. But Plan J kept calm and carried on to score their second bullet of the series, shortly followed by Jeez Louise and Jitterbug. This result confirmed that the series was going to go the wire.

The last race was the longest course so far, a general recall after the first attempt at starting sent the tension soaring for the top boats, the second attempt was black flagged so no room for error this time and luckily all the boats were clear and away. Again, it came down to playing the shifts and keeping clear of the traffic as the whole of the black group was racing in the same area. Chris Jones and Louise Makin’s Journeymaker took an early lead and saw them round the windward mark first. There was much jostling of places throughout the fleet that saw a tough fight for all. However, Journeymaker held off the rest of the fleet and took the final gun to see their first win of the series, shortly followed by Plan J in second that guaranteed them a podium position. Third across the line was Cornell Riklin which confirmed him as the winner of the 2014 J/111 Eurocup.

The trophy and winners champagne was presented at Key Yachting’s annual Cowes week party at the Island sailing club, which will also be the host club for the 2015 J Cup. Following his victory Jitterbug owner Cornell commented on the event saying “We greatly enjoyed the EuroCup – the largest J111 fleet we have raced in so far with some very close and competitive racing! Well done Key Yachting and AAM Cowes Week for organizing the two races a day. It made it all very worthwhile and fun. Looking forward to seeing more of this at the Worlds.”

In the final analysis, it was a high-scoring series for the top five boats.  It took two third places on the final day for Riklin’s JITTERBUG to retain first place overall with 19 pts in the eight race, one throw-out series.  Starting with a 7th in race one, Riklin’s crew overcame their pre-regatta jitters and took two 1sts, two 2nds and two 3rds to win the regatta by three points.

Meanwhile, Hawthorn’s PLAN J started off by leading the series after three races, posting a 1-4-3, but couldn’t maintain the pressure on the JITTERBUG crew.  In the middle of the series, a 7-5-6 dropped them from contention.  Nevertheless, it was a soul-satisfying 1-2 performance in the last two races that enabled them to leap back into second overall with 22 pts net.

Perhaps the most disappointed crew may have been Tony Mack’s McFLY.  After posting a remarkable 1-1-2-3 in races 4 to 6, they closed the series with a 6-7 on the final day.  Consequently, having “fallen from grace with the sea”, they dropped into third overall with 26 pts net.  Then, James Arnell’s JEEZ LOUISE was closing fast on the podium positions with a 4-3-4-1-2 in races 3 to 7, but apparently lost all composure in the last race by posting a 9th place; costing them the bronze and having to settle for fourth overall by just one point!  Fifth was David & Kirsty Apthorp’s J/DREAM.

Of the visiting teams from the Netherlands, Kees van Vliet & Hans Zwijnenburg’s SWEENY clearly showed they had potential with scores of 3-4-5-5-5, but the inconsistency in the three other races dropped them off the radar screen.  Chris Jones & Louise Makin’s JOURNEYMAKER II likewise had a rough go of the regatta, but closed with an emphatic 1st place in the last race— perhaps “throwing down the gauntlet” to indicate they still should be contenders for the Worlds next week!  The J/111 Worlds hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes starts on the 20th August 2014.  For more J/111 Europeans sailing information