Welles commended his last-minute crew, including Eric Lawrence who was trimming the genoa for the first time ever on a J/24. “It was remarkable that he stepped up to the plate,” said Welles. “It was a huge part of our success.” The other key, he explained, was working to get the mast butt positioned just right. “Early on in the regatta, we were a little late to push it forward. The mast we have is pretty bendy so we have to be aggressive with the mast butt.” After moving it forward quite a bit after Saturday’s first race, Cougar found that extra gear.
After the first day’s racing on Friday, a familiar name was at the top of the leaderboard. Mollicone’s HELLY HANSEN held a four-point lead over Welles’ COUGAR. Another four points back in third was Sumio Shimoyama of Japan with Mark Hillman on SOKOKUMARU. Mollicone is the current J/24 Midwinter Champion (he also won in 2013), crewed on the 2013 J/24 World Championship team, and won both the 2012 and 2013 J/24 North American Championships.
Forty-five teams were competing in Marion, including entrants from various parts of the United States, along with several Canadian crews and even representatives from Japan, France and Australia. Welles got the regatta going with a win in race one, when winds were 6-8 knots. Mike Ingham’s NAUTALYTIC followed in second, and Travis Odenbach’s HONEY BADGER in third. The breeze picked up a bit to 8-10 knots in the next contest, as Aidan Glackin’s MENTAL FLOSS grabbed the victory. Natalie Penner’s GIGGLES and John Wilsey’s PANCETA DOBLE completed the top trio. In the day’s final battle, the Shimoyama/Hillman team placed first, ahead of Mollicone and Wilsey. Leading the six-boat Women’s Division was Penner on GIGGLES and her crew from Austin, Texas.
The second day of racing on Saturday enabled the race committee to run four races! At this point, Welles launched into first place. In pristine conditions, Welles began Saturday with a sixth-place finish, and then won the next three races. Tossing an 11 in race two, Welles now totaled 14 points, heading into the final day of competition. Marshall’s PIPE DREAM also notched a stellar day with a 3,2,3,3, and moved into second place overall with 22 points. Mollicone’s HELLY HANSEN was five points back in third place.
Winds around 16 knots greeted competitors on the sunny Saturday morning, when Ingham’s NAUTALYTIC acquired the day’s first win. Mollicone trailed in second, and Marshall in third. Welles grabbed his first of three consecutive bullets in the next bout, as Marshall and Ingham completed the upper three. Following Welles in the day’s third race, in winds ranging between 12-16 knots, was Thomas Barbeau’s NAVTECH.CA and Marshall. The familiar trio of Welles, Ingham and Marshall again led Saturday’s final battle. Continuing atop the six-boat Women’s Division was Penner’s GIGGLES.
Sunday dawned with another beautiful day in Marion. With winds between 12-14 knots, Mollicone earned the win in Sunday’s initial duel, as Tony Parker’s BANGOR PACKET and Marshall filled out the top spots. Welles put up another bullet in the next race, when winds stabilized at 10-12 knots. Ingham tracked in second and Parker in third. In the last battle of the Championship, Welles locked in the title with a first, with Pat Toole and Ingham behind.
Behind the top three overall (Welles, Mollicone and Marshall) were Ingham in fourth and Travis Odenbach’s HONEY BADGER in fifth. Winner of the Women’s Division was Penner’s GIGGLES gang from Austin, TX. For more USA J/24 Nationals sailing information