Monday, September 8, 2014

SHMOKIN JOE Crowned J/111 World Champion

J/111 SHMOKIN JOE team (Cowes, England)- Day five of the J/111 World Championships dawned with a clear sky, low temperature and no gradient wind. The forecast was for 5 knots at 1030 rising to 8 by noon. The overnight leader SHMOKIN JOE owned by Duncan McDonald and Phil Thomas had a strong enough score that if one or less races were sailed the trophy was going home to Brighton with them.  The Royal Yacht Squadron’s race team made their best efforts, but after two hours of studying a glassy sea, PRO Simon van der Byl took the popular decision to draw the regatta to close. With ten great races completed, SHMOKIN JOE was declared first ever J/111 World Champion; a fitting follow-up to their terrific victory at the J-Cup held earlier in the summer at Royal Southampton YC.  There trip to the top was not an easy one, in fact it followed a somewhat tortuous path until one amazing string of races on the third day.

The conditions all five days of racing were challenging, to say the least.  Many Solent veterans were amazed to see how each day played out for tactics and strategies; with many commenting on the extremely shifty and “streaky” breezes.

Day One:
After the first day of racing, the British teams took an early lead.  The day dawned with a forecast of light and fickle breeze.  The first start was scheduled for 13:00, the race got under way on time in 6 knots of wind, but was abandoned after a short period as the wind faded. The restarted race one resulted in a general recall and the subsequent use of the Z flag.

J/111 rounding mark at Worlds in Cowes, EnglandIn a shifty West to North Westerly, the fleet were led to the top mark by Stuart Sawyer's BLACK DOG from Falmouth closely followed by Cornel Riklin's JITTERBUG.  Clockwise rotation of the wind turned the first run into a slightly one-sided affair resulting in a repositioning of the windward mark for leg three. BLACK DOG found more snakes than ladders whilst Tony and Sally Mack's McFLY did a super job of working her way to the front of the fleet to win the first race. Taking a very useful second place was JITTERBUG with Hamble based Chris Jones and Louise Makin bringing JOURNEYMAKER II home in third.

The shifting winds made the job of PRO Simon van der Byl and his team, dig deep into their reserves of patience before race two got away again in less than six knots of wind.

Beating toward the Calshot shore the fleet had to deal with a fight between the Southampton Water orientated gradient breeze and a South Westerly that advanced and receded several times. Early leader MCFLY fell foul of the transition dropping from first to a finishing place of sixth. JITTERBUG kept their nerve and took the win, whilst SHMOKIN JOE made great use of Lee on Solent high street to single their way round the pack to finish second. Cool heads helped Andrew Christie and Chris Body's ICARUS to the final podium spot.

Overnight the lead table was JITTERBUG on 3 points, SHMOKIN JOE on 6, McFLY on 7, JOURNEYMAKER II in fourth with 8 points and Fred Bouvier’s French team on J-LANCE IX holding fifth with 10 points.

J/111 Jitterbug planing at 17.5 kts across SolentDay Two:
The bigger breeze definitely arrived for the second day of racing, much to the delight of all the sailors hoping for some planing conditions criss-crossing the Solent.

The morning race was a windward-leeward starting in the region of Fastnet Marine Insurance mark to the east of the Bramble Bank. The race was started on time in 12 knots of wind from 250 degrees, this matched the forecast. The Dutch boat SWEENY of Kees van Vlift won the pin and was first to reach the strong ebb tide on the south side of the course. Series leader Cornel Riklin’s JITTERBUG stepped even further into the tide and by dint of this and with perhaps better speed led around the top mark, followed by SWEENY, J-LANCE IX and McFLY.

An early gybe to seek tidal relief took the fleet back across the North Channel to the leeward mark. The second beat saw the wind increase to 18 knots placing some strain on the code one jibs. JITTERBUG took the win followed by BLACK DOG in second place, McFLY took third holding off the Dutch pairing of XCENTRIC RIPPER and SWEENY.

The second race of the day, race four in the series, was scheduled as a longer distance race of 21 miles. The course was an extended windward-leeward from Fastnet Marine in the eastern Solent to the Quod Possumus mark near Lymington, with a few realignment reaches thrown in.

J/111 XCentric Ripper sailing in Worlds off Cowes, EnglandHaving seen the advantage gained by a pin end start in race three, there was quite a pile up at the pin perhaps exacerbated by a left hand shift. In the melee the bowman from J-LANCE IX fell over the side but was recovered very quickly and SWEENY’s wind instrument went flying. Protest flags were flown and some were seen undertaking penalty turns, thirty seconds before the start five or six boats flipped onto port at the other end of the line. JITTERBUG was again the first to show at the front, however as the breeze increased she seemed to suffer and gently slipped down the rankings, being passed by McFLY, Robin Verhoef and John van der Starre’s XCENTRIC RIPPER and David & Kirsty Apthorp’s J-DREAM before the fleet cleared Cowes. At the first mark Gurnard, MCFLY had a handy lead and set off on a 110 degree fetch to Seven Star buoy on the Lepe shore.

There then followed a long beat up to the Quad Possumus mark near Lymington, most followed McFLY out into the deep water utilizing the last of the ebb into what was now a solid 18-20 knots true, which with the tidal enhancement meant most were now sailing at the top end of their code two jibs. J-DREAM was reveling in the conditions and rounded Quod Possumus in third behind McFLY and XCENTRIC RIPPER.

A short run to West Lepe mark saw the fleet split strategy with some running as deep as possible straight to the mark and others sailing in hot mode on two reaches. The hot mode was faster but did lead to control problems with one fairly hefty collision between a broaching boat and the boat that was just to windward. A 104 degree fetch across to the Salt Mead mark on the island side of the Western Solent saw the two boats involved in the collision retire to lick their wounds. A final beat to Hampstead ledge saw McFLY extend further, XCENTRIC RIPPER held onto second, SHMOKIN JOE had clawed up into third, J-DREAM was now fourth just ahead of JITTERBUG.

There was again a split strategy on the final run home in what was now a favorable easterly running tide. The brave sailed with three sails at the hottest possible angle gybing numerous times and sailing at 15 knots plus of boat speed in a solid 20 knots of wind. The more conservative sailed deep and in the interests of keeping their boats under control gybed only once on the six mile leg.

The boats blasted across the line in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron with McFLY securing the gun with a very handy lead, having given a master class of strong wind sailing.  XCENTRIC RIPPER held onto second, this team definitely enjoy a bit more breeze than they had yesterday, third was SHMOKIN JOE, J-LANCE IX having passed four boats on the run by sailing in fully arced-up J/70 mode took fourth, relegating J-DREAM to 5th.

After four races, McFLY and JITTERBUG were equal on 11 points, SHMOKIN JOE remained in third on 16 with XCENTRIC RIPPER moving up to fourth.

J/111 Journeymaker II sailing Worlds off Cowes, EnglandDay Three:
"Whatever those guys are Shmokin I want some!" said an unnamed European tactician at the end of day’s racing in Cowes, after Phil Thomas and Duncan McDonald's SHMOKIN JOE had stunned the fleet with three bullets.

The day dawned overcast and autumnal with a forecast of 15 knots of north westerly wind. The start line set from Jonathan Perry's Storm Trader was again adjacent to the Fastnet Marine Insurance mark on the north shore of the Solent.

The first race of the day, race five of the series, was started in 15 knots of wind from 275 degrees. An abundance of adrenalin coupled with a strong weather going tide resulted in a general recall, this was of great benefit to Stuart Sawyer's BLACK DOG who were so far on course side, some thought they were on the delivery trip home!

At the second start, under black flag, most got away clean, some who infringed were off to do turns. The wind had shifted hard at the start, causing all to tack onto port, this favored those on the left, including Chris Jones and Louise Makin's JOURNEYMAKER II, Jamie Arnell's JEEZ LOUISE and SHMOKIN JOE. Most were surprised to see regatta leader Cornel Riklin's JITTERBUG take the stern of the fleet several hundred metres behind.

First round the windward mark was JOURNEYMAKER II, followed by JEEZ LOUISE, SHMOKIN JOE, XCENTRIC RIPPER and then the Dent family on JELVIS. Surprisingly, JITTERBUG was last.

SHMOKIN JOE gybed early and blasted down the run to move into the lead, a huge 30 degree right shift made the next beat one sided, SHMOKIN JOE having found real pace extended to lead JEEZ LOUISE and JOURNEYMAKER II round the windward mark for the final time.

Race six commenced in 10 knots of wind from 315 degrees, the wind more aligned with Southampton Water. BLACK DOG held up a pack of boats at the committee boat end, leaving more space for those at the pin. J-DREAM made a great full pace start at the committee boat end. SHMOKIN JOE, McFLY and JEEZ LOUISE went left whilst the French on J-LANCE IX split right.

J/111 Shmokin Joe sailing upwindAt the first cross SHMOKIN JOE were in the lead, a position they maintained until the end. Second to arrive at the top mark was JEEZ LOUISE, unfortunately they were on port tack and perhaps misjudging the pace of the boats arriving on starboard, they charged in with neither space or nor rights, this resulted in some crash avoidance maneuvers from J-LANCE IX and J-DREAM, followed by JEEZ LOUISE taking a penalty.

With a right shifting breeze the leeward marks had been realigned, SHMOKIN JOE led J-LANCE IX with JITTERBUG in third. SHMOKIN JOE sailed a great beat sailing straight up the north channel, taking the tidal benefit and went on to win the race quite handily.  At this point, SHMOKIN JOE now led the regatta.

Race seven, the final one of the day, was started in 10 knots of wind from 307. Course setter Tony Singer increased the length of the beat to 1.6 miles on a bearing of 315. The day had warmed up nicely and most had discarded jackets as the risk of rain appeared to have passed.

BLACK DOG started on port on the right hand side of the line, but once again the left paid as a left-shifting breeze made it a one-sided drag race to the top of the course.  Sure enough, SHMOKIN JOE came smoking up the left side of the pack; even the boats that had to re-round the pin end were ahead of those that had started at the committee boat end.

J/111s sailing under spinnaker at Worlds in Cowes, EnglandWith the wind shifting right in the final quarter of the beat, the first boats onto starboard were McFLY and XCENTRIC RIPPER, crossing behind the leaders from the left. First to round mark one was SHMOKIN JOE followed by JOURNEYMAKER II and JITTERBUG.  BLACK DOG’s excursion to the right cost them dear as they rounded in tenth. JITTERBUG and JOURNEYMAKER II gybe-set and headed for the mainland shore whilst the rest of the pack sailed down on starboard and at some stages looked as though they might lay the gate without gybing. Arriving at the gate SHMOKIN JOE led and rounded the left-hand mark, JITTERBUG in second chose the right hand mark. Once again, it was a fairly one-sided drag race upwind, in the final third SHMOKIN JOE tacked across on a small shift only to become the wrong side of a huge right shift dropping them to fifth at the final weather mark rounding.  JITTERBUG shot the mark to round in the lead; J-LANCE IX was second followed by JOURNEYMAKER II in third.

SHMOKIN JOE sailed a tremendous run sailing almost dead downwind with great pace, rumors that this was a result of a malfunction in the steering system were strongly denied by helmsman Duncan McDonald. This low and fast mode brought them through to second where they split gates with J-LANCE IX who were leading.  With one final cross before the finish line and SHMOKIN JOE, as the give way boat preparing to duck, J-LANCE IX tacked, but SHMOKIN JOE’s momentum carried them through to take the win by a whisker!  Amazing!  Three bullets for SHMOKIN JOE, having turned a five-point deficit into a six point lead, now counting 12 points.  Behind them, McFLY moved ahead of JITTERBUG on 18 and J-LANCE IX were top non-British boat in fourth place.

J/111s sailing off start at J/111 Worlds in Cowes, EnglandDay Four:
The fourth day was always going to be of massive importance, the last of the three-race-days with just two final races to be sailed Sunday.

The first race of the day, the eighth of the series, was started from the vicinity of Bart's Bash buoy to the east of the Bramble Bank in the Solent.  The race began in 8 knots of wind from 313, the forecast was for 10 knots with some expecting the wind to diminish after lunch.  Fred Bouvier's  J-LANCE IX was first to flop on to port, within two minutes the whole fleet was on port. First to the windward mark was McFLY, followed by JITTERBUG.

By mark three, J-LANCE IX had assumed the lead and sailed on to take their first win of the series and moved into the top three. Second was Hans Zwijnenburg and Kees van Vilet’s SWEENY, third McFLY and fourth SHMOKIN JOE.

After the committee boat repositioned itself 500 yards north, race nine was started in 16 knots of wind. As most days this week the sea-breeze had enhanced the gradient to outperform the forecast. After the start, most of the fleet headed left and those furthest left gained, as the fleet headed to the windward mark on the Bramble Bank. Series leader SHMOKIN JOE was first to round followed by JITTERBUG, BLACK DOG & JEEZ LOUISE. On the second beat JITTERBUG went hard right towards the Lee-on-Solent shore whilst SHMOKIN JOE hit the left.  When the fleet reconvened at the windward mark, SHMOKIN JOE had extended their lead with JEEZ LOUISE & J-LANCE IX following.  SHMOKIN JOE took their fourth bullet to further consolidate their lead.

The wind had reduced to 10 knots for the start of race ten. The first attempt resulted in a general recall, thus the black flag made its first appearance of the day. It would be unfair to describe the fleet as cautious in this start with early arrivals bailing out at the pin. The fleet split on the first beat with SWEENY, BLACK DOG, J-DREAM and JEEZ LOUISE heading left. SHMOKIN JOE sailed right up the north channel with possible tidal advantage whilst J-LANCE IX and JOURNEYMAKER II went up the middle and JITTERBUG went hard right.

Again, the left paid, JEEZ LOUISE rounded with a big lead followed by BLACK DOG and J-DREAM. J-DREAM did a great job of running low on the next leg and assumed the lead by the leeward mark. The next run saw a big shift to the left leaving the left pack reaching in, J-DREAM held her lead and thus took her first win of the series.

And that is how it all went down for the first J/111 World Championship.  The rest, as they say, is now history.  At the end of Saturday’s racing, SHMOKIN JOE had 22 pts, McFLY took second with 30 pts, the ever-improving French team on J-LANCE IX took third with 33 pts, BLACK DOG’s Cornish team was fourth and JITTERBUG ended up fifth.

The 2015 World Championships will be held June 17th in Newport, Rhode Island. At a lively owner’s meeting held on Saturday night, there was tremendous interest from the European teams in competing at that event. With 112 J/111s built in the last three years, this class has shown that it has a bright future.
For more J/111 Worlds sailing information- visit the Royal Yacht Squadron website