Tuesday, September 29, 2015

JOSE CUERVO Blitzes J/105 NAs!

J/105 sailing on San Francisco Bay
(San Francisco, CA)- No, the crew on JOSE CUERVO may not have been totally blitzed after the regatta.  But, they sure did blitzkrieg their J/105 comrades in what may have been one of the most dominating performances ever in a J/105 NAs.  Counting four bullets straight Shawn Bennett and crew on JOSE CUERVO threw down a 4 of hearts on the table for their opening gambit then simply aced the rest, much to the chagrin of their buddies on San Francisco Bay.

As the largest fleet of boats in the Rolex Big Boat Series, 27 in all, Bennett walked off with his first Rolex Submariner stainless steel chronometer in his life.  He was a happy camper.

J/105s sailing past Alcatraz Island on San Francisco BayThe first day of racing was somewhat prophetic in terms of who was going to rise to the top after some early tough going.  On Thursday, the unthinkable happened, when the club’s race committee – known for expertly conducting more than its fair share of regattas thanks to San Francisco’s ideal winds (consistently strong), challenging conditions (currents aplenty) and superior setting (stadium sailing at its best) – had to postpone the morning race for all classes by two hours, due to lack of breeze. It left the J/105 sailors champing at the bit, but in the end nothing was missed when both of the day’s scheduled races were completed in 15-plus knots of westerly breeze.

As all classes in the RBBS must do, the J/105s rotate from the “Treasure Island” circle to the “Alcatraz” circle (named for the famous island that sits precariously in the middle of the Bay) during the day. On Thursday, the J/105s started with Treasure Island, sailing a 10.9 mile race that Ryan Simmons' BLACKHAWK won in a photo finish with Shannon Ryan and Rolf Kaiser’s DONKEY JACK, which had led over much of the distance.

“Our original plan was to play the ‘cone’ (an area east of Alcatraz Island that shelters from the current), but we changed our mind mid-leg and decided to go to the city front,” said Simmons. “We came out well, but it was a very long beat: all the way from Treasure Island to the Golden Gate Bridge in a flood tide.”

J/105 Blackhawk sailing San Francisco BayBLACKHAWK finished fourth in its second race, an 11 miler, held on the Alcatraz circle; Simmons was happy about that, since it involved a mediocre start and a “super high powered boats-wiping-out-everywhere reaching leg” where the wind indicator showed 18-20 knots. The performance put him at the top of the scoreboard, tied on points with Shawn Bennett’s JOSE CUERVO and one point ahead of Jeff Litfin’s Mojo.

“Everyone gears up for this regatta,” said Simmons, who sailed the J/105 North Americans once before when it was part of the Rolex Big Boat Series in 2009 and skippered to second in last year’s Rolex Big Boat Series after having crewed for his father, two-time winner Scooter Simmons, 15 times in the event. “Our goal going into this season has been to win this regatta, the North Americans, and get that Rolex.” (Rolex timepieces accompany St. Francis Yacht Club perpetual trophies as prizes in six of the 11 classes here.)

After two more days of racing, the cat was out of the bag.  After racing J/22s for much of the season in the match-racing world, Bennett’s crew were simply unassailable in the tricky SF Bay conditions- demonstrating a mastery that was far, far beyond their wise years.

“Winning means a lot to us, because we’ve tried a few times at the North Americans and have fallen short of winning a few times at the Rolex Big Boat Series,” said Bennett. “It’s two things in one: checking boxes that we weren’t successful at checking in the past.”   As for winning a Rolex timepiece for his efforts, he added, “Hands down, it’s the nicest trophy I’ve ever won.”

J/105s sailing under Golden Gate Bridge- San Francisco BayWith the top of the podium pretty much determined by day two, the fight for the balance of the top five spots was typically worse than a sorority pillow fight- can’t see anything until the feathers clear!  In other words, no obvious winners at all until the very last leg of the very last race.  Roller coaster rides everywhere when everyone seeks the ultimate goal of just plain, simple, consistency on the Bay.

When the feathers & down settled from the fields of battle, it was Jeff Litfin’s MOJO that succeeded in nearly the same degree of proficiency as Bennett’s crew, pulling together a 3-3-2-4-5 for 17 pts to secure second.  Behind them, and just staying free of the dust-up, was Jason Woodley & Scott Whitney’s RISK with another all top 10 tally of 8-9-3-2-3 for 25 pts.  Perhaps the biggest disappointment may have been felt by past J/105 NA Champion and RBBS Champion, Bruce Stone on ARBITRAGE; a last race 12th torpedoed their chances at a silver on the podium, instead settling for 4th place with 26 pts.  In 5th place was early regatta leader Simmons on BLACKHAWK only 1 pt back.  Exciting racing for all! Kudos to Regatta Chairman Bruce Stone and Fleet #1 Captain (Shannon Ryan) for wearing about 12 hats to help pull off this exciting regatta with a host of sponsors and volunteers far too numerous to mention here!   Watch J/105 NAs sailing video summary.   For more J/105 North American Championship sailing information