Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cool Breeze, Hot Racing @ J/24 East Coasts

J/24 winners (Eastport, MD)- It was true to form, a fall sailing classic on the Chesapeake Bay with moderate breezes both days with fall foliage in full bloom all around the edges of the waterfront.  While Saturday was mostly cloudy and cool all day, Sunday dawned with nice northerly chill winds and a gorgeous partly cloudy day.  Severn Sailing Association welcomed everyone on the opening day with a warm-hearted cookout, good eats and good drinks as teams assembled, launched and got ready for the weekend of racing.

The J/24 Eastern Championships were sponsored by Hillman Investments and the fleet of fifteen boats enjoyed very close racing amongst the top five teams that included past East Coast, National, North American and World Champions amongst the skipper and crews!  In fact, was quite the stellar cast for the size of the fleet.  In the end, it was Travis Odenbach’s HONEY BADGER from New York that threw down the gauntlet in the first three races (ONLY three 1sts) to win with 21 pts.

J/24 sailing East Coast ChampionshipHowever, despite racing ahead of the fleet at the beginning, their seemingly astonishing success was clearly affecting the team’s ability to execute as a 6-1-6 in the closing races pulled them back to reality.  Closing fast was class veteran, Tony Parker’s BANGOR PACKET, with two bullets and three 3rds to finish a highly respectable second with 27 pts for a gentleman in his fourth decade of J/24 sailing!

Sailing the highly graphically-adorned SEA BAGS SAILING TEAM was Carter White and crew from Portland, Maine, posting an all top seven scoreline to secure third place with 31 pts.

The balance of the top five was Mike Marshall’s PIPE DREAM from Jamestown, RI with 34 pts and in fifth was Peter Rich’s crew from host SSA.  Rock-star Robby Brown’s crew from Tampa, FL had to settle for a 6th place despite winning a race.  Here is the report from the winning team skipper- Travis Odenbach:

“Walking Away with a Trophy and Great Lessons- though the numbers were small, the competition was tight!

The weather was perfect, with mid-sixty temps the whole weekend. Friday conditions were 10-15 knots out of the north, which made for shifty but flat water. Saturday brought sunshine, powerboats, and light flukey winds out of the southeast. Sunday had some more shifty conditions with the wind ranging from 7-13 knots. Annapolis is known for streaky wind and having to go to the puffs instead of waiting for them to come to you, but for the most part that wasn't the case. Overall, we enjoyed some of the best conditions I have sailed in at Annapolis.

I learned a lot about sailing in Annapolis last weekend, but there was one thing that stuck with me: in shifty conditions, get on the lifted tack in a good lane as quick as possible!

J/24 sailboats- crossing tacks in AnnapolisThe start line was short and there were only fifteen boats. Our team talked about where we wanted to start and what end of the line we favored. In the grand scheme of things, the favored line didn't matter as much as being on the correct tack right after the start. Our goal became having a clean start and, if lifted, staying until the next shift or immediately tacking onto the lifted tack. Whether we had a good start or a bad start, we always got on the lifted tack trying to lead to the next shift first.

I will say it again: be the first to lead to the next shift!

Geoff Ewenson, my tactician for the weekend, never really said that was our strategy, but after the third race on Friday I started to see a trend. Whether we could tack and cross the fleet or duck the fleet or go straight for a few minutes, we were always on the right tack heading to the mark. That is a very good feeling when driving the boat.

The other thing I really concentrated on was rig tension. With it being so shifty and puffy, my go-to plan was set up for the lulls!

Friday was windier – hardly ever dropping below 9 knots – so I stayed at 24 on the uppers and 21 on the lowers. A good gauge for when to be at this setting is when everyone is always on the rail and the backstay has to be used every so often.

Saturday and Sunday, we stayed at 20-15 because it was so patchy across the course. We never went below base unless it was super flat and super light. (I did get caught one race below base and every time the breeze came up over six knots I had no height – the boat felt stalled out the whole time.)

The East Coast Championship Regatta in Annapolis is a staple event for the J/24 fleet. As usual, Mark Rivera and Pat Fitzgerald hosted a great event. From Dock Talks on Friday to Flip Cup on Saturday, I wouldn't ever miss this event. (And Annapolis delivered on a great Halloween party in town!) So thanks to Pat and Mark for a great weekend, and thank you to my team – Geoff Ewenson, Ian Coleman, Wilson Stout, and Collin Kirby – I will see you next year!”   Sailing photo credits- Dan Phelps/  For more J/24 East Coasts sailing information