Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Evolution of Family Sailing in Chile

J/105s sailing Chile's Chiloe Regatta (Santiago, Chile)- It all starts with family, children, friends and tradition.  Plus, a few boats that people from across that family spectrum can enjoy from 8 to 80 yrs old.  Imagine what has happened in the past ten years in Chile, it’s nearly a revolution in how sailing in various J’s has brought more families and friends into the sport in Chile- the world’s longest and skinniest country at 2,653 miles high and averages 110 miles wide.  How did that ever happen, one might ask rhetorically, given all the chatter around the world about whether or not sailing is growing?!

The plan has been simple in Chile.  Whatever you do, make sure the “family wins”.  Period.  That means Mom, Dad, the girls, the guys, the pro’s, the experienced, the less-than-experienced, the cruisers, the racers should have fun, too.   Sound familiar? Yes, that is exactly what is happening with the phenomenon of sailing leagues in Europe- one of the world’s most difficult markets to get sailors engaged after centuries of tradition.  Breaking down the barriers of entry and engaging everyone works when done well with the proper boats- ones that do not intimidate sailors, but brings enough fun and excitement that it can be shared with everyone.  That is exactly what has happened in an entire country, where no one ever expected it to happen.

J/105s sailing off Chiloe, ChileThe famous Chiloé Regatta 2016 in Chile’s southern archipelago (e.g. like Sweden’s famous islands off Stockholm), is considered to be the pinnacle of the Chilean sailor’s summer vacation.  This year, there were thirteen J/105’s, four J/70’s (in cruising mode!) and four J/24’s in the J/Boats fleet; they represented 1/3 of the total fleet in Chiloé Regata in Puerto Montt during January this year!  That is an astonishing evolution in less than ten years for any regatta, forgetting the fact that it’s tantamount to taking over the 1,000 boat Cowes Race Week with 333 J’s on the Solent!

The story of J/Boats in Chile as a brand and a class began in 1992 when Germán Fuchs started sailing with ATTACK, that is when the J/24 class started locally. The first J/24 South American Championship in Chile was organized in 1992 on Rapel Lake.  By 1994 to 1996, the J/24 class had fleets of 30 or more boats in Nationals events in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Argentina.  After 2000, the fleets of J/24 started to change a little; in fact the class drew the attention of the Chilean Navy in Talcahuano and the Chilean Navy started to use the J/24 in their Naval Academy.  In fact, some J/24s for the Navy have made it as far south as Porto Williams, by the far the southernmost embarkation point to the infamous Tierra del Fuego, Cape Horn, and for most expeditions to Antarctica. There is a sailing school today at Porto Williams on J/24s!

About the same time as the J/24 evolution in Chile and South America, there were also several J/35 offshore keelboats  that arrived at the end of 1990.  One boat, in particular, was the famous SCARAMOUCHE, she famously won several offshore circuits over a 5-6 year period in Chile’s regattas off Algarrobo and Chiloe.

Chiloe Regatta in ChileIn 2010, a group of friends from YC Algarrobo choose the J/105 (the J/35 “evolution”) to expand their sailing experience from the J/24 to a larger boat.  Since then, more than thirty J/105’s have arrived in Chile between Algarrobo and Viña del Mar (60 miles away); it is by far the largest one-design keelboat class in Chile. In fact, it’s the largest one-design keelboat class in the world outside of the San Francisco J/105 fleet!! Impossible to fathom for some, but not for familes that are interested in including their friends, family and children in the experience.

On the other hand, the port of Talcahuano (450Km south from Santiago- where the 8.8 earthquake/ tsunami hit the hardest in 2012) had developed an important J/24 fleet with more than 15 boats. The class’s success was in part due to the Chilean Navy supporting the growth of the class as a valuable trainer for their officers (e.g. similar to the US maritime academies like the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD).  As a result, the J/24 developed all across Chile, mainly in the lakes and some maritime bays. Today, there are around 150 J/24s in Chile.

J/70 Santander sailing Chiloe Regatta in ChileBut the story didn't end there.  In 2012, after the successful launching of the J/70 worldwide, the local dealer Juan Eduardo Reid started to promote this “little jewel” and formed the class in Chile.  Today,  there are 17 boats in Chile and probably 20 by the end of 2016.  Chile has the largest circuit of J/70’s in South America and already they have organized their 3rd National Championship with 13 boats in Lago Panguipulli- it's one of the most spectacular Patagonian mountain lakes and ranks amongst the best mountain sailing lakes in the world. A few of these teams will be sailing the first J/70 South Americans in Punta del Este, Uruguay!

J/70 Santander Bank sailing Chiloe regatta in ChileCommenting on the development of J/Boats sailing in Chile, Juan Eduardo said, “It was a special feeling in Chiloé looking at three  successful one-design classes (J/24, J/70, J/105) sailing in the regatta; it’s a summary of 25 years of J/Boats history in Chile.  Every boat has their own group of fans. The owners see the value of sailing in budget-friendly one-design formats and choose the class that fits the most with their sailing skills, boat preference, logistics, size and budget!  And, it was remarkable to see the two, only two, full women crews of Chiloé 2016 on J/Boats!"

"Our challenge for next Chiloé Regatta (2018), is to keep a good J/105 fleet and have a larger J/70 fleet. Also, I would love to see a couple of J/112E and J/122E teams sailing. Considering the great performance of both boats in IRC events, we are hoping to field some teams in the next Chiloe Regatta.”  For more J/Boats Chile sailing information