Monday, September 26, 2016

The ALCATEL J/70 Worlds Preview

Alcatel J/70 Worlds (San Francisco, CA)- For starters, the expectations for the 2016 ALCATEL J/70 Worlds are truly phenomenal.  In fact, they are off the seismic charts!  The stage is simple- San Francisco Bay- the infamous Berkeley Circle.  The setting could not be more spectacular.  Surrounded by the magnificent city waterfront of San Francisco and its skyscrapers to the south, the engineering marvel known as the Golden Gate Bridge on its western approaches, the gorgeous hilly and fashionable northern suburbs of Sausalito/ Tiburon to the north, the “brainiacs” occupying the University of California- Berkeley campus on the eastern mountainsides, and, of course, the extraordinary vibe of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs vibrating all around you, it is inescapable that you are living a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail amongst the world’s best sailors.

The talent?  Mind-blowing, truly.  World-class talent from across all spectrums of the sport of sailing.  The short list of the fleet’s credentials?  America’s Cup winners, Olympic Gold Medallists (and everything in between), World Champions, European Champions, North American Champions, and any number of National Champions (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong- China).  There are more, we know, but we lost track!

For the seventy-nine teams entered, it’s like visiting the Holy Grail of Sailing and living to tell the tales to your friends and children (grand-children in some cases) after the experience.  By default, it may be the world’s biggest reunion of so many top sailors; perhaps one could describe it as the “Woodstock” of sailing since so many rock-stars are participating!

Alcatel J/70 Worlds sailing past markFrom September 27 to October 1, sailors can expect some of the finest annual conditions this world-class venue reliably delivers.  San Francisco Bay enjoys a storied reputation for breeze-on summer sailing.  Late September, however, usually offers Indian Summer conditions, featuring warm days with slightly moderated airs.  Along with breeze, the Bay is notorious for its currents and tides, which have challenged world-class professional sailors racing everything from powerful keelboats to foiling catamarans. Fortunately, the Berkeley Circle racecourse is located on shallow, tide-protected waters, out of the slippery influence of the swiftest-flowing current that rake the Bay’s deeper waters.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  As some have discovered over the “course” of time! It is an “ebb-tide” event, which produces some extraordinary anomalies on the Bay!  Some will figure it out, some will not.

“Expectations are high for this event,” said Lynn Lynch, St. Francis Yacht Club’s Race Director. “Model sailing conditions, world-class talent, top-level race management and unbelievable socials will all come together to result in a World Championship worthy of the fastest-growing fleet in the world of one-design sailing. The anticipation is palpable, and we are expecting people to come ready for some serious competition.”

J/70's sailing Alcatel J/70 World ChampionshipA glance at the 2016 ALCATEL J/70 Worlds entry list reveals star-studded boats from 15 nations, including former J/70 World Champions, Tim Healy (HELLY HANSEN) and Julian Fernandez Neckelmann (FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO); former J/70 North American Champions Jud Smith (AFRICA) and Joe Bardenheier/ Heather Gregg (MUSE); as well as former J/70 European Champions Carlo Alberini (CALVI NETWORK) and Claudia Rossi (PETITE TERRIBLE). Additionally, this impressive list also includes world-class tacticians such as local San Franciscan John Kostecki, the only sailor to have ever won an Olympic medal, the J/24 Worlds, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race!  John is sailing with Joel Ronning’s incredibly talented team on CATAPULT that includes crew like Patrick Wilson from Charleston, SC.  Joining him in on the course are two former US Sailing Rolex Yachtsmen of the Year winners- Bill Hardesty (2011) on board Julian Fernandez’s crew on FLOJITO Y COOPERANDO and Paul Cayard (1998) on Carlo Alberini’s CALVI NETWORK; the former having won two Etchells 22 World Championships and the later the Star World Championship and the Volvo Ocean Race!  In other words, these teams have tremendous depth!

“The class’ level is going up very fast, with more talented sailors joining every year,” said 2015 J/70 World Champion and 2016 J/70 North American Champion, Julian Fernandez Neckelmann; a former J/24 Mexican National Champion from Valle de Bravo (west of Mexico City). While this surge in numbers and skill levels could overwhelm some classes and hosting clubs, there’s a reason this hugely popular class chose its hosting partner. “The St. Francis Yacht Club and the J/70 class will certainly provide excellent race management,” continued Neckelmann. “San Francisco is one of my favorite racing scenarios in the world… It would have been hard to choose a better place!  Plus, you cannot beat Mel’s Drive-In for breakfast in the morning- a San Francisco classic!”

Alcatel J/70 Worlds in San Francisco, CAIf that group described doesn't perform, there are any number of “mercenaries” that could displace them quite quickly given an even chance across a broad spectrum of weather conditions.  For example, past US Team Racing and Coronado 15 Champion Jacko Franco on 3BALL JT from Kemah, TX; J/24 North American Champion Pat Toole on 3 BIG DOGS from Santa Barbara, CA; Michele Galli’s B2 from Italy and Moscow, Russia (Francesco D’Angelis as tactician- J/24 Worlds and America’s Cup winner); Per Von Appen’s BLACK SAILS from Chile (National Champion); Mauricio Santa Cruz’s BRUSCHETTA from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (4x J/24 World Champion); Matthieu Salomon’s CHARIOT PLUS- VANNES UTILITAIRES from Elven, France (French J/80 Champion); the Nevin/Chris Snow team on COOL STORY BRO (skipper is USA Collegiate Sailor of the Year); Makoto Uematsu’s ESMERALDA (yes, same guy who started TP52 offshore class from Tokyo, Japan with a number of TP52’s by the same name); Bob Hughes’ HEARTBREAKER from Ada, MI (Farr 40 Great Lakes Champion and Chicago-Mac winner); Martin Dent’s JELVIS VII from London, England (J/111 World & Cowes Week Champion); Jose Maria “Pichu” Torcida’s NOTICIAS from Spain (2x J/80 World Champion and Europeans winner); Peter Duncan’s RELATIVE OBSCURITY from New York (Etchells 22 Champion); Peter Vessella’s RUNNING WILD from San Francisco (Star World Champion); Jim Cunningham’s LIFTED (Etchells 22 Midwinters & National Champion); Brian Keane’s famously fast team on SAVASANA from Boston (2x J/105 Midwinters and J/80 World Champion that includes USA 49er Olympian Stu McNay as tactician); Bruno Pasquinelli’s STAMPEDE from Ft Worth Boat Club in Texas; Chris Raab’s SUGOI from Newport Beach, CA (Lido 14 & Snipe National Champion and USA National Team Race and Master’s Team Race Champion); Simon Ling’s TEAM RAF SPITFIRE from Poole, England (2015 J/70 Worlds Corinthian Champion and JP Morgan Round Island Race winner); and that is just to name a few in the talent pool!

With such an extraordinarily diverse group of sailors from across the planet, it can be safely said that everyone will have a fun, competitive time!  No question, the StFYC bar afterwards will be full of “sea stories” about how they navigated a 79 boat starting line and went the right (wrong) direction!  Time will tell the tale soon enough!  Watch this space next week, starting on Tuesday!   For more information about ALCATEL  For more ALCATEL J/70 World Championship sailing information