(St Petersburg, FL)- The fourth J/70 Midwinter Championship was held in St Petersburg, FL, hosted by the fabulous race management crew at St Petersburg YC that included PRO Todd Fedyszyn and experienced sailors and famous mark boat drivers like “Tommie”. The SPYC team had their hands full having to deal with the twin evils of an aggressively starting J/70 fleet coupled with adverse currents and a highly variable weather pattern. Despite the challenges, the SPYC crew worked hard to get off a six races series in what can only be described as classic Tampa Bay winter sailing weather- random and variable! In other words, the weatherman could have used a Mandelbrot set or Rorschach inkblot test and done a better job!
Despite the considerable odds stacked against them, the fifty-two J/70 teams (44% Corinthian) soldiered forth with great expectations onto Tampa Bay for the first day of racing on Friday. Sadly, despite many erstwhile attempts to get races off, characterized by none other than several general recalls, the racing had to be cancelled for the day due to lack of wind by midday. Consider the fact that first gun was at 1000 hrs and you get the picture. With the forecasted northerly dying by midday, and a very weak gradient flow across the region, there was a “less than zero” chance of racing that afternoon.
Given that Friday was a non-starter, the crew at SPYC knew they had to double-down to get the ball rolling. Saturday’s racing presented its challenges. The first race was an OK race, given that 30-45 degree shifts from 0 to 7 kts with massive streaks moving onto the sides of the course was considered fair. The second race was described by quite a few crews as a “non-race”- how else do you describe having the first two boats finish in the dying Norwester when the other 99% of the fleet dropped chutes and finished the last half of their race beating into the initial zephyrs of a southeast breeze to get to the downwind finish line? Nevertheless, that’s sailing. It is what it was. Recognizing the “two race fiasco” that marked the beginning of Saturday, the SPYC crew played the ultimate royal flush hand, waiting for quite some time to let the SW sea breeze to develop and get in one last race before sunset. That third race was a five-lap affair sailing in 6-12 kts with the entire fleet bathed in the hues of a glowing orange and red sunset at the finish line. A beyond belief beautiful finish to end the day.
Taking advantage of the “Long Island Sound” conditions in the first two races Saturday was John Brim’s crew on RIMETTE. They reveled in the light and fluky conditions, posting a 1-1, then scoring a 9th to lead the fleet by a considerable margin at the end of the day with just 11 points. They enjoyed a healthy advantage over Will Welles’ SCAMP in second with a 2-14-7 for 23 pts and Tim Healy’s NEW ENGLAND ROPES in third with a 16-4-4 for 24 pts. At the end of the day, leading the 20-boat Corinthians Midwinter Championship was James Prendergast’s USA167.
Brim notched his first of two bullets as racing began in about 6 knots of breeze. Welles and Joshua Goldman’s BUILDING A followed Brim in race one, and Prendergast and Bryan Cameron’s B-SQUARED in race two (when winds were about 5 knots but shifty). The most consistent conditions occurred during Saturday’s final contest when Ignazio Perez’s ZAQUERO took the top spot, ahead of the reigning Midwinter team of Darden/Hillard of HOSS and John & Molly Baxter’s TEAM VINEYARD VINES.
Given the weather forecast actually showed a real breeze and a real front moving across the Florida peninsula on Sunday morning at around 0400 hrs, the decision was made to start racing one hour earlier than the already early 1000 hrs start time. Not one team complained. The “dry front” rolled across on schedule at 0400 hrs, shockingly enough, and as crews headed out to the race course in a chilly 55 F morning, they were greeted by a spectacular sailing breeze in the 12-17 kts range.
Tim Healy’s NEW ENGLAND ROPES posted a 2-1 in the final two races to secure the Quantum J/70 Midwinter Championship. Able to drop a 16th from race one, the team of Healy, Nathan Housberg (bow), Alden Reid (trim) and Marcus Eagan (tactics) kept scores of 4-4-7-2-1 for 18 net points and the victory. Will Welles’ SCAMP finished a mere point behind Healy in second place, and John Brim’s RIMETTE took third with 28 points.
“This is the first time we’ve sailed together, so we were learning the whole time just how to work together and how to get our trim and tune right,” summarized Healy. “Slowly, we started to get everything down. We had some light breeze, but today was a little breezier with some chop. We were getting used to the settings so we could power through the chop.”
Three more races took place Sunday in breeze between 8 to 17 kts under clear, chilly skies. The day’s race winners were the Darden/Hillard team on HOSS, Ignacio Perez’s ZAQUERO (from Mexico) and Healy.
“Today was beautiful,” Healy said reminiscing on their final day’s performance. “We got up early, got out early and took advantage of the breeze. The Race Committee did a great job.” Of interest for your Tampa Bay WetNotes, they went left virtually every time on the first windward leg in every race and started left, too! It’s a Tampa Bay secret in dying northerlies- - - maybe, maybe not.
Of the seven women skippers competing, the largest yet in any major J/70 regatta, three finished in the top 15 overall. Nearly winning the last race was Darby Smith’s AFRICA, posting a 2nd to take 6th overall with a 19-6-6-6-53-2 record for 39 pts net (inc toss race). Second woman skipper was class newcomer Pam Rose, she sailed ROSEBUD to 8th place with top USA Match Racer Taylor Canfield calling tactics; she had a 11-7-8-17-11-9 scoreline for 46 pts net. Third woman skipper was 14 yr old Madelyn Ploch on USA 88, sailing with her father Mark Ploch, taking 14th overall with a 21-18-10-22-8-3 tally for 60 pts net. Notably, without throw-outs in the event, all three women would have finished in the top 11 overall- Pam’s ROSEBUD tied for 5th, Madelyn’s USA 88 in 10th and Darby’s AFRICA in 11th!
The regatta was held with J/70 Class Rule C.3 modified so that the entire crew was limited to no more than one member who is classified as ISAF Group 3. The 52-boat fleet was comprised of 20 all-Corinthian teams (44% of the fleet), won by Andrew & Melissa Fisher’s BUTTON FLY from Long Island Sound, followed by Charles Bayer’s LIL’GRIZZLY in 2nd, Bryan Cameron’s B-SQUARED in 3rd, David Mendelblatt’s USA 39 in 4th and the SPYC JUNIOR SAILING TEAM’s Blaire McCarthy in 5th place (they were also the top youth team). For more J/70 Midwinters sailing information. Add to Flipboard Magazine.