“Our J/70 Team is comprised of junior sailors from the SPYC Junior Program, myself (skipper), Emma Shakespeare (Main Trimmer), Cameron Delgado (Head sail and Spinnaker trimmer), Callista Hopkins (Tactician) and Heather Kerns (Bow). We are all former Opti Sailors who are on the SPYC Laser Team, SPYC Offshore Team, and our individual High School Sailing Teams. Most of us have gained keelboat experience in several classes and with the great support of our local J/24 Fleet.
When SPYC purchased a fleet of J/70’s, we turned our focus on building a team and training to campaign for the J/70 Youth Championships. The first practice as a full team was in January on a 25-knot day and we were definitely hooked. Our combined knowledge of keelboats allowed us to quickly begin improving. Coming together as a team was not a challenge, which is great considering our team is made up of all skippers!
At the Helly Hansen St Petersburg NOOD Regatta, we were accompanied by Mike Marshall, a professional sailor who helped prepare us for Midwinters, the following weekend. Because Heather Kerns, our bow girl, was going to be sailing C420 Midwinters the weekend of the NOOD Regatta, we were able to have Mike fill in for Heather on the bow.
The NOOD regatta helped us prepare for the Midwinters as we had yet to sail against other boats. Going into the event, the team knew we were not going to be the best but we knew we would be competitive. Our only goal was to improve with each race and come out of it having increased our skills.
Our first race turned out to be our worst race, a 23rd. As the youngest boat in the fleet, we were pleased with ourselves, but all knew that we could do better. And we did. The next race, we got a fifth and quickly learned how compact the fleet would be and how everything we did, maneuvers or tactical calls, would mean we would either gain or lose multiple boats.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get another fifth, but we came out of each race having learned something and communicating better, exactly as we had planned. We are very appreciative of Mike Marshall for helping us learn so much about J/70 sailing, as well as Helly Hansen who sponsored us as their Youth Boat- meaning we were decked out in matching Helly Hansen gear!
The J/70 Midwinters brought similar conditions, light and choppy. Unfortunately, were only able to practice once during the week due to an illness that seemed to be passed around each of our schools. But, we were still ready and excited to compete as a Corinthian boat with an average age of 15.
Our main goal of course was to beat the other junior boats and qualify for the J/70 Youth Championships, but as competitive sailors, we were keen on improving our starts, specifically acceleration, and our downwind tactics. We had so much fun at the Midwinters and really enjoyed being able to compete with professional sailors, many of whom had been idols of ours when we started sailing.
The J/70 is fast and fun, but what really stood out to us was the quality of racing and being part of a class where, as juniors, you can be respected and even get to do some pre-race tuning with World Champions (a huge help!).
Preparations for the J/70 Youth Championships are underway with training and racing planned to make sure we are ready. J/Boats and the St Petersburg Yacht Club have given us a great opportunity and we intend to make the most of it!” Add to Flipboard Magazine.