Monday, July 23, 2018

J-LANCE 12 Crowned World Sailing Offshore Champion!

J/112E J-Lance 12 sailing worlds- champion (The Hague, The Netherlands)- The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championship started on Monday for the fleet of 90 yachts from 15 nations. The fleet represented a diverse cross section of teams from around the world comprised of seasoned champions, newcomers and older production cruiser/racers, as well as brand new custom racing designs being sailed by professional crews and Corinthian amateurs.

The championship was sailed under a unique regatta/ scoring format. Each boat had a mandatory IRC/ ORC rating.  And, for the ORC scoring, there were four winds ranges to select from.  The scores of each race were a combination of both your IRC and ORC handicap finish positions.  Then, the regatta format started with one long offshore race of 135nm, with a scoring gate at 60nm for Race 1 score, and the finish of the offshore counted as Race 2- for a 2x score that could not be thrown out.  Thereafter, it was four days of seven (7) windward-leeward inshore races right off the beaches of The Hague.

Class C had forty-nine boats from twelve nations across Europe; it was by far the largest most competitive class in the event with numerous World, European, and Olympic champions aboard many boats.  Starting so many big boats on one starting line proved to be a challenge with so many pro’s fighting for every millimeter of advantage! Most races started off with at least one general recall, and often more with the “U” flag flying.

J-Lance 12 team- winners Offshore Sailing WorldAfter starting themselves off in the depths of despair on the first day, posting a 1st & 40th as their first scores and starting out the regatta in 12th place, Gideon Messink’s team on the J/112E J-LANCE 12 (Nic Bol, Ko Stroo, Rick Bomer, Yves de Block, Martin Rinckes) staged the comeback of the century to climb back up the leaderboard and win an epic battle in the last race to be crowned World Champions.  What’s more, they did it sailing with only six (6) crew versus all their top competitors that sailed at maximum weight and bodies (8-9 people)! Despite their self-imposed handicap for righting moment, sailing in at least six races where crew weight on the rail mattered, the J-LANCE 12 team never lost their composure. They sailed smart and fast, and completed the regatta with a 1-40-4.5-1-3-5-10-3-(43) tally for 66.5 pts net and a five-point margin of victory.  Perhaps most remarkable about their performance was the fact the J-LANCE 12 team of mostly Dutch sailors had only one weekend of training on the boat, and all of them were brand new to the boat!  Here are the daily highlights below on how they accomplished their epic comeback.

Day 1- Saturday- Practice
Under bright sunny skies and a gentle 10 knots of wind, many entries made it out to the race areas to test the waters of the North Sea in preparation for the next day’s opening round of races in The Hague Offshore Sailing Worlds 2018. The conditions were perfect to test not only the racers and their inshore racing skills, but also the race committee team members led by Peter Anink on their skills of handling a highly competitive fleet.

Bruno Finzi, Chairman ORC, said, "ORC was founded almost 50 years ago as a service to the sailors, and for the past 20 years we have helped organize World Championships. We have been working towards a unified system, and are pleased to have this championship represent a good start towards this goal."

"Along with our partners in IRC-UNCL, we too are pleased with the efforts made to having this combined World Championship event," said Michael Boyd, past Commodore RORC. "There were many that have worked hard for this, and we thank them all."

J/112E J-Lance 12 sailing World Offshore regattaDay 2- Sunday/ Monday- Offshore Races 1 & 2
The sun continued to shine at the start of racing on the first day, with many thousands of beachgoers watching nearly a thousand sailors on their boats in the fleet start the long offshore race portion of the program.

Class B & C competitors were sent on a 135nm long course with a scoring gate set at 60nm. By having a scoring gate, race officials were able to scale two races at once, a clever and efficient way to fulfill the offshore sailing requirement in this championship, since the remainder of the week will feature only windward/leeward courses, with seven races planned for around-the-buoys.

Wind forecasts for the offshore race were consistent, with the forecast being a light northerly seabreeze, light enough to postpone the start from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM, as race managers had to wait to for the breeze to become steady enough to set a windward leg, before the fleet headed off on their respective courses. With the complex currents and numerous exclusion zones throughout the course areas, navigators would be busy all day and night.

But, it was not be easy; the light air conditions were tricky, and changes were in the forecast for the evening as the onshore northerly switches to being a light offshore east/southeaster at night, and then, switching back to being a light northerly onshore wind once the land starts heating up again in the morning (e.g. “reach for the beach”!).

At the first 60nm gate, the “1st offshore race” was concluded, with Gideon Messink's J/112E J-LANCE 12 scoring their first win of the regatta. 

However, the next 95nm proved to be a roller coaster ride for the J-LANCE 12 team. After leading the race for 110nm (both boat-for-boat and on corrected time) at the last mark rounding off the Netherlands coastline, it was just 25nm to go to the finish.  At 0700 hours, it looked good for the J-LANCE 12 team sailing in the light offshore southeasterly winds sailing down the rhumbline.  But, by 1100 hrs when the sun was up, heating up the shoreline quickly, the wind died and shifted onshore from the northwest, very light at first, then building into a seabreeze of 6-8 kts.  This wind scenario was predicted for over 48 hours by the weather models (gribs). Somehow, the J-LANCE 12 team did not get that “memo”. 

Just northwest of the harbor at Ijmuiden in the mid-morning breeze, about 25 miles from the finish, J-LANCE 12 and the X-37 Hansen were on rhumbline leading boat-for-boat.  However, like a car wreck on the highway, J-LANCE 12 stopped, followed by Hansen and the pack of 3 other boats around them- the Farr 30 Cheyenne (SWE), the Melges 32 Old Jug (GER) and the Cossutti 36 Katarina II (EST).

Meanwhile, the first boat from back in the midpack to “hit the beach” was the Waarschip 36 Hubo (NED), a solid and seemingly hopeless 5.0nm behind the leaders. They came on fast from nowhere to grab the lead by flying along the beaches and never let it go for the remaining 20 miles to the finish, bringing along with them a passing train of over two dozen boats. Other competitors, seeing Hubo do the end-around behind them, jumped on the train too, leaving those to the west helpless, with only Katarina and Hansen able to get out of the trap as they bailed much earlier than J-LANCE 12 by heading east as fast as they could go.

"We did not do very well in the first part of the race," said Hubo’s skipper Eric van Vuuren, "but we did have a game plan to hit the beach hard on the final leg and pick up the sea breeze late in the morning.”

"Besides the weather forecast and knowing the tides, we also used the AIS system quite a bit to see what the others were doing," said Hubo navigator John van der Starre (ironically, for J/Boats owners- you will recognize him as the co-owner of the famous doublehanded champion in the Netherlands sailing his J/122E AJETO).

The results were spectacular, slinging Hubo and others in their wake into the lead to finish well ahead of many other rivals who were ahead of them at the scoring gate by well over 5.0nm (in other words, they could not see the leaders at the time).

So, after all that drama in Class C, sitting in third was Alain Bornet's J/109 JAI ALAI (NED) on scores of 5-6; a beneficiary of jumping on the “Hubo train” down the coast in the lightly building onshore seabreeze.  Meanwhile, “out at sea”, J-LANCE 12 was eating “humble pie”, having to gybe inshore at a horrible angle, watching 25 boats sail past them and, ultimately, go from an easy winning position down to 20th place on corrected time (40 pts that could not be thrown out).  For them, tomorrow was only going to be a better day.

J/112E J-Lance 12 sailing off starting lineDay 3- Tuesday Inshore Races
In contrast to the past few days of light shifty winds, Tuesday’s superb 12-17 knot southerly breeze made for fast and furious racing on all courses. And, so even with a later 1300 start, Principal Race Officer Peter Anink informed everyone that two inshore races would be held to take advantage of the favorable conditions.

The southerly breeze combined with a south-flowing flood current to bring even more pressure on the water as well as some big waves, so all teams had to be at their best to avoid being over early at the starts and running into turning marks.

With an impressive crowd of 49 boats on the start line of the south course area, Class C was particularly difficult to control, but had only one general recall in the day's second race. On the Class C course area, the ORC High option was used for the first race, and the ORC Medium option for the second, as the tide diminished in strength.

Loving the conditions and working on their path to redemption was Messink’s J/112E J-LANCE 12.  After nearly winning the first race and settling for a 4th place, they won the second race comfortably to post their second bullet of the regatta. At the beginning of the day, they started in 12th place, after the first race of the day they had jumped up to 8th place, and with their win in the day’s finale, had leapt into 4th place; by far the single biggest leap up the standings of ANY boat in the regatta.  Yesterday’s winners were mostly Tuesday’s “dog meat”, virtually every single boat in the top ten from the previous day ALL had double-digit finishes; as a result, most of them got punished on the leaderboard, a scenario that will continue to unfold in a tough fleet of 49 world-class competitors.

More inshore racing was planned for Wednesday, but with an earlier start time of 1100 hrs. The wind forecast was in the light to moderate 7-11 knot range. The first race Wednesday would be the fifth in the series, and thus the worst scores among all but the long offshore race would be discarded, to further shuffle the standings.

J/112E sailing upwind of The Hague, NetherlandsDay 4- Wednesday Inshore Races
While there was no change at the top of the leaderboards, the fight for the other podium positions remained keen as the points totals tighten up going into tomorrow as the penultimate day of the event. And, unlike yesterday's booming southerly with its big waves, today's moderate flat-water conditions in a sunny southwesterly helped keep the action tight on both course areas.

Another significance to today's two races is that tomorrow's fifth inshore race will trigger a worst-race discard opportunity, and further compress the results: those teams who are otherwise strong but may have got unlucky in the short offshore race or one of the inshore races will now have a chance to advance.

In Class C, the fleet sailed in different winds than the A-B course further north: winds were lighter and shiftier, prompting race managers to do many course changes and score the two races using the Low Triple Number ratings. This fleet was also quite aggressive, earning numerous general recalls before the U flag went up to hold them back off the start line.

The class leader is holding on to their position, but slowly shedding their point advantage to the second place boat.  Gideon Messink's J/112E J-LANCE 12 is only one of two teams in the class who have nothing but single-digit scores for all the inshore races.  As a result, after two days of racing (5 races), they jumped from 12th to 2nd, an enormous delta against such a hot, competitive fleet of boats.

"We've been sailing very conservatively, until now," said Messink. "We had a bad result in the second offshore, maybe we could have prevented that one. The rest of the week, we've had good results, but that first place is going to be very hard. We don't have the illusion to win this regatta, but we're still going for a podium spot. Tomorrow, we'll try and find the Swedish First 36.7 Team Pro4u more on the water, and sail a bit less conservatively."

J/112E sailing downwind- Offshore Sailing Worlds- NetherlandsDay 5- Thursday Inshore Races
With yet another sunny day on the North Sea coast, and in a little gentler wind than in the last few days, another two inshore races were held. The completion of the first race prompted a discard of the worst race score for all competitors, with the exception of the twice-weighted long offshore race. And as predicted, this action compressed and dramatically reshuffled the results in Class C, making the race for the podium positions even tighter in this class.

And, for the first time, the Low range of ORC ratings was used to score the first race, but a slight pressure increase prompted race managers to shift to the Medium range in the second race.

In Class C, up until today, the highly modified First 36.7 Pro4U (SWE) had been doing so well that their lead looked unassailable, especially after their drop. However, two high scores earned today pushed them back to within reach of the reigning IRC European champion, Gideon Messink's J/112E J LANCE, only 7 points behind. Messink and his team have been strong in the inshore racing and scored their only double-digit result today in six inshore races sailed, so the Swedes are worried.

Pro4U's skipper Johan Tuvstedt said, "It was a really tough day for us, and tomorrow will be difficult. J-LANCE 12 is rated 10% faster than us, so we cannot control them. But, they can control us. If we had only ducked one boat we would not be in this position..."

He is referring to a mark rounding where tacking inside on a thin layline rather than ducking made them hit the mark, hook the mark, and in the ensuing chaos have to get the mark off and take penalty turns, leading to an uncharacteristic 24th place earned in the last race. So, its all on tomorrow for the Class C Gold!

J/112E J-Lance 12 tacking upwindDay 6- Friday- Epic, Dramatic Finale!
Going into the last day, J-LANCE 12 was seven points ahead on total points, but six points back on net points versus the regatta leader from day one- the Swedish crew on the modified First 36.7 Team Pro4u.  It was clear the objective for Messink’s J-LANCE 12 crew was to match race their rivals into the bottom of the fleet.

On a day that produced another beautiful breeze that was shifting back and forth from the northwest at around 6-10 kts, the J-LANCE 12 crew went to work at the 4:00 minute signal, match-racing their Swedish Team Pro4u rivals going into the start and simply matched them tack for tack, driving them deep down the fleet.  By the time the double windward-leeward race had finished, the J-LANCE 12 crew was ecstatic, celebrating  their epic win as they crossed the finish line, knowing this was their drop race and, more importantly, their competitor had to use their 39th as their toss race. In fact, the Swedes were driven so far down, they dropped from 1st on the leaderboard at the start of the day down to 3rd.  Messink’s crew won the regatta by five points net.  A truly amazing performance that will be talked about for a long time to come, especially, in European offshore sailing circles!

Another strong performance by a J/Team was posted by Alain Bornet’s J/109 JAI ALAI.  After the two offshore races at the beginning of the regatta, they stood in 3rd place.  In the next seven inshore races, they rode a roller-coaster, at one point dropping to 9th place, not surprising considering how tight the fleet was and how easy it was to pick up double-digit scores.  However, in the end they closed with three single-digit scores of 6.5-7-8.5 to leap back into the top five, finishing in 5th place- a great result for a J/109 in that fleet of 49 boats!  For more Offshore World Championship sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.