Sunday, October 2, 2016

The J/88 RAMBLER Report

J/88 sailing off Chicago- Lake Michigan(Chicago, IL)-A report sailing the J/88 on the Lake Michigan Bi-State Race from owner Ben Wilson!

PART 1 – RAMBLER’s, let’s get Ramblin’
As we found out in 2014 & 2015, the J/88 is a perfect boat for Lake Michigan Distance Racing and the 2016 Bi-State Race was no different. Andy Graff on EXILE, Ben Wilson on RAMBLER, & Boyd Jarrell on SLOT MACHINE were looking forward to some close racing on the 50 mile sprint from Chicago across the lake to St. Joe. That is exactly what the 88’s had – close racing. STARBOARD!!

On the evening of September 2, the night of racing was shaping up nicely. Winds 10-15kts, low sea, and good chilly weather. With St. Joe approximately 75 degrees off Chicago and the direction ENE 70-80 degrees, it was time to think tactics. When would the wind go ESE per the forecast? When will we get to use our Code 0? Do we point to sail less miles or do we foot off for speed and head way right of rhumb? Decisions..decisions..

As the 15 boats in PHRF Section 4 began, we started to see who wanted what, pin or boat. Although a distance race, RAMBLER has found that getting off in front is important with the 88’s. Right before the start, RAMBLER finds SLOT MACHINE and EXILE, EXILE looking to take off on the pin end with under 2 minutes to the start. STARBOARD! STARBOARD! RAMBLER had a port starboard issue with another PHRF 4 boat and after licking her wounds on the starboard rear aft quarter of the boat – RAMBLER decided to keep racing. As stated by Ben Wilson, “RAMBLERs, let’s get Ramblin’”. With that, RAMBLER re-focused and it was time to go chase Andy Graff & the crew of EXILE around the lake. The 88’s were off to St. Joe!

 Through the night EXILE and RAMBLER traded the lead, heading right of rhumb and getting to the Michigan/Indiana shore as fast as they could. With average speeds of 7-8 knots, things seem to be moving nicely upwind. RAMBLER and EXILE were the right most boats of the entire fleet for the night and it seem to pay. RAMBLER was the first Section 4 boat to call in 1 mile from the finish, feeling good about themselves for about 5 seconds..EXILE calls in one mile from the finish! It was going to be an exciting finish and RAMBLER was fired up. WHERE THE HELL IS EXILE!?!

RAMBLER was able to pull out a victory after EXILE hit a hole a half a mile from the finish. Luck was on RAMBLERs side that night as they won section 4 honors and took 5th Overall out of 110 boats.

J/88s sailing Chicago Bi-State RacePART 2 – EXILE gets pay back
To say that racing was close on the way back from St. Joe would be an understatement. As Andy Graff said post-race, “We traded leads 6 or 8 times and I don’t think we were ever more than 600 feet away from each other the whole day”. Over 50 miles of racing, that’s pretty close considering the distance sailed. Boyd Jarrell from the J/88 SLOT MACHINE was right in the mix for the day too.

The Sunday morning for the second leg of the Bi-State brought some really nice weather. Sunny, low sea, ESE breeze from 10-15 knots brought welcomed thoughts of sending it home under spinnaker – and that’s just what the 88’s did. SENT IT!

Boat handling proved to be the deciding factor in this race. From the EXILE hourglass at the start, to RAMBLER shrimping a kite because they didn’t rig the second tack line for a peel, to sailing too deep…every mistake gave the opponent boat lengths and brought lead changes. With RAMBLER, EXILE, and SLOT MACHINE clipping along downwind with boat speeds of 8-10kts, life was good. At mile 25 on the way home, the little things proved to be important as EXILE was able to sail course with speed while RAMBLER sailed hotter but couldn’t find the speed to get back up to the finish. Boyd Jarrell and SLOT MACHINE brought their “A” game, never far off the leaders for the duration of the day.

In the end, EXILE proved to be too much for RAMBLER & SLOT MACHINE on the Sunday race going home – taking line Honors in Section 4 and, based on corrected times, may have taken the day on the fleet Overall.  What’s also impressive on the day is that the J/88’s took the podium in Section 4 finishing 1-2-3 on the day. THE 88’s PERFECT END TO A GREAT SAILING WEEKEND!!”