Saturday, December 24, 2016

What are the ingredients for one-design class success?

J/105 Mandata- with Terry McLaughlin as skipper(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)-  Terry McLaughlin shares commentary on why the J/105 has been fun to sail for him, his family and friends.  Terry has earned his place at the pinnacle of Canadian sailing: Olympic medalist, Pan American Medalist, World Champion, Canada’s Cup winner, America’s Cup skipper, and so on. When Terry goes racing today, you’ll find him in the J/105 class. Why? Read on:

J/105: This North American Championship had one of the highest attendances in many years. What keeps a 25-year-old boat like the J/105 relevant in 2016?

TM: I often comment that the J/105 is a great and comfortable boat to sail. Unlike a lot of boats, I find it very nice to race on whether you are at the back of the boat, in the middle or up front. I like the fact that you can go down below and comfortably sit or lie down when waiting for races to start. It is not a modern foiling multihull, but speeds between boats are similar and that provides close racing.

J/105: The breeze was on for all seven races. In those circumstances, what is the most important factor during the start? Upwind? Downwind?

TM: In the NAs this year, we had good breeze and big waves on the first day and then quite strong, gusty winds with less waves on the weekend. On Friday, there was little wind, and we didn’t quite complete the one race that was started. In the breeze and current, having a good idea of exactly where the starting line is was key. It was important to have a bowman who was good at getting transits on land and being able to use those transits in the large fleet. We also put a lot of emphasis on getting good pings with our Velocitek ProStart. This always gave us a good idea of how far back from the line we were. Upwind in the breeze, it was important to have the headstay as straight as possible, and when necessary move the jibs leads back enough so that we didn’t lose the mainsail. Downwind in the puffy conditions, it was important to move the crew weight fore and aft depending on whether the puff was on or not, and always have someone with a hand on the vang, especially coming out of a gybe. As we learned in race six, it is also important not to allow both spinnaker sheets to wrap themselves around the same winch in a heavy air gybe!!

J/105 Mandate- McLaughlin and Wilmer at LarchmontJ/105: You also won the North Americans in Toronto two years ago, which was more of a light air regatta. What are the ideal conditions for a J/105?

TM: The J/105 is more of a challenge in the light air, as it is somewhat of an underpowered boat. The first thing we did when we bought Mandate is to switch over from wheel to tiller steering. I think there is much more feel in the light air with a tiller. When the breeze is on, the boats come alive. The good thing is that, as the fleet proved in Larchmont, most crews can handle the boat in 20-30 knots of wind.

J/105: Many Classes seem to struggle with attracting youth and women sailors. What can the J/105 Class do to better appeal to those demographics?

TM: We might not be the best example of a coed crew. Perhaps it is the name of our boat that keeps us usually as a male crew. There are quite a few women in the fleet in Toronto, including two woman skippers. The Class crew weight limit promotes lighter crew members on boats when the crew includes some big guys. Lighter can often mean female or youth, both of which are good for the Class. In Toronto, it is the most competitive one-design fleet, so that does attract younger sailors.

J/105: Do you prefer to have a throw-out race when a certain amount of races has been completed? Why or why not?

TM: It is my belief that in a lengthy series like the NA’s where 11 races were scheduled, having a throw-out after six or seven races have been completed makes sense. It is one thing to reward consistency, but having your regatta score ruined by one breakdown, OCS or just an off race can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth.

J/105: The J/105 Class has detailed Rules limiting sail tag purchases and professional sailors. Did that play a role in why you got involved with the Class? Do these Rules sustain the Class or are they restricting it?

TM: I think the sail restriction and Category 1 rules are good for the Class. They both assist in controlling the cost of campaigning a J/105. I am not sure that my boat partner Rod Wilmer and I would have bought into the Class if we thought it was going to be any sort of an arms race to be competitive!  We Canadians have to make every dollar work without losing our shirts, you know?  If Stu J just bought more Dubarry boots for his lovely wife Julia, we could afford more sails (or beer)!”