Postcards from Paradise – J/24 National Championship
Editors note: The following is a a report filed by Kent Bartlett – J World Annapolis Coach – who is in Newport this week racing in the J/24 National Championships.
For Shifty, the first race of the J/24 US National Championships was a back to basics boot camp with mental highs and lows, itchy heads as to what the future would hold, and short periods of insanity. Here’s a leg by leg break down of Race 1 on the twice around windward-leeward courses with gates and an offset.
At 1100 with the fully overcast sky the breeze was at 11 knots with puffs in the 13-14 range from about 65-75 degrees magnetic north. The first leg of the first race proved to us (yet again) that being the pinball in the middle of the course doesn’t do squat. We stayed in phase when we weren’t trying to clear our breeze but too many tacks and trying to lead boats back without a clear strategy just does not work. End of leg 1, 35th.
Downwind and in the back of the fleet we opted to gybe earlier rather than later and keep our clean air as much as possible. We picked up on the fella’s in front of us that also gybed and defended the competitors behind on the same gybe but the right side of the course had slightly more pressure and a late right shift over the course meant we had to sail more distance and subsequently lost the ones who opted to hold around the windward mark; every single one of them. End of leg 2, 38th
After rounding the favored right gate when facing down wind we opted to do a quick clearing tack and stay on the left of the race course. Easing the jib halyard also gave us better point which made holding lanes way easier and stopped us from pinching to keep clear of any leeward boats near us. With more breeze and surprisingly more lanes to hold we were able to stay in phase and stop tacking so darn much although we were limited in how many shifts we could take advantage of towards the end of the leg. End of leg 3, 20th.
Holding our starboard tack after the offset put us on the favored side of the course yet again with boats behind us trying to get on our breeze. We defended by just keeping our air clean and working down in small waves and the puffs giving us enough separation to gybe and cross back to the middle of the course after sailing about 65% of the leg. Being happy to get covered when we wanted to gybe we went just past the starboard tack layline for the pin and kept the boat heated to punch through spinnakers going low in the middle of the course. End of race 1, 17th.
I’ll spare you from the details of race two and three (or rather spare me) but an unexpected, slow building, and short lived 45 degree right shirt during the 2nd race helped us grind back competitors on the 3rd leg who went right and weren’t able to play what turned out to be a crazy oscillation. On race 3 an early 25 degree persistent left shift prompted race committee to move the windward mark to the left but made the last leg a reacher to the finish when it shifted back with interest about 40 degrees total. Race 3 was going ok for us until we ripped a 5 foot hole in out kite at the leeward mark rounding. We lost the weight on the rail back up wind to slap some tape on it to remain competitive downwind but missed a smaller but still big hole in the kite. We lost a couple boats upwind but fended off the rest of our attackers downwind whose prayers for our spin to fail could not overpower my temporary satanic chanting containing mostly curse words. I wasn’t using my soul anyways.