Just back from the first ever J Class World Championships, in Newport, RI. Absolutely one of the most incredible experiences of my sailing career. These are rebuilt originals or newly built replicas of the majestic 130ft J boats that were raced in the 1930’s Americas Cups. There has been a revival of the class, with up to eight of these boats now being actively raced. The class rules allow you only to build to original hull design plans, but you can use all modern technology for rigs and sails. So we now have this beautiful blend of old world design, mixed with the latest modern technology, and being raced as hard as you possibly can by some of the sports best sailors. It is an experience like no other. Absolutely the most challenging/scary/pleasurable driving role I have ever had, and some of the closest racing ever. All in some of the most beautiful sailboats ever designed. Quite the combination.
I sail onboard TOPAZ with a crew of over 30. This is only our third event together, and we still have hundreds of small steps to get this complicated boat even close to it’s full potential. LIONHEART from Holland has been racing for 5 years and have a very complete package of boat and team, and they sailed very well to win the event. We finished fourth, but managed to win 2 of the seven races, so we had our moments of joy.
Some of the photos from the event are truly incredible. To read more about the event and see some great photos, visit the J Class website at http://www.jclassyachts.com/events/j-class-world-championship-1
Up next for me is the final 52 Super Series event of the year onboard PROVEZZA in Mahon, Menorca, Spain in late September. We won our last event and so are hoping to continue the momentum and finish the year strong.
Traveling home now after finally, finally, wining a TP52 Super Series event in Porto Portals, Majorca, Spain. I say finally because we have been within reach on the final day in 4 of this year’s 5 events, but just couldn’t manage to close strong and win. But at this event we finally put it all together, and had the confidence and speed on the final day to get the job done.
I am particularly proud and happy with this win. First because it is the TP52 Super Series, which is the absolute highest level of big boat racing that exists today. Second, because of the great team that I achieved it with. PROVEZZA is a Turkish team crewed by a mix of amateur Turkish sailors and several pros like myself. To win against some of the all-pro teams that we were up against, brings back that special fight and reward of beating higher ranked teams, similar to what I tried to do from my little Virgin Islands nation. And finally, to win for Ergin Imre, the owner of our team, and one of the nicest gentlemen in the sport of sailing, proves that good guys really can win.
So headed back home now for two weeks and then it’s off to Newport, RI for the J Class Worlds on the mighty TOPAZ. A couple weeks later it will be the final race of the season on PROVEZZA in Menorca Spain. A busy time of year, but I love it; the challenge, the competition, the people, and the traveling to great places. Feeling most fortunate.
Currently flying back home from a long, three-regatta trip. First up was Bermuda in early June for two events, the Americas Cup Superyacht Regatta, and the Americas Cup J Class Regatta, both on the J boat TOPAZ. For those not familiar with the J Class, these are yachts from the 1930 Americas Cup era. They are being restored or built new to original 1930 designs in this incredible resurgence that is taking place in the class. It is akin to classic cars, being fitted with the latest in turbo charged engines (all carbon rigs and sails), and racing around a track in anger. For Bermuda we had 7 of these beauties racing, the most J Class yachts ever assembled in one place together. About 135 feet long and crewed by as many as 30, these are some of the most challenging yachts I have ever raced.
TOPAZ is J8, an unbuilt 1935 Frank C Paine A design. Frank Paine had previously designed the yacht “Yankee”, which was built by Lawleys in 1930. ‘J8’ has been researched by the Hoek office, and found to be a good all round performer. She is the longest waterline J Class designed, with the highest keel aspect ratio, combined with the lowest wetted surface area. Frank Paine had already calculated in the 1930s that it was better to take a penalty on an increased waterline length in a trade off against sail area and displacement.
We still have a lot to learn on J8, and many upgrades needed to be able to challenge the other J’s that are years ahead of us in this evolving class. But we showed signs of speed, and the crew did a great job keeping us in the hunt at both events, where I think we finished 5th.
Three hours after our final race ended in Bermuda I was on a charter flight to Sardinia, Italy where my next regatta was starting the following day!! My PROVEZZA team in the 52 Super Series had to do the training days without three of us who were in Bermuda racing J’s, but we made it in time, hopped on the boat, and started race 1 at 1300 hours that next day. We ran 3rd for most of the race, but ended up 4th in this opening race. We then fought over the remaining 4 days and 8 races against the other 10 teams in everything from light winds to 25 plus, and on short windward/leewards and long coastal courses, in one of my favorite places to race. It was a fantastic week, and all came down to the final leg, of the final race, to determine the winners. We rounded the last mark of that final race and headed for the finish in position to win the regatta. But in one of the cruelest outcomes I have felt in a while, the small shackle on the tack of our spinnaker failed, and in the minutes it took for us to recover, all of our opponents passed us. So from wining the regatta, we end up tied for 4th, and losing on the tie-break to finish 6th. Buggar!
But now that the tears have all dried, we will try to take confidence from this experience that we are capable of wining if we can piece it all together again.
I am now looking forward to a couple weeks at home to debrief, hit the reset button, and enjoy a little time off. Then I’m off to France to visit the Outremer yard and see my new Outremer 45 being built. This will be my European base in the coming years that I will live on between events and move between regattas. All work of course!! Following this visit to the yard I will fly directly to Palma Majorca Spain for the next 52 Super Series event where we currently sit in 4th for the season, and hungry to redeem ourselves from having that win stolen from us in Sardinia!
My newest partner Outremer Catamarans has just finished a complete upgrade to their website. Really impressive, with controllable camera angles for a virtual tour of their product line, and all the information you might need to learn about the Outremer brand. http://www.catamaran-outremer.com
I had two great events in March. First up was the Miami 52 Super Series on the TP52 PROVEZZA. It was another close one, where it all came down to the final day to determine the top five places. Our goal this year is to sail conservatively, minimize risk, and try to benefit from good average results. There are no discards during a regatta, or for the overall annual series, so avoiding a bad result is as important as winning one. It is a long series and we are a new team that is striving to improve with each event, so if we can achieve that, we will be satisfied. We finished on the podium in third, which is one better than our first event in Key West, so the team is satisfied and eager to keep improving. We are now building a new keel fin that we hope will bring a nice performance gain and help our chances in the coming events. Next up is the TP52 World Championship in Scarlino Italy in mid May.
My second event in March was the St. Barths Bucket on the mighty J Class TOPAZ. There were five of these magnificent J Class boats racing together on a combination of windward-leeward and around the island courses. It was some of the most incredible and intense racing I have ever done. The challenge of racing these yachts is as tough as any class of boat I have ever sailed. Strike that, it is tougher! Thirty crew, 140 foot full keel yachts that turn slowly, huge sail plans and loads on everything, and four other teams that are all out to win, makes for down right scary racing. But when you stop and look around, and realize that we are replicating the racing they did back in the early 1900 America’s Cups, on some of the most beautifully restored yachts ever built, you have to realize that it is an absolutely incredible life experience. The racing was great, super close, and our team did a great job getting us around the course without any incidents. We are a new team so must be content with a 4th against the others that have been at this for several years. These are very tricky boats to master, so we have a great challenge ahead of us learning with each new event. Next up for us are two events in Bermuda in June during the America’s Cup. Should be very interesting to race our 1930 vintage yachts around the foiling cats of todays Cup. I hope they are not too upset that we will have more entries in our J Class, than they have in the actual America’s Cup !!!
I just returned from a week at the Outremer yard in La Grande-Motte France meeting the team that I will be working with and seeing how they build catamarans. It was an awesome experience and I am even more excited to be getting my Outremer 45 later this year. The Outremer 4X just won the 2017 European Yacht of the Year.