Class President Rick Lyall Looks Back at 2009

Fellow J109 Class Members,

Time flies. As we enter the last month of 2009, it seems remarkable that another year, and more importantly, another sailing season, at least for those of us in the northern half of the US, is coming to an end. As we reflect on the year, I’m sure many of you have mixed feelings. Some are sorry to see another year pass. Others are happy to wish 2009 good riddance given the economic challenges and volatile markets that have affected all of our lives.

I look back on 2009 with mixed feelings too. On the one hand, I am pleased with the high level of competition in the class, especially at high profile events in both the US and Europe. I am also pleased with the level of enthusiasm owners have for the class and their boats. During 2009 I have witnessed and heard many stories of J109 owners having terrific experiences competing in one-design events. There are just as many stories of owners finding success at the top of IRC or PHRF fleets. On top of that, there are colorful tales of owners undertaking adventures sailing to all corners of the planet or just kicking back with family and friends enjoying the comfort of their home waters. As owners, we are generally uniform in our appreciation of our J109s because they give us great tremendous flexibility in the variety of ways we can enjoy them.

So how, you may ask, does this create mixed feelings? The mixed feelings arise solely from the fact that participation at J109 events across the US was generally lower than it was one and two years ago. I suspect this reflects the impact of a difficult economy and hope that this proves transitory as the US economy recovers. The J109 fleet got its first class start at the Annapolis NOOD and I’d like to commend Fleet Captain Bill Sweetser and Fleet 4 for sponsoring the first J109 Mid-Atlantic Championship. Bill and his fleet also and initiated the first annual East Coast Regatta Series, awarded to the yacht with the best-combined performance at the Annapolis and Larchmont NOOD regattas. I was very pleased to see that our UK classmates set a new bar by turning out 32 boats for Cowes Race Week.

I had the pleasure of competing at a variety of events this year including the American Yacht Club Spring and Fall Series, New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, J109 East Coast Championships at Block Island Race Week, and the J109 North American Championships at the Verve Cup in Chicago. I would like again to thank Pete Priede and Fleet 10 for the superb job they did hosting the J109 North Americans. It was the first time this fleet had hosted a J109 Championship level event and it turned out to be terrific for all those that attended.

So what lies ahead for the class? As I noted, I hope the level of participation at US class events improves with the economy. I also hope the UK and other fleets in Europe sustain their high level of commitment. Based on conversations with a number of fleet captains and owners, I suggest we also consider changing class rules to allow owners the flexibility to change jibs and spinnakers at will during races to adapt to changing conditions. With proper sail registration, I believe we can do this and preserve the one design nature of the class while providing owners a better opportunity to protect their investments in sail inventory. We are delinquent in having this discussion with fleet captains and the executive committee but I hope we can put this in place to take effect next year.

Finally, while it is an honor to work on behalf of the class, I feel it is time for a new group of leaders to take the reins. The two-year term for the current slate of officers expired in October but we were unable to identify a group of successors willing to lead the class during its next chapter. I want to thank my fellow officers: Steve Tedeschi, Vice President, Ed Dailey, Secretary, Ric Campeau, Treasurer and Adrian Begley, Class Measurer, for their efforts and ask them to continue to lead the class for a while longer. I would also encourage you, my fellow classmates, to step up, volunteer your time and take a turn at the helm. I can promise a rewarding experience working with a great group of Fleet Captains and an opportunity to learn from and interact with a terrific group of owners. We look forward to hearing from you!

Please accept my best wishes to you, your families and your crews for the holidays and for a health and Happy New Year!


Rick Lyall
J109 Class President

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