Twenty-two J/109s raced in Class at Cork Week two weeks ago, with the Isle of Wight’s very own Malcolm Thorpe claiming a dramatic victory in King Louie. Malcolm seized this impressive win only on the very last gybe of the entire regatta. This was the first time the 35 foot J/109s had raced in their own Class at Cork; the largest one-design Class on the water this year. Malcolm has brought his trophy home to the island and is busy preparing for another fight, this time in his home waters.
Skandia Cowes Week (which starts on Saturday 29th of July) is the battleground on which twenty-one J/109s, including the all-conquering King Louie, will race in a new One-Design class. This new Class will help to ensure the most exciting racing for all of the competitors and it will also guarantee superb viewing for Skandia Cowes shore-side spectators.
The J/109s are all the like for like or ‘one-design’, and this means that the first boat to cross the finish line wins the race and that there is no complicated handicap system to be applied after the race has been sailed. Add to this the fact that the Class is wide open in terms of a favourite to win the regatta, and it’s easy to understand why the J/109 fleet will be the one to watch this year.
J/109 Zelda, which is owned by Mike Ewart-Smith and Ben Richards (previously Sigma 33 owners), is probably where the smart money will go. Zelda won both the J/109 National Championship in 2005 and the Bridgestone Tyres Trophy for top J/109 at Skandia Cowes Week. Mike and Ben have also recently completed the grueling double-handed Round Britain race in Zelda.
John Perry and Philip Smith will be sailing the J/109 Firestorm. The team racing this 2006 boat has already achieved podium finishes in the Yarmouth and Deauville J/109 One-Design regattas. John and Philip’s previous Firestorm was a Prima 38 and before that they owned another Sigma 33. All of the Firestorms, including the current J/109, have been easily recognizable by their stunning red graphics.
David McLeman joins the J/109 Class this year with the brand new Offbeat. One of this season’s newest launchings, this will be Offbeat’s first major regatta. Since selling his Sigma 33 David has kept his hand in the sport firstly with a Mumm 30 and then a 30 foot trimaran.
Showing fantastic form earlier this year with a convincing Class win in the Warsash Spring Series, were Mike and Sarah Wallis in their J/109 Jahmali. Mike and Sarah have masses of J Boats experience; Jahmali is their second J/109 and they previously owned and raced a J/105, the 34 foot smaller sister to the J/109. Mike, Sarah and their team could very easily win the week.
Finally, Chaz Ivill will be looking to win the week again in 2006 thereby repeating his 2004 performance when he finished top of the Class. Chas is sailing Johnny Blue II (his second J/109) and he is showing blistering pace at the moment having secured a convincing J/109 EuroCup win at Deauville International Week in June.
The J/109 is a modern 35 footer with a massive asymmetric spinnaker set on a retractable bowsprit. The boats are easily distinguishable and they all carry the J/109 logo on their mainsails. In 2002 J/109 Number 18 Waverider was the Skandia Cowes Week Black Group Overall Champion. The J/109 fleet has now grown to 300 boats worldwide and there are 65 boats sailing in the UK and Ireland.