Sixteen J109s battled it out at the North American Championships, held last month during Race Week at New York Yacht Club. Conditions were somewhat lighter and shiftier than we have grown accustomed to in recent years, and after four days of tight racing Storm, owned and skippered by Rick Lyall, rose to the top of the fleet. Your Class Secretary caught up with Rick recently, to get his take on the event:
Rick: I would say there were four elements that contributed to our success: 1) Boat preparation: the boat was in good shape. We had a bunch of little things fixed and had the bottom wet sanded before the regatta. I think this contributed to our boat speed. 2) Sails: we had a new jib and spinnaker for this regatta and last years main. I thought we had great boat speed and point so the combination of the sails and bottom certainly contributed to that. 3) Tactics: I think this is an area where we really excelled. Kerry (Klingler) brought his A game and consistently put us in a position to benefit from favorable wind shifts. I think this was key in achieving consistently good results. If we got off the line clean, we finished first or second in the race. This was a combination of tactics and boat speed. The only times we had problems were when we were OCS in race 2 (8th) and bunched in at a start (race 7) and had to take the entire fleets stern to break free (6th). Finally, I thought our crew work was terrific. We made a few mistakes but none that resulted in a poor finish in any race. What I really liked is that whenever we had a poor race, we came back and won the next race. Keeping your composure is very important and I am very pleased that my crew kept their heads in the game and kept fighting to the end. So in summary, the boat was fast, tactics were great, and we did not make that many mistakes. If you get those things right you generally put yourself in a position to contend for a spot on the podium.
Competition: I thought the fleet was very competitive. Everyone sailed well. Coming into the regatta I expected Gut Feeling, Rush, and Caminos to be the toughest competitors based on results the last few years. Gut Feeling always sails well in Newport and they have 3 North American championships to show for it. Ted and Andy Herlihy are very smart and tough competitors and I always expect them to be up near the top. I think Rush had won every regatta they had entered in 2012 so they were definitely sailing well. Bill Sweetser and crew have been East Coast champions the last 3 years as well as East Coast Regatta Series champions. Caminos has also been right up there on the podium at the big regattas the last few years, finishing second at Block Island, third at the NAs last year, and second at the Annapolis NOOD this year. We knew they would be tough too. I thought Jim Vos on Skoot had a terrific regatta. They only had a couple of finishes outside the top 5 and they showed great boat speed. Matt Baker on Reliant is new to the class but they sailed well too. That rounds out the top five but results were very close among the next 9 finishers proving how competitive this fleet was.
I would also add my thanks to NYYC and the White Fleet race committee. I thought they ran an excellent regatta. The committee showed patience waiting for good racing conditions and they were not shy about calling it a day when prospects did not look promising. They were very competitor friendly and that contributed to the success of the event. With the largest one design class at the regatta and terrific, competitive racing, this was clearly a testament to the strength of the J109 Class. I hope we will continue the tradition of holding our North Americans at NYYC Race Week every other year.