Split Personality Conditions at Day Three of the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds Hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club
Mother Nature had some surprises in store for the 68 boats that assembled on the Berkeley Circle for the third day of racing at the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club, namely split personality conditions that tested each boat's light- and heavy-air skills, as well as their patience as conditions played tricks on racers and the Race Committee alike. While the breeze varied, consistency proved its importance as several teams stayed fast, irrespective of the breeze and its meandering moods.
Winds of 5-10 knots and a flood tide awaited sailors as they began the downwind run to the Berkeley Circle, which is located some 7 nautical miles northeast of St. Francis Yacht Club. With a stronger left-hand component to the breeze than previous days, the Race Committee set the windward mark due east from Alcatraz Island, allowing boats to catch a fast, tide-powered ride to the leeward gate, a procession that was lead by Joel Ronning’s Catapult (USA 187), with hometown hero John Kostecki calling tactics. The breeze slowly built as the fleet swapped their kites for their headsails and Trey Sheehan’s Hooligan: Flat Stanley (USA 389) and Jack Franco’s 3 Ball JT (USA 3) hotly pursued Catapult.
Flash forward to the finishing line, and Catapult strutted to a clean win sailing wing-on-wing, followed by Hooligan: Flat Stanley and Claudia Rossi’s always-fast Petite Terrible (ITA 853). “It felt great to get in a fairly light-air race,” said Ronning, immediately ex post facto. “I’ve got a fabulous crew, and they knew what to do! I listened to [Kostecki], and we kept the boat going fast.”
While Ronning made his win sound simple, there was nothing straightforward about what unfurled next. The Race Committee started their countdowns for race two, the starting gun sounded, the boats launched off into gathering airs before popping their kites at the offset mark, and—with Jud Smith’s Africa (USA 179), Catapult, and Petite Terrible hammering for the leeward gate—the race was abandoned due to a course that was no longer square to the wind.
Principal Race Officer Mark Foster personally apologized to the fleet for this abandonment, but the racers themselves were to blame for the next two starts, which resulted in general recalls as the outgoing tide flushed boats over the line in advance of the clock. The Race Committee noted—via VHF channel 69—that 40-some boats were OCS in the second general-recall start, and that they would be conducting the next start under the dreaded U flag, meaning that anyone deemed OCS would be disqualified.
The message was received, and the next start was noticeably more conservative. The gun fired and the fleet pounded uphill in 18-22 knot airs and some of the afternoon ebb’s strongest waters, which churned up the Berkeley Circle’s infamous washboard.
This nasty chop didn’t stop Africa, Tim Healy’s Sail Newport (USA 2), Mauricio Santa Cruz’s Bruschetta (BRA 403), Catapult and Petite Terrible from finding the windward mark ahead of the pack. Spinnakers were hoisted, afterburners lit, and Africa, Catapult, and Petite Terrible began replaying the abandoned race, along with added pressure from Sail Newport and Bruschetta.
Further astern, however, teams began flashing their keels at the sun. Ander Belausteguigoitia, who is sailing aboard Bala (MEX 680) explained heavy-air broach-recovery: “First you let go of all sails and controls, and if it’s not coming back, you have to pop the halyard about halfway, but you have to be careful it doesn’t go in to the water. The spinnaker is still in the air, and before it goes into the water you have to re-hoist it.” Get it right and the race can be salvaged; blow this delicate timing and your crew can expect a lengthy shrimping session.
While other boats were perfecting their recovery tactics, Africa took the bullet, followed by Sail Newport, Catapult and Petite Terrible. “The guys did a good job, they stepped it up and gave me a good one,” said an elated Smith, just after finishing. When queried about the team’s preference between the two vastly different sets of conditions experienced on Day Three, Smith smiled and admitted, “I like 6 knots, but the crew likes the heavy stuff!”
After seven races, Petite Terrible is topping the leaderboard, followed by Catapult and Africa. Racing resumes on Friday, and interested spectators can follow the racing online thanks to Alcatel-supplied smartphones, which the event is using as onboard trackers. For more information about this world-class regatta, visit stfyc.com/j70worlds2016.
For photos, courtesy of Alcatel J/70 Worlds 2016, click HERE
For results, click HERE
For live tracking, click HERE