Catapult Wins the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds Hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club
Joel Ronning’s Catapult (USA) took top honors at the 2016 Alcatel J/70 World Championship. After five days and 12 races, Catapult finished with a 17 point lead over the 68-boat fleet. “We feel like we’ve sailed quite well,” said tactician John Kostecki. “We put a lot of preparation in, and we feel it paid off.” The crew also included Chris Stocke and Patrick Wilson, with Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake as coach.
Finishing second was 2015 World Champion Julian Fernandez Neckelmann’s Flojito Y Cooperando (MEX), sailing with Bill Hardesty, Willem Van Waay, and Paco Belausteguigoitia Fierro. In third place was Jud Smith’s Africa (USA) with crew Alec Anderson, Victor Diaz and Ed Wright.
In the 23-boat Corinthian class, which awards its own trophy and championship title, Shawn Bennett (USA) took top honors, finishing 15th overall. Bennett, who sailed with Eric Baumhoff, Craig Healy, and Jon Perkins, was followed by Simon Ling’s Team RAF Benevolent Fund Spitfire (GBR) with Craig Burlton, Tony Hanlon, and Ian Southworth and Pat Toole’s 3 Big Dogs (USA) with Oliver Toole, Dale Turley and George Witter.
Throughout the event, San Francisco Bay tested the heavy-air skills of the 68 skippers and teams, so it was a bit of an anomaly when the wind was light on the final day of racing at this world-class event. A flood tide and 5 knots of breeze allowed for a spinnaker ride from host-club St. Francis Yacht Club to the Berkeley Circle, where all racing has been conducted this week. There, racers were greeted a short postponement as the race committee waited for the breeze to gather.
Fortunately, the wait was contained to a half-hour, giving racers time to sort out their light-air modes and get their heads into the final two races. Prior to the sound of the day’s first warning signal, Catapult was topping the leaderboard, followed by Flojito Y Cooperando and Calvi Network. However, a light-air pop quiz would ultimately see a leaderboard change as Jud Smith and his Africa teammates and Calvi Network charged hard on the day the mattered most.
Once reliable pressure filled in, the race committee (RC) launched the fleet on a 1.6-nautical-mile beat in 6-8 knots of breeze. Africa slowly began sliding ahead and to weather of her competition, allowing Smith to enjoy a private windward-mark rounding as the pursuing fleet battled for clear air.
Smith held his lead for the entire race, strutting into the leeward gate rounding and the final run to the finishing line in a wing-on-wing configuration that was replicated by the other contenders. Brian Keane’s Savasana (USA 96) and Neckelmann’s Flojito Y Cooperando followed Africa across the finishing line. “I consider us [to be] more of a light-air team,” said Smith, who clearly liked Race 11. “The guys did a great job getting us off the line, and we [went] the right way.” As for his the trick to amassing his enviable lead, Smith explained, “we didn’t have to fight, we could go our own way.”
Smith’s hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts may have properly trained him for light-air fights, but it was the two best San Francisco hometown tacticians— Paul Cayard, sailing aboard Alberini’s Calvi Network, and John Kostecki, sailing aboard Ronning’s Catapult (USA 187)—who were able to capitalize on the heavier airs and ebbing tides that kicked in every afternoon.
While the Sailing Instructions included a 1430 hours deadline for the regatta’s last warning signal, the RC successfully delivered a full-ticket series to the competitors who had gathered from 15 nations. An ebbing tide, building chop, and a breeze that had built to the mid-teens defined Race 12, which began under friendly P Flag starting-line conditions. Alberini’s Calvi Network owned Race 12, promptly getting their bow into clear air and giving the rest of the fleet a fine view of their transom all the way to the finishing line.
While the ink is still drying on 2016’s final results, news broke at Thursday night’s Italian-themed party, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club, that the 2017 Alcatel J/70 World Championships will be held in Porto Cervo, Italy at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda from September 12-16. “The location is amazing,” said Mauro Melandri, who works with the J/70 class in Italy. “The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda is at the beginning of a natural fjord—it’s beautiful.”
Stay tuned for more from the International J/70 Class Association, as it becomes known.
For photos, courtesy of Alcatel J/70 Worlds 2016, click HERE
For results, click HERE