By Buttons Padin

The weather was the story over the first days of the four-day J/88 North American Championship, hosted by Larchmont Yacht Club in Larchmont, NY September 28 – October 1. With the opening day getting in four races in high teen/low 20s wind conditions, with the 4-6-foot sea state compounded by multiple days of easterly winds, Andy Graff (Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club) and his chilly, damp crew came ashore with a hold on the leaderboard he would not relinquish. Graff’s day-one scoreline (1-1-1-2) gave him a seven-point lead on the fleet that continued to increase throughout the regatta. After that, the competition was for second and third place as other boats continued to be separated by only a few points.

Sailing on the second day had to be postponed as lower Westchester County got hit by a storm that created high winds and large seas on the Long Island Sound, and flooding conditions in and around Larchmont YC. That said, however, four races were sailed on Saturday’s third day followed by three on the Sunday finale.

In the end, it was Graff winning by 13 points with nothing lower than a 3rd being counted. The remainder of the podium positions weren’t finalized until the very last race as the next three boats’ scores were so close. Past J/88 Class President Iris Vogel finished second, a single point ahead of fellow Huguenot Yacht Club (New Rochelle, NY) member Justin Scagnelli. Vogel, Scagnelli, and fourth place finisher Andrew Weiss from the host club, who was in the mix throughout, served as the event committee, too. The top Corinthian boat was Chicago Yacht Club’s Michael and Grace Gillian, finishing fifth overall.

Dark skies prevailed for the 2023 J/88 North American Championship. © Cynthia Parthemos

“Our team sailed together well,” said Graff, “making consistent gear changes as the conditions were constantly shifting. We also focused on maintaining good boatspeed. There were some big shifts and we played them well. We did best when we were focused on gear changing well, actively trimming both main and jib as necessary. A lot of the shifts would tempt you to follow them with the helm only, but they would only last a brief period. We had to work the sails in the shifts too, because if you tried to do it all on the helm you’d be oversteering the short-lived shifts. By the time you turned down you’d be luffing again. We had a lot of close races this regatta. Chicago has a deep J/88 fleet and that was good training for us coming into this Championship.”

This event would not have been possible without the support of McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers, UK Sailmakers Northeast, Quantum Sails, Switlik, and the VOCO Fiorella and Franklin Hotels. Results are posted at Next year’s J/88 North American Championship will be held at Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Holland, MI September 25-28, 2024. ■