For the final day of the 2014 J/70 World Championship presented by Helly Hansen, the New York Yacht Club Race Committee brought the fleet back out to Rhode Island Sound where three races were run in 8-14 knots of breeze.
The J/70 fleet races on a sparkling Rhode Island Sound ©Paul Todd/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM
Winning the first race of the day was Joel Ronning of Minneapolis on Catapult. Ronning had led the standings for the first two days of the championship but came into the final day 14 points out of first place behind Jamestown’s Tim Healy and his crew on Helly Hansen. With Healy crossing the line in fourth, Ronning was able to chip away at the deficit and, in race two, the margin was further cut to seven points when Ronning finished fourth and Healy finished eighth. However, in the final race, won by Brian Keane of Weston, Mass., on Savasana, Healy crossed the line in second with Ronning back in fourth, earning Healy and the Helly Hansen team the championship title on 28 points to Ronning’s 39. Keane retained third overall with 61 points, while Florida’s Martin Kullman, on New Wave, and Boston’s Heather Gregg-Earl, on MUSE, were tied, respectively for fourth and fifth, on 83 points. Gregg-Earl and the crew on MUSE were also the Corinthian (non-professional) division winners.
When Healy’s Helly Hansen team (crew Gordon Borges, Geoffrey Becker and Paul Abdullah) crossed the finish line in the last race, there was little outward excitement onboard. “Our caveat is we’re still waiting for protest time to elapse,” explained Healy. “There’s potential that someone could file a protest and we just want to make sure that’s totally wrapped up. It was close enough that we wanted to wait until we could check and then we could celebrate once everything is 100%.”
Except for one day, the conditions over the five days of racing had been strenuous and exhausting. “It was a fun week,” said Healy. “The nice part is there was wind the whole time; we enjoyed that, but because there’s wind you have to work hard and at this point everybody is tired but also excited at the same time.” This is Healy’s third world championship title as he adds the J/70 title to two he has won in the J/24 class (2013, 2010).
“The key to doing well is time spent in the boat. From day one when Jeff Johnstone called and said ‘we have the first two boats ready to go, are you interested in doing some sea trials?’ I jumped on it. As soon as I sailed the boats I knew the class was going to be huge. I think it’s the simplicity of it. Anybody who grew up sailing dinghies or got into small keelboat sailing can go down and look at a J/70 and say ‘I get it.’ They can look at the rig and see that it’s simple, and how the spinnaker works and how the main works, the deck layout is totally simple and clean and it’s easy to handle. The boat performs really well upwind; downwind it’s exciting and it’s planing. It’s got just about everything for the typical sailor looking for a fast one-design boat that’s easy to sail. And it performs well. The younger sailors can handle it and sail it, same for older sailors and it’s a good fit for women’s teams also.”
The youngest competitor on the race course was 13-year old Julian Sudofsky of Marion, Mass., who missed a week of eighth grade at Old Rochester Regional to race with his father Mike Sudofsky on Carlos. The young sailor was not simply enjoying a week off from school; as a veteran in the J/70 class he has twice raced in Key West Race Week, along with events in Annapolis and Cedar Point. “Even though we didn’t do too well, we had so much fun because everyone was top competitors,” said Sudofsky who handles the bow on Carlos. “I just got to see Tim Healy, and Brian Keane is also my neighbor,” he added.
From their patriotic hats to their colorful spinnaker, one team garnering lots of attention on the course was Team RAFBF Spitfire from Great Britain, helmed by Simon Ling of Burford.
“Team Spitfire was formed about six years ago,” explained Ling. “We’re made up of serving, ex-serving members of the Royal Air Force and a couple of civilians as well. We basically look to sail as competitively as possible but also to promote the RAF charity: the RAF Benevolent Fund. The name Spitfire comes from the iconic airplane that was built in the south where we sail in The Solent, and it seemed the perfect name for an RAF team.”
Having done the UK national circuit, this was the first time Team RAFBF had been overseas with the boat. “It was absolutely fabulous. What can you not enjoy about Newport?,” said Ling. “It’s my first time here, we’ve all fallen in love with the place; the race organization has been second to none, the racing has been fabulous and we’re really pleased with our result (12th overall and second Corinthian team).”
Ling as owner/helm switched to the J/70 last year after three years in the J/80. “It’s been a fabulous boat; we love it,” said Ling ticking off the attributes of the J/70: “The class has taken off, it’s new, there are 90 boats here at the first worlds, its great fun to sail, they’re demanding to sail, and they put a smile on your face. What’s not to like about that?”
Seeing 86 teams, representing 14 nations, on the starting line for any sailing event is significant. For those 86 teams to be contesting the first-ever world championship of the J/70 class is a testament to the popularity of this boat which was introduced just over two years ago, and even more notable was the mix of sailing royalty that was peppered throughout the fleet including: 2008 Finn Olympic Silver Medalist Zach Railey of Clearwater, Fla., 2004 Tornado Olympic Silver Medalist John Lovell of New Orleans, California’s 1996 Soling Olympic Bronze Medalist Jeff Madrigali, 2013 America’s Cup winning strategist and 2012 Laser Olympic Gold Medalist Tom Slingsby of Australia, 2011 Lightning Pan Am Games Silver Medalists Jody Lutz of Brick, N.J., and brother Jay Lutz of Houston, who is also a four-time world champion in the J/80 and Lightning classes, 1984 Windsurfing Olympic Silver Medalist Scott Steele of Annapolis, Olympian and two-time Star World Champion Phil Trinter of Richmond, Va., 2013 Star World Champion John MacCausland of Cherry Hill, N.J., 2001 Sonar World Champion Mark Ploch of The Bronx, N.Y., and 2007 Snipe World Champion Tomas Hornos of Boston.
Kalle Coster and Annemieke Bes, both of whom represented The Netherlands three times at the Olympic Games were in the fleet, as was Vermont’s 2012 Olympian Trevor Moore, along with New York’s Cory Sertl and Jody Starck, both of whom have won the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award multiple times. Top-ranked match racers Taylor Canfield and Stephanie Roble, 2005 J/24 World Champion Anthony Kotoun and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Eric Doyle were all onboard as was 2006 Audi Etchells World Champion Jud Smith of Marblehead, 2013 J/22 World Champion Allan Terhune of Arnold, Md., and 2014 J/24 US National Champion Will Welles of Portsmouth, R.I.
The silver fleet was won by Mark Ploch on Sugar Daddy after finishes of 3-1-3 allowed him to edge out Puerto Rico’s Marco Teixidor, on Cachondo, with 113 points versus 121.
The September 8-13 competition was hosted by New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court, with regatta headquarters at Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s Public Sailing Center.
For results, photos and additional information on the inaugural J/70 World Championship presented by Helly Hansen, please visit www.j70worlds.com
Helly Hansen is presenting sponsor of the world championship, and North Sails is the Official Regatta Support Partner. Also enhancing the experience of competitors at the regatta will be Harken, Marlow Ropes, Newport Storm, Seadek Marine Products, Southern Spars, Torqeedo and Triad Trailers.