**J Boats’ Stuart Johnstone gives us the lowdown on the J scene for this weekend.
With 211 boats participating in this year’s Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD Regatta, it promises to be quite the “class reunion” for many J sailors across eastern America. Why? For the simple fact that 156 boats are J/Teams (74% of the entire fleet) competing in eight one-design classes (J/22, J/24, J/70, J/80, J/30, J/105, J/35, J/109).
Leading the charge are the J/70s—setting a record fourth regatta debut as the largest one-design class. The J/70 fleet is on a rapid learning curve and based on performances at past events, it’s clear as mud who will be regatta leaders after the dust settles in the latest 70 battles. Perhaps most importantly, it was self-evident, based on the huge “can’t wipe the grin off my face” smiles after the epic first day at Charleston in 15 to 30 knots of breeze, all J/70 sailors were having a rip-roaring great time sailing their boats.
After four regattas, several teams have established their dominance. Included in that group are Tim Healy’s Helly Hansen, Joel Ronning’s Catapult, Brian Elliott’s B-Squared, Bob Hughes on Muse/ Heartbreaker, Bennet Greenwald’s Perseverance, Henry Brauer/ Will Welles’ Rascal, Jud Smith’s Relative Obscurity, Peter Vessella’s Running Wild, Bruno Pasquinelli’s Stampede, Henry Filter’s Wild Child, and a cast of local characters each of whom are capable of good performances, like Peter McChesney’s Trouble, Tate Russack’s Diesel, and Cole Allsopp’s Moxie.
Next up are the J/22s with an excellent showing with 28 boats (second largest J fleet). They will be vying for class honors bragging rights, as well as getting great practice for their J/22 World Championships that will be taking place in Newport, R.I., later this summer. For those familiar with teams that faired well in Charleston some weeks ago, it’s clear that Chris Doyle and his “Jug 4 1” gang from Rochester, N.Y., will be the ones to beat. Giving them serious heartache will be a rogue’s roost of J/22 veterans, including Allan “Albie” Terhune on Dazzler, Kurt Swanson on Slingshot, Vic Snyder on Mo’Money, Jeff Todd on Hot Toddy, Sandy Adzick on Hot Ticket, Mark Hillman on Harold Goes Ska, and perhaps newcomer Jen Gaffney on Pirate Princess Racing Team. Amongst this crowd, anything goes, as it always has been!
With the third largest J fleet, the J/80s sailing with 23 boats are fielding a very competitive fleet. Like their J/22 brethren, for some American teams, the event provides great practice for J/80 Worlds in Marseilles, France. Amongst those teams, look for Brian Keane’s Savasana and the Danish family team—Thomas Klok and the Crumps (Will and Marie) on their boat R80 to be amongst the top teams. Some other notable veterans in the mix will be Kristen Robinson’s Angry Chameleon, Chris & Liz Chadwick’s Church Key, Ken Mangano’s Mango, and Ramzi Bannura’s Stacked Deck.
The J/105s have a strong showing of an “all Naptown” fleet of eighteen boats, and amongst them are some champion teams from past Chesapeake Bay and North American regattas. Sure to figure in the running for overall honors will be a cross-section of the old guard and some new faces, including Bob Reeves on A-Train, Andrew Kennedy on Bat IV, Gerritt Schulze on Max Power, Jack Biddle on the infamous Rum Puppy, Donald Santa on Santa’s Rein-Dear (for real!), and Scott Gitchell on Tenacious.
At 15 strong, the J/24s are probably now on their fifth generation of owners, and the competition simply does not diminish as the next-gen teams hop in, learn fast from the veterans, and simply continue to advance the ball. Remarkably, one of the most competitive veterans (now working on his fourth decade) happens to be a highly respected, most knowledgeable local J/24 sailor Tony Parker sailing Bangor Packet. He will be challenged by some “newbies” and some old guard teams, amongst them could be Mike Marshall from Conanicut YC, Jack van Dalen’s Arnold Goes to Hollywood, Pat Fitzgerald’s Rush Hour, Mike Hobson’s Spaceman Spiff, and Frank McNamara’s Zot.
For the J/109s seven-boat class, the event represents their J/109 Mid-Atlantic Championship. J/109 Fleet 4 provides great hospitality under the leadership of Fleet Captain Bill Sweetser and his gang aboard the famous Rush. Assisting him is class leader Bob Schwartz on Nordlys from Manhasset YC and the Western Long Island Sound fleet of J/109s. With new faces showing up in the 109 class, it’s perhaps one of the most difficult classes for general prognostication, other than the obvious—Bill and Bob! Yet, any omniscient observer of this class will tell you there are always some new surprises in store for these veterans.
At 10 boats, it’s pretty clear the J/30s have not only achieved “classic” status, but perhaps “legendary” status, too, as the first quintessential cruiser-racer J built in the early 1980s (some might incorrectly argue it was the J/24). Nevertheless, the Chesapeake crew of 30s are having some fun, that’s for sure. And the NOOD is an annual reunion of like-minded 30 owners are fanatics of their boats, and it shows– some look better than new.
Finally, the J/35s. Like their “classic” sisterships (at minimum the J/24 and J/30), they were the second derivative of another boat that was incredibly successful (the J/36) in the early 1980s. With seven boats, the J/35s continue to show their offshore performance worldwide is not just legendary, but fun, too. One of the more famous boats participating is Aunt Jean sailed by the Sagerholm/Christofel team. But, Bad Company, Maggie, and Medicine Man won’t be far from the limelight. Plus, like the J/30s, the 35s could be facing an insurrection from Stephanie Reuer on Dakota Girl. Watch out, some sparklers may be flying in this rather diverse group of sailors.