Boat of the Day: J/122 Teamwork

Editor at large Herb McCormick interviews tactician Jonathan Bartlett, whose crew has excelled in the IRC-2 division at 2008 Acura Key West Race Week.

After yet another frustrating stretch waiting ashore, the competitors at Acura Key West Race Week were finally rewarded on Thursday afternoon with sweet Florida winter conditions: temperatures in the low 70s, winds building into the teens, misty skies giving way to clear sunshine, and flat, turquoise waters. And no one reveled in the fine sailing weather more than Robin Team's J/122 Teamwork, which scored a 1-3 in the day's two races in the tough IRC-2 Division to earn Boat of the Day honors. Afterwards, tactician Jonathan Bartlett, a sailmaker with the North loft in Annapolis, summed up the action.

Tell us about your boat.
We've got a great owner, Robin Team. In the early 90s he owned a J/35C. In the mid-90s he moved up to a J/120, and then last October he purchased the J/122. He also owns a J/80. Needless to say, he's a J/Boat man.

How did the team come together for Key West?
Robin has a guy in Annapolis named Kevin Ryman from J/Boats who's sailed with him for years. And I've sailed with Kevin on other boats. We've always had a good time and done well. Last year Kevin called me and asked if I might like to sail with Robin and I jumped at the opportunity. So there are four of us from Annapolis and the other six are from Beaufort, North Carolina. It's a great group of folks and we've meshed nicely together for the week.

Tell us about the day. Weather-wise, it looked shaky for awhile.
Number one, I can't imagine three days of not sailing at Race Week, so it was going to happen. It had to happen. So kudos to the race committee for being patient. As soon as it made sense to race, we were racing. As far as our success today, it came from good starts and trying to stay out of trouble all day long. The scores are very close (in our class). Two seconds and I wouldn't be talking to you. You basically just sail your best race the whole time and don't stop til it's over, cause it's never, ever over. IRC is a time-on-time racing rule, so every precious second that you're sailing is critical.

Can you name any piece of equipment that was crucial?
We have B&G instruments aboard and they're great. But really, the biggest thing, is that everyone on the boat kept their eyes out of the boat and worked with me to make sure I was getting the correct information during the day. The crew was great. We've only sailed a couple of days this week. Teamwork was the rhyme of the day for us.

Of that team, who was today's most valuable player?
Well, again, I'd have to say Kevin. He trims the mainsail, and he's very critical to the group because he's sailed with everybody. So he knows all the personalities. And he also takes care of the boat, he makes sure the tune is at the right spot, and he makes sure everything's ready to roll every day. Along with Robin taking extraordinary care of his crew, which he does, it all came together.

What's your Key West routine? Did you all get here early?
They delivered the boat to Key West last week. Most of us flew down Friday, some earlier. We're staying at Truman Annex so we have bikes rented. We're tooling around the island, eating dinner in great restaurants. So we're very relaxed, and having a great time with one another.

How important is that in Key West?
It's key. It is key. You have to be having fun with everybody. You're spending an entire week with them. It really has to work.

What would your advice be to a first-time crew coming to Key West?
Be prepared before you get here. Do all your homework, so you're completely ready to sail in any given condition. And have a couple of people on the crew who've been here before. Don't try and reinvent the wheel. Talk to people. And then get here and find out it's the best event on the East Coast yearly. Every single year. And you'll be hooked.

So, ready to go celebrate today's success?
We have reservations at a nice restaurant but we have to get up early, tomorrow's start is an hour earlier. We have to be ready. So we'll have a good time tonight but we'll try and cut it short so we can get back out there tomorrow and do it right.