J/70 Sailors Look to Climb Curve in St. Pete

The biggest class at the 2013 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta is also the newest. Twenty J/70s are among the 100 boats gathering to kick off the 2013 NOOD Regatta series.

Sailing World

Jen French

Paralympic silver medalist Jen French (left) will compete in the Sonar class at the 2013 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta.Onedition

It’s hard to remember a class that has hit the ground running faster than the J/70 class. Amateur sailors from a variety of other classes are scrambling to get in and get good, while representatives from every sailmaker are investing a lot of time and effort to get the early jump on sail design, rig tune, and boathandling techniques.

None of this will diminish the importance or satisfaction gained from a regatta win, but it does add another layer of intrigue to any J/70 regatta in 2013. Who won is as important has how they did it.

The Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta will be the NOOD debut for the J/70 class, and it's doing so in style with 20 boats signed up to sail.

Many of the lessons from Quantum Key West Race Week are available online (click here for Tim Healy's tips) and will certainly be put to good use. But the learning curve is still quite steep for this class. Key West was primarily a windy regatta and the many of teams that did well were toward the upper end of the weight range.

St. Petersburg can deliver winds across the range, but it’s generally moderate to light.

“The boat [currently] has a crew rule of three or four individuals, and not an actual weight,” says Chris Howell, the executive director for the newly formed J/70 class association. “This is making it interesting for folks trying to figure out what is going to be the weight that everyone will hone in on, the weight where you can handle light air and heavy air.”

The boathandling, how best to execute the maneuvers, is another area of focus. “At first people thought there wasn’t going to be anything for the fourth person to do,” says Howell, “but they found out quickly that there’s plenty to do and having the extra set of hands is helpful.”

Unlike the J/70, the Sonar has been a fixture at the St. Pete NOOD since the regatta’s inception. As is often the case for this regatta, the fleet is a mixture of Paralympic hopefuls and able-bodied teams.

“The most interesting story about this group, at least to me, is the number of world-class disabled sailors that will be attending,” says Bruce McArthur of the Sonar Class Association. “First you have Jen French, who just won a silver medal sailing the Skud-18 in the London Paralympics. Second is Rick Doerr who represented the United States in the Paralympics in China and has just come off a third at the ISAF Miami Sailing World Cup. One point ahead of Rick, in second place in Miami, was Andrew Fisher who has come on strong this year. The Canadian team of Tingley/Campbell/Lutes finished in fourth in Miami, only one point behind Rick.”

This year the St. Pete NOOD will serve as the Midwinters for the Sonar Class. Doerr was instrumental in revitalizing the Sonar Midwinters after a hiatus of a few years. With 12 boats registered, the second coming of the Sonar Midwinters is off to a good start.

Other classes that have broken the double-digit mark for the St. Pete NOOD include the venerable J/24 and the F18 catamaran. There are also 20 PHRF boats that will be split into two divisions.

Racing starts on Friday and continues through Sunday, with evening festivities held at the statuesque St. Petersburg YC.

Click here to find out all about the Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD, including the NOR, party details, and notices.
See the event scratch sheet.
View photos from last year's St. Pete NOOD.