J/105s in San Fran
Scott Whitney and his boat partner, Jason Woodley (“a couple of Silicon Valley guys,” says Whitney), bought their J/105 Risk seven years ago, and thus began the team’s methodical rise into the upper ranks of what is arguably one of San Francisco’s intriguing one-design keelboat fleets. For most major outings on the Bay, the J/105s bring out the big numbers, and while the fleet at the Sperry Top-Sider San Francisco NOOD only numbered a dozen, the sailing was as competitive as we’ve come to expect. And after five races, the regatta’s San Francisco NOOD’s overall trophy—and a trip to the Sperry Top-Sider Caribbean NOOD Championship—went to Whitney and Woodley’s squad.
“We’ve been striving for consistency since the beginning,” says Whitney, the boat’s jib trimmer (Woodley helms). “We’re athletic, and heavy air is really our strength.”
The regatta’s two days of 20-knot knot averages apparently played into the team’s strengths, and the sort of consistency they’d been striving for was all theirs leading into the second day of racing. But too much of a good thing almost got the better of them. Carrying finishes of 2-1-1, they were sitting on a comfortable lead, and Whitney admits their enthusiasm got the best of them in sunday’s opening race. They a “terrible” start, he tells me, leaving them pinned in a narrow lane. In order to extract themselves, and get to the favored left side, of the racecourse, they took a few sterns, figuring they could gain them back on the run. That proved to be more challenging than they’d thought and they could only sail their way into sixth place. But they redeemed themselves in the final race to shore up a 2-point win over Bruce Stone’s Arbitrage.
“Our last regatta win a few weeks ago was the J/105 Invitational, so we’re on a nice roll right now,” says Risk’s mainsail trimmer Bryan Chong. “We’re aiming for the [Rolex] Big Boat Series [in September].
When pressed to reveal Risk‘s edge over the weekend, Whitney emphasized the importance of the team’s athleticism as a key to being able to sail fast in the windy conditions. It allows them to recover from mistakes quicker than other teams. He also credits the solid crew they’ve assembled, and even the impromptu team-building exercise before their class weigh-in. “We all had a good session in the club’s sauna,” says Whitney. “We shed 7 pounds 30 minutes before weigh-in.”
Giving credit where it’s due, Whitney also praised his tactician, Harrison Turner, who kept them sticking to their strategy of “getting left at the bottom and right at the top” of the Bay’s Olympic Circle, just off Alcatraz Island. “We’re not normally a corner team,” says Chong, “but both days, all day, it was about getting left. It was left, left, left. Harrison called great laylines all weekend.”