When your tactician says to protect the left, it’s what you do, says Bradley Faber, of Owassa, Michigan, the skipper of Utah, which kicked off the J/111 North American Championships at the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta in Chicago with a win in the opening race.
The left-side mandate came from Utah’s veteran pro sailor Kerry Klinger before Thursday’s Race 1 start, which got underway late in the afternoon following a long postponement while the race committee waited for suitable racing conditions. When the race did finally get underway in 10 to 15 knots, it provided the championship’s 15 teams an equal, albeit challenging, playing field to gauge each other’s performance.
“We did what we were told,” says Faber. “We started down near the pin, got to the left side and protected it all the way.”
Utah led at each mark of the four-leg race, and was never once contested, but the day’s second race was another story. After a clean start and good first beat Utah fouled a competitor at the weather mark and another one at the subsequent leeward mark. Naturally, with two sets of penalty turns they were unable to recover, finishing 15th to stand seventh overall at the end of the first day—squarely in seventh place.
Consistency is what wins regattas, however, and while Utah failed on this front, William Smith’s Wooton delivered with a banner day. Wooton with a third in the first race and then posted a runaway win in the second to establish a 2-point lead over Bennet Greenwald’s Perseverance, from San Diego. Smith, 65, from Chicago, has only been racing one-design keelboats for four years. He’s a quick learner, however, and after a season of traveling with his J/111 to regattas around the country over the past few months, success if finally coming his way. Today, he says, was the best he’s ever sailed.
“The one thing I’ve learned in my short time in this class is how unforgiving one-design sailing is,” he says, “and how frustrating it is at times. The racing is very tight. There were five boats at the mark at once. I was relieved the race committee didn’t run a third race because I was mentally exhausted. Driving into the waves on port tack today was really hard.”
He’s excited about the team he’s assembled and will take to the class’s world championship later this year in England. “We’ve been moving up steadily through every event,” he says, but for sure, for me, it’s the best I’ve ever driven the boat. Part of it is time in the boat, but our tactician [Allan Terhune] was really on me all day today.
“Most of these guys in this fleet have been racing for a very long time and there are things that happen that I still don’t understand, but today was the first day I’ve stopped looking at the instruments—other than to check the speed every once in a while. The boat was smoother and going straighter. I’ve been an instrument junkie, so to give up the instruments today was a lot.”
While they were noticeably faster according to some competitors, Smith says there was no secret to their boatspeed. “We were just trying to meet the polar boatspeed, and in the conditions we had today you don’t want to drop the bow too much because, if you do, you’re going to go sideways. At times the main trimmer has to ease [the sheet] and the driver has to press on the jib just a little to keep the boat on its feet. Instead of dropping the bow on a wave, just holding it high to keep it moving forward is fast.
It was just a bunch of little things, he concludes. “I did better today than I’ve ever done. We felt good and it will be nice going into tomorrow feeling that way.”