Earning one of the three coveted berths to the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is a tall order to begin with—the U.S. Qualifying Series pits 24 top teams from across the country against each other over four days every other September. The competitors at this year’s USQS faced an additional hurdle: Getting up to speed in the new J/70.
Approximately half of the teams had never set foot in the sportboat before the regatta, and for these teams, like Larchmont (N.Y.) YC, getting to know the new boat happened on the fly. “We went into the event knowing we needed to sail tactically well because we hadn’t had any time in the boat,” says LYC skipper Danny Pletsch. “We relied on our strengths rather than boathandling. There was never any downtime—our practice time was between races.”
The learning wasn’t limited to the sailors, either. For J Boats, the event served as a test bed. “It’s a great opportunity to have teams from around the country sail the boats,” says J Boats president Jeff Johnstone. “We were there every day so we were able to get some good input. The draft rules are already published, but we have our ears and eyes open for any little tweaks we might want to make.”
As class numbers grow—Johnstone expects 100 J/70s to be sailing in 12 countries by the end of 2012—the focus is now on preparing for upcoming class events in the United States: The first takes place in early November in Annapolis, Md., the home to fleet No. 1, followed by Quantum Key West, the Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg and Annapolis NOODs, and Charleston Race Week.
If LYC’s experience at the USQS is any indication of what’s to come—the team improved throughout the series to win the event—the learning curve in the J/70 should be steep, giving those new to the boat the ability to learn the ropes quickly. “It’s a boat that anyone can sail,” says Pletsch. “As a one-design fleet, it was very fun.”