Peter Duncan’s Relative Obscurity has prevailed over 60 other teams and challenging wind conditions to capture the 2021 J/70 World Championship title at California Yacht Club, today. In a five-day series that tested the skill and patience of top-notch competitors from 11 nations, Duncan – sailing with Willem van Waay, Morgan Trubovich and Victor Diaz de Leon – secured a top five position in the beginning of the regatta and never let go.
“I’m elated!” said Duncan as he returned to the dock, bustling with activity. “That was a tough day out there. We didn’t start very well but had a bit of a break with a header on the first run of the second race that let us get close to everybody and sail through some folks we need to sail through,” he explained. “We have a lot of fun onboard – joke and laugh and keep it light – and that worked in our favor when we had to grind through. Everybody knows what their job is, and these guys do them exceptionally well.”
The leaderboard changed with every rounding during Races Seven and Eight, as the top contenders scrapped for honors. “It was very cool that there were four boats who could have won this thing in the last race,” Duncan added. “To me that’s really fun, exciting sailing.”
Duncan is no stranger to the podium. Recently he won the J/70 North Americans in Annapolis and triumphed in the 2017 J/70 Worlds in Porto Cervo, Italy. “This competition was really great, and the Race Committee did a terrific job getting the races in with the breeze we had. I’m really pleased. Cal Yacht Club did an awesome job.”
At day’s end, the top tier was separated by just eight points with Bruce Golison taking second place. His team Midlife Crisis was primed with a solid win in the Pre-Worlds last month. One of only two teams to get bullets in the tightly matched Worlds this week (along with Magatron) Golison sailed with Steve Hunt, Erik Shampain and Jeff Reynolds.
Laura Grondin and the team of Dark Energy, just one point astern, took third. Grondin only recently began competing in the J/70. A competitive Melges 24 sailor, she switched to the J/70 when the boat’s popularity exploded. “If you really want that fleet racing experience, this is the boat,” she said. “I decided to go for it, and when Taylor Canfield came along, my husband Rick suggested we take this opportunity and just do as much as we can and see where we go.” Where it has taken her, is third place in the J/70 World Championships.
In contrast to her life as a business owner and CEO, Grondin noted, “On the racecourse, I am really just another member of the crew.” Unlike her corporate life, she laughed, “Here, I don’t have the final say. But these people are far more experienced than I am, so why wouldn’t I listen to them? And if I can do my job in a way that allows the rest of my team to do their jobs to the best of their ability, that’s a win for me. And that is the same in business and in sailing. It’s very exciting and rewarding.”
The Ducasse Sailing Team of Santiago, Chile, triumphed in the Corinthian division. “We are having a really nice time, and this is so good for us, because the level of competition is so good,” said Francisco Ducasse, who is sailing with his father and three brothers: Andres Ducasse Soruco, Ignacio Ducasse Soruco, Rodrigo Ducasse Soruco, and Andres Ducasse. Hoping for better wind – because they are sailing with a team of five instead of four – he said they were pleased with their result.
Ducasse noted the effort it took to bring the campaign from Chile, and their good fortune in chartering a sound boat. “We had really good training in the Pre-Worlds,” and added the team is in it for the long-haul. “The level is so good, we are practicing and adapting a lot with very good teams. We were hoping for a top ten finish, and then to do better the next Worlds. We are shortening the average.”
The J/70 World Championship regatta began Wednesday August 11 with enthusiasm: a characteristic that would continue throughout the week and result in multiple General Recalls and the hoisting of the U flag and Black flag. Breezes of 6 to 8 knots greeted the fleet, but by Thursday the wind vanished. The Race Committee attempted to pull off the desired two races, but deterred by the shifty zephyrs, abandoned racing for the day.
A slight improvement in velocity Friday allowed for one race – just skimming the Class’ lower limit for breeze. A championship regatta isn’t always about heavy weather, many competitors pointed out, saying it’s just as vital to conquer light and shifty conditions, as heavy air. And the masters of the fleet proved that over time.
Saturday’s forecast rang true, with a breeze that started at 6 knot and filled in to 14 knot by the end of the day. Principal Race Officer Mark Foster squeezed out three races, despite repeated General Recalls which threatened to trim the number of races. But organizers already had the requisite number under their belt to constitute a World Championship and allow for throw-outs.
Late Saturday, drenched and exhausted, the fleet returned to the yacht club for a ‘California Dreamin’ style buffet with music. The frontrunners had consolidated their positions with Duncan’s Relative Obscurity in the lead followed by Dark Energy, Savasana, Midlife Crisis and Catapult. The final day of the J/70 Worlds Championship Regatta would bring fair winds averaging 7 – 10 knots to Santa Monica Bay, with a number of shifts that kept racers and Race Committee on their toes.
Plans for the championship regatta had been on the books since 2018, according to Chair Marylyn Hoenemeyer, and slated for July 26 to Aug. 1, 2020. By early that year the entry list was brimming at 96: nearing the 100-boat limit, with half the fleet hailing from around the globe. Then the pandemic turned everything upside down, and the event was rescheduled.
“This has been a tremendous effort and success,” added Hoenemeyer. “The racers, Race Committee and entire organization have been so patient and tenacious, and I would like to thank everyone involved. This was a full club effort. I think we’re aware of the volunteers on the water, but less aware of the volunteers onshore, and the impact on the members. We’re thankful for the support of the Cal Yacht Club membership and our terrific staff. We’re no different than other organizations that are working short staffed these days … they’ve pulled together a really tremendous effort and we are proud of the experience we’ve provided these racers, both on the water and off. “
The last J/70 World Championship regatta had been held in Tor Bay, England, with GBR’s Paul Ward and Eat Sleep J Repeat besting that 77-boat fleet in a grueling 14-race series. Ward finished seventh in the 2021 event.
Click here for complete results of the 2021 J/70 World Championship