Doyle Podium Finish at J70 Worlds

Jud Smith brought a new team together for the Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted by Saint Francis Yacht Club, serving as the only opportunity for Africa to get up to speed on bay conditions in San Francisco prior to the Worlds, a far cry from East Coast conditions.  This team consisted of Victor Diaz (tactician), Alec Anderson (trimmer), and Ed Wright (strategist.) Racing at 730 pounds (not particularly heavy relative to other teams), they finished fourth in the big boat series and went on to get a podium finish of third in the Worlds, scoring more first place finishes than any other boat.

For this windy event, Jud used the same jib design, Doyle J6R, which won him the light air San Diego North Americans. This design has always had a much higher clew, which allows for more effective inhauling and a longer foot (since all the girth measurement points move closer to the head.) Inhauling assists with pointing and improves the effective performance range of the one and only jib. We use Dimension ProRadial HTP, as it has the lowest stretch and can handle the abuse of constantly furling and flogging during starts and wind shots.

Our Doyle M2 CrossCut mainsail sets up on a straighter mast than the competition. We target no more than 3 cm of pre-bend at the base setting for 10 to 11 knots of wind. Although Doyle sails are considered fast in lighter conditions, Africa won the heaviest air race during the Worlds by a big margin. Our upwind sails are built from heavier, lower stretch, more durable fabric. We added luff curve to our main prior to Rolex to improve the heavy air performance without compromising our light air speed.

This summer, we developed the AIRX 650 Spinnaker we used at Worlds. We found this design had more power all the time, from soaking to full planing conditions. Our speed advantage has generally been upwind, but we now have an edge downwind, which did not go unnoticed. The kite allowed the team to improve their downwind planing technique each day, knowing the difference between a good run and a bad one can change the outcome of a regatta in just one leg.

Africa downwind at Worlds 2016Learning to sail the boat flatter upwind and depower just enough to accelerate again after a nasty set of waves took some getting used to. Every beat of the Rolex series, the team did a better job of steering and trimming to maintain that mode and accelerate in waves without heeling too much. At the top of the wind range, they tensioned the rig to the highest setting with tighter lowers, allowing use of the backstay without washing out the main. Doyle refined our rig setting protocol to a 2:1 ration of turns above base. Considering numerous poor starts, Jud became very confident in their speed, as they were forced to sail back ‘from the dead’ in bad air and skinny lanes.

Transitioning from the big boat series to the Worlds, the size of the fleet doubled and the new PRO, Mark Foster, was using a midline boat. It quickly became clear on the practice day that the committee was prepared to identify as many OCS boats as they could. Therefore, Africa took conservative and cautious pings with their Velocitek and would check their pings by running the line. Jud believes some teams are not careful enough with how they ping the line.

The first two days of the Worlds, the wind was strong enough to get racing off on time.  The earlier races as the wind was filling in were the most challenging.  During the morning races, the middle and left side could fill in first and the breeze could wobble left or right.  Not only were there patches of pressure, but there were big holes downwind that were deadly if caught in one.   The heavier air afternoon races were more straight forward starting and speed contests, and the faster boats found their way to the top of the fleet by the end of the race.  The afternoon races were generally in the ebb and got thrashy with short steep waves, much as we saw in Rolex regatta. Africa performed best in this condition relative to other teams, and it showed as they led the regatta for the first two days.  Even after the first 5 races, the top five boats were very close in the standings.

The third day was the most challenging, featuring very erratic wind and pressure, since the wind took much longer to fill in during the afternoon.   Even then, the wind did not fill down into the right side of the course.This is the day that decided the regatta.  Several of the top boats including Africa, got caught in much lighter air on the run by gybing early.   Africa and Petite Terrible got caught on wrong side of run in race 9. Flojito got caught in that light air side on the run of race 10.  Catapult stayed on the train downwind in those races and ground back to have all top 10 finishes in those challenging races 8, 9 and 10.  Finally, during race ten, conditions became fresher as the wind filled in and Africa managed another first.

Going into the final day, Africa was in 4th, knowing they needed two good races for a chance at a podium finish. They had a good start, sailed all the way out on Starboard tack to stay ahead of Calvi Network (who was within striking distance.) Flojito and Catapult went right, and although leading their side, Africa led that first beat and remained in first during race 11, bumping them up in the standings. The final race had breeze, but the standings remained the same as the top five boats in the race were the top five boats in the standings.

For Doyle, we were very pleased with a podium finish, Africa having improved their heavy air technique and speed significantly. It is obvious Africa is no longer considered a ‘light air flyer.’ Doyle sails and our recommended set up are fast in all conditions upwind and downwind, which didn’t go unnoticed. Jud is very pleased they had the chance to compete at that level and is now looking forward to sharing lessons learned with the J70 fleet in preparation for the 2017 season and the 2018 World Championship in his hometown of Marblehead, MA.

Doyle J70 Sail Descriptions

J70 Order Form

Doyle J70 Race Results

Doyle J70 Tuning Guide & Matrix

Strong Performance from Doyle Sails at 2016 St Barths Bucket Regatta

St_Barths_Bucket_v2016_logo_128In the increasingly performance-focused superyacht racing scene, Doyle Sails helped propel many yachts to the front of the fleet at this years St Barths Bucket, held off St Barthelemy from March 17-20.  In the end, Doyle powered yachts won three of the five pursuit classes that saw nearly 40 yachts competing.  The regatta saw the fleet sail three races around the archipelago, which challenges the yachts with close roundings around islands and rocks, making the imagery even more stunning.  This year saw moderate breezes for the first two days of racing, and then high winds and big seas in the final day to push all the crews hard to keep these massive yachts moving well.

Sailing Yacht P2

38m Perini Navi P2

38m Perini Navi sloop P2 continued her string of impressive performances with a win in Class B: Les Elegantes des Mers.  P2 has long been a superyacht regatta favorite, and just the previous week P2 won Class B at the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Virgin Gorda.  Under new ownership this year, the boat has continued her impressive ways, and after P2‘s win on Saturday’s “Not So Wiggley Course”, which sees the yachts weave through a number of turns which requires multiple spinnaker sets and douses, tactician Tony Rey commented “The owner and his guests were so engaged and so into the race; everyone was excited.  Honestly, it’s what we came here for; these last two races have been some of the best superyacht racing I’ve ever done. We can’t wait until tomorrow.”  P2 has been carrying the same Doyle Stratis Carbon/Technora racing sails since 2013, and her consistent performance is a testament to the incredibly fast shapes and durability of the Stratis sails.

S&S 125 Axia beating upwind with her new Double Headrig Configuration

In Class C: Les Femmes des Mers 37.6m Axia won with an impressively consistent performance, winning all three races.  Doyle’s own CEO Robbie Doyle was serving as tactician for the regatta, and worked well in advance to help prepare the yacht for the regatta.  In order to keep Axia at the front of the fleet (they also won their class at last years St Barths Bucket) and optimize their rating under the ORCsy Rule, under which the boats are rated for this regatta, Axia went through an headsail development program to improve their tacking time and pointing ability.  The result was a larger staysail and enlarged Jib Top, in place of the original racing Genoa, which kept the yacht fast and nimble as they sailed around the island.  What might be most impressive  about this win is that the same Stratis Main on Axia has now powered the boat through six Buckets – helping the yacht win three of those – in addition to all her other sailing and charters.

56m Perini Navi Rosehearty

56m Perini Navi Rosehearty

In Class E: Les Grandes Dames des Meres 56m Rosehearty and 50m Ohana finished tied at the end of the final day, with Rosehearty’s wins in Races 1 and 2 breaking the tie in her favor.  After winning last year’s Perini Navi Cup, Rosehearty was fitted with a new A3 spinnaker and Mizzen Staysail to ensure that the boat could keep moving at full speed during the Bucket’s many challenging courses.  On the final day of racing, the big breeze helped push the massive yacht at 13.5 knots downwind, but upwind proved a challenge.  A fitting on the genoa furler snapped off in a puff, forcing the yacht to sail a good portion of the long upwind beat with just a staysail. Ultimately the genoa was partially unfurled to keep the boat moving steadily upwind to the turning mark.  Paul Cayard, serving as tactician on Rosehearty, commended the crew of Rosehearty all week, but was especially impressed on the final day “The crew did an outstanding job of dealing with today’s adversity and kept the maneuvers tight so we could preserve the fourth place we needed to win overall. A very happy owner and all concerned.”

The overall results of Doyle Sails this year are a testament to the continuing focus on performance and service from the team at Doyle. The regatta brings a strong team of sailmakers from Doyle’s lofts around the world to ensure that the yachts receive the full benefit of their sails. “I’m incredibly proud of our customers for the results in this year’s event, and it’s truly a testament to the team at Doyle we have assembled in order to help these yachts perform to their best” commented CEO Robbie Doyle.  “Our technology in recent years has continually kept our sails at the front of the fleet, but this year’s team onsite was the best we’ve ever had and helped get everyone across the line safely and quickly.  The results this year show both the grand-prix performance that our sails can achieve, but also the durability and shape holding of these sails over time.”

60m Perini Navi Sloop Perseus^3

This year saw Robbie Doyle and Glenn Cook from Doyle Salem on Axia, Andrew Schneider of Doyle Salem on Rosehearty, Peter Grimm of Doyle Florida East on Perseus^3, Quinten Houry of Doyle Palma on Clan VIII, John Baxter from Doyle Midwest on Blue Too, Nick Bonner of Doyle England on Surama, Simon Lacey of Doyle New Zealand on Emmaline, Matt Bridge of Doyle New Zealand on Seahawk, Alan McGlashan of Doyle Salem on Bella Regazza, and Mario Giattino and Salvo D’amico of Doyle Italy and Justin Ferris of Doyle New Zealand on Ohana.

Doyle Sailmakers is proud to have a long history as a sponsor of the Bucket regattas, and has established lofts in all of the superyacht hubs around the world to ensure excellent service for the world’s largest yachts.  Recently Doyle has delivered sails to many of the world’s largest yachts, including the 60m Perini Navi Perseus^3, which made her debut at St Barths this year, the 46m Royal Huisman Elfje,and the 89m Perini Navi Maltese Falcon.  In the coming months Doyle Sailmakers will deliver sails to the two largest sailing yachts in the world, both measuring over 100m in length.

Full results can be found here.

Relative Obscurity Top American J/70 at KWRW

Relative Obscurity  ( Allen Clark / Photo Boat )

A windy and cool Key West Race Week wrapped up last week, with 48 boats racing in the J/70 class. At Doyle Sailmakers, we were very pleased with two boats in the top ten and Peter Duncan’s Relative Obscurity clinching second place to be the top American finisher. We were able to have a conversation with Peter after the event for his perspective on the event. Peter was quick to note the merits of his exceptional team of multiple world champion winners Moose McClintock and Karl Anderson, as well as North American Champion Victor Diaz. They were sailing in the range of 730-740 pounds, which Peter finds to be a comfortable weight in all conditions, but particularly in waves where having weight on the rail is important.

While Duncan primarily campaigns his Etchells, the transition to the J/70 has been a good one, and Relative Obscurity was 7th at the 2015 Worlds in La Rochelle, France. While the Key West fleet was still smaller than Worlds, the top end of the fleet was still incredibly competitive with the top three finishers at World’s competing against each other again.

Relative Obscurity

Comparing the two events, Duncan noted Key West was breezier, with much bumpier seas, so they had to work to keep the boat powered up more.  Because of other commitments, and the weather just prior to the regatta, the preparation was condensed and forced the team to make sure the boat was well prepared so there were no hiccups in the event.  Each day of the event, Relative Obscurity was able to do a couple of hours of two boat tuning with my team on Africa. Both boats were using Doyle Cross Cut Class Main, Pro Radial Jibs and VMG Spinnakers for the regatta.  We were able to test not only tuning for the conditions and weight placement, but also learn a lot about the course with five minute split tacks and split gybes on each side of the race track.

The team primarily relied on Commanders for weather and forecasting, which the race committee kept heavy tabs on as well and Duncan found to be very good throughout the week.

Starts were extremely important with such a large fleet on a short starting line. I asked Duncan about his regatta and starting strategy. At first, they were tentative, but they switched to a more aggressive mode and ended up over the line early twice. On one occasion, they were able to come back and win the race, whereas the other OCS was more difficult to dig out of and they placed 21st, their throw out. These made them more conservative, trying to attack the line without pushing it too hard. They tended towards the favored end of the line, but prioritized less crowded areas. Peter figures they sailed the first weather beat fairly conservatively, never really losing contact with the fleet. Their results were very consistent in this competitive fleet, which they achieved by getting to the edges, without ever going for anything really extraordinary. Each crew member clicked into a specific role on the boat, with McClintock in charge of overall strategy, Diaz calling boat to boat tactics, and Anderson keeping his head in the boat for tuning and sail trim.

Moose McClintock, who has now sailed with a number of different J70 programs, had some interesting

Relative Obscurity ( Allen Clark / Photo Boat)

observations regarding the Jib in particular. “I was impressed with the ease of using the sails.  I prefer pull and go so I can keep my head out of the boat and I think you achieve this in your designs.  I think we learned a lot about the inhaul use on the Pro radial Jib over the course of the week, having Victor aboard was critical for us as he used the same inhaul technique on the Jib that you used at North Americans.  He did say after sailing Friday that the inhaul was the key on Friday as he ended up with the same jib sheet setting and played the inhaul depending on how much power he needed, mostly a different way to get to the same end.   Eye opening for me.”

With fast upwind and downwind speed and an obviously harmonious team, Peter is planning to do Bacardi Cup, North Americans in Texas, Europeans in Germany, and Worlds in San Francisco, hopefully with a similar team depending on everyone’s schedule.

KWRW Results

Relative Obscurity ( Allen Clark / Photo Boat )

La Tormenta wins the Etchells Sid Doren

In the Etchells class, the Sidney Doren Memorial Regatta took place January 9-10,2016, hosted by Biscayne Bay Yacht Club. Shannon Bush, sailing with Brad Boston and Curt Oetking on La Tormenta, came out on top with a ten point lead. The three have been racing together for the past three years, and Boston believes they work really well together and most importantly, are able to have a lot of fun which allows for enjoyable regattas.  The team has had good events in the past and won smaller events, but this was the first major event they won together. Shannon and her team are always trying to climb the ladder and be faster, which seemed to click this regatta.

Catching up with Brad after the regatta, he explained that their regatta strategy was to capitalize on their boat speed, which Brad claims is incredible. Therefore, they would prioritize a big hole at the start, while trying to be as close to the favored end as possible while avoiding traffic.  The Midline boat worked well for La Tormenta and they started there in 3 out of the 4 races such that they seemed to be able to do as they pleased off the line for the first few minutes. Consistency is always a key factor and Brad figures they were able to pull that off by letting their speed get them out of any bad positions and by staying relaxed. The team would get away from the fleet and slowly pick their way through with clear air and clean lanes.  To accomplish this speed, they used Doyle’s AP-2 Main, VMG bi-radial spinnaker, and alternated between the Marblehead Light Jib (MHL) in lower velocity conditions until two people were on the deck, when they switched to the DCM Jib to hold for the remainder of the time.

Doyle Etchells Miami 2016When to change sails and settings had been the focus of the last several regattas and during the practice time prior to the Sid Doren. La Tormenta tuned up against Peter Duncan and Jud Smith’s team on Raging Rooster, and they both received some help from Moose McClintock on a powerboat. For weather models and forecasting, the team depended on Commanders, Wind Finder, and Sail Flow. Although the models were all slightly different, there was agreement that the wind would trend right, so they were sure to protect the right, especially when dark clouds came in.

We also asked Brad how his success as a five-time Viper 640 North American Champion translated into the Etchells Class. Aside from being accustomed to racing in large fleets, Brad insisted that it was the absolute inverse. The Etchells is a highly technical boat, which doesn’t have huge speed changes like a sport boat might, so every little thing matters. It is one of Brad’s favorite fleets to race in because the skills he learns from racing Etchells in speed and tuning carry over to all other one design classes. Congratulations La Tormenta on a great win on Biscayne Bay.

Full results can be found here.

For more information about Doyle’s Etchells Sails, please visit here.

Ragamuffin 100 2nd Across Line in Rolex Sydney Hobart

Ragamuffin 5In one of the most challenging editions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in recent years, the 100 foot Maxi Ragamuffin 100 overcame several early stumbles for a thrilling finish in the veritable race.  This year’s event saw a wide range of conditions, with high winds that led to nearly a third of the fleet retiring, and light winds at the finish that tested sailors patience.  Ultimately, Ragamuffin 100 passed Rambler 88 in the final mile of the race to take second across the line in light winds that stood in stark contrast to the early part of the race.  Ragamuffin 100 had Mark Fullerton of Doyle Sails Qingdao sailing aboard, and the boat was sailing with a full Doyle Stratis sail inventory.  Most impressively, the massive Square Top main was first fitted on the original Ragamuffin 100 in 2013, stayed with the boat as a new hull was built for the rig and deck, and has now powered the yacht to 3 Sydney Hobart Races, 2  Transpacs and set the record in the 673 mild Hong Kong to Vietnam Race.

The first night of the race was the most intense, with a 40 knot front blowing through the fleet in the dark of night with intense rain completely reducing visibility. In the process of changing sails for the breeze, the massive furled A3 came partially unfurled forcing the yacht to bear away to try to get the 9,000 square foot sail back on deck while running downwind with a full main and J4 at 20 knots, into the swell.  After getting the foredeck under control, the yacht began reefing, only to have the reefing line for the second reef break.  In the chaos that ensued going for the 3rd reef, the yacht crash tacked, with the keel and water ballast now to leeward.  Ragamuffin 2

Skipper David Witt was thrown off the back of the boat in the process, only hanging on to the back but unable to help get the boat righted.

“It was 10 to 10.30 at night when the southerly hit. It was intense and relentless. We were trying to get the main down heading north when the boat literally capsized on top of us. Shave (Justin Shave) was on the bow and under water, the main, half down, knocked me off the back of the boat. I was hanging on to the back end and my sea boots were dragged off me.

“All I was thinking was, ‘can someone press the canting button (to centralise the keel), cos I can’t reach it from where I am’.  We were under water for 15 minutes – the ballast was on the wrong side of the boat and so was the keel. Frightening doesn’t describe it,” Witt recalled.

Ragamuffin 3While the team lost some miles in the process, they were able to continue while two of their main rivals, Wild Oats XI (R/P 100) and Perpetual Loyal (Juan K 100) were forced to retire with damage.  There was more drama to come, as one of Ragamuffin 100’s daggerboards broke, forcing the team to “tack” the intact daggerboard, no easy feat with an 19 foot, 650 pound board.  But in the end, the boat kept going and began reeling in the miles they had lost, and had the perseverance to pass Rambler 88 right at the finish.  In contrast to the earlier parts of the race, the final day saw nearly any wind.  “We never give up on this boat … we managed to get them in the end,” Witt said.

The race was also an achievement for owner and sailing legend Syd Fischer, who at 88 years old was was the oldest competitor to ever sail the Sydney-Hobart Race.  “It was good to beat them – a good feeling. And I crossed another one off – my 47th,” said Fischer upon finishing.

Ragamuffin 6 (Old Hull)

Same Main, Different Hull – Ragamuffin 100 (version 1) racing in the 2013 Sydney Hobart.

Mark Fullerton, of Doyle Sails Qingdao, has worked with the Ragamuffin team for years and managed their sail program.  The Ragamuffin sails were produced at Doyle Qingdao, which is owned and operated by sailors John Hearne and Fullerton.  Looking back on the race, Fullerton was impressed by how well the original main is still holding up.  “Everyone on board couldn’t believe how it survived the first night. I have no idea how and why the rig didn’t come down. It was about as messed up as you could get things. There were no broken battens or any damage to  the main.  As the race went on and we pulled the reefs out I was amazed to see there was no damage to the mainsail. No more than a few minor bits of chafe” Fullerton commented.  The main is a light weight, Stratis Carbon/Technora main that was fitted prior the 2013 Transpac Race, and has now been with the same rig after a new underbody was produced for the boat in 2013 and mated with the original Deck and Rig.  Having now powered the yacht through thousands of offshore miles racing, the sail is a testament to the performance, durability and light weight of the Stratis sails that are being utilized on many of the world’s highest performing yachts.

For complete results, please visit here

To learn more about Doyle Stratis Sails, please visit here

Jackpot Wins Viper North Americans for 5th time

The 2015 Viper North Americans, held in Larchmont, NY, was not only the largest Viper regatta to date but also the largest sport boat competition in North America to date. With 53 boats, this four day event was extremely competitive with a good mixture of conditions – light the first day and puffy the next three. As it was blowing from the shore, it would sometimes be blowing twenty and other times six knots, catching a lot of competitors off guard. Doyle Sailmakers’ Brad Boston on team Jackpot came out on top for his fifth North American Championship win.

Doyle Viper Sails

Jackpot Out In Front Downwind

With his longtime crew of Curtis Florence and Luke Lawrence, Brad Boston won four races and placed second twice to accrue 45 points after twelve races. As a recent interview on Scuttlebutt mentioned, Brad’s program is all about Keeping it Affordable and Keeping it Fun, “on and off the water, from the time we wake up until we fall asleep.”  Not only is the class itself designed to be affordable, Doyle Boston makes sure that they offer value in the sails they provide to the class – delivering both performance and durability.NA 2015 Awards

Doyle has been very involved in the class for many years and therefore keep the designs and materials up to date. The consistency of the results that Doyle Sails have achieved are the result of ongoing sail development and incremental improvements as feedback from customers is received. For the North Americans this year, Brad used the latest set of Flex 16 upwind sails and a Dynakote spinnaker (a slippery nylon fabric which is great for coming in and out of the sock quickly).

Doyle Viper Sails

The team at Doyle Boston Sailmakers not only get out there and win competitions, but make sure to share their knowledge with whoever is willing to listen. Brad, Tac Boston, and Chris Jay offered a week long tuning before the event, available to everyone. Their consistant involvement not only benefits other competitors but ensures that the class continues to grow and remains competitive.

More information about Doyle’s Viper sails can be found here.

Final results can be found here here

J/70 North American Recap

Doyle J/70 Sails

Victor Diaz, Will Felder, Jud Smith and Marc Gauthier

Since the ’14 Newport Worlds, where we finished a respectable 9th overall, we set out to improve on that performance and hit the circuit pretty hard over the winter.   Starting in the Chesapeake, followed by Tampa, Key West, St. Pete, Miami and Charleston.  All were big regattas with plenty of competition and opportunity to improve our speed and technique. During that time, we developed our flatter J6 Radial Jib for the fresher seasonal conditions we encounter on the East Coast.  With our heavy air performance improved, we placed 4th overall at Key West without losing our good light air speed we had in Newport.   At Charleston race week, we moved up to 3rd overall and topped the Dynasty division; racing both major regattas with my daughter Lindsay, Will Felder and Marc Gauthier.  We race at 725 to 740 lbs depending on our team since I’m one of the heaviest drivers in the class at over 100 kilos.

OneRegattaAfricaDuring these travel regattas, we have refined our trimming and tuning techniques for the new J6 Radial jib.  Our high clew jib allows us to inhaul the jib to the cabin house nonskid, which powers up the main and generates more helm and point.   As the wind speed increases to the 7 to 8 knots max power condition, we start to depower by lowering the traveler toward center line and tension the outhaul all before touching the backstay.  We only start using the backstay once the outhaul is tensioned and traveler car is nearing centerline to keep from having too much helm.  Managing the correct amount of power while sailing close hauled is crucial for the Main Trimmer and Helmsman.

Jib development prior to La Rochelle Worlds

This summer we raced Africa in our local Fleet 9, only missing one race day during my trip to J/70 worlds in La Rochelle on Peter Duncan’s “Relative Obscurity”.   We tested our current J6 Radial jib design in mid-June with Roller Battens in preparation for the Worlds.  The Jib performed very well at the Worlds even though the experimental roller battens showed signs of fatigue by the end of a windy event, but overall performed well – winning the last race of the Worlds to place 7th overall.  (The roller batten jibs may have a future in the J/70 once the batten durability improves.)

After returning from the Worlds in July, we made a standard vertical batten version of J6R, which we used to win the competitive J/70 New England Championships during Marblehead Race Week, in a wide range of windspeeds a sea conditions. That was our first win in a sanctioned J/70 championship event since we had started racing in 2013.  So we were improving each regatta in 2015 with the NA’s fast approaching.  Meanwhile Team Hooligan, one of our training partners at the North Americans, won Cleveland Race Week (they placed 7th at NA’s using the same main and jib combo as us.)  At the end of August, we won the regional ONE Regatta in light air conditions that were a lot like San Diego.

Sail Selection for the North Americans

21694845472_a747137697_oIt’s unique to sail a big regatta in a venue where the conditions are so consistently light, but thankfully there was plenty of time to prepare for this.  Leading up to September, I got invited to do a two-boat testing session in San Diego with Joel Ronning and his “Catapult” team.  Joel had set up a two boat J/70 testing camp in San Diego for the month leading up to the NA’s and invited all the top sailmakers in the class to join in for a few days and test their designs at that venue.  I couldn’t resist that opportunity, since Ronning was second at the Newport Worlds and has been one of the top boats on the circuit since the outset.

From that 2 days of testing on the NA’s track we learned our J6R performed just fine even in the light air and was especially quick with crew on the rail.  What we also found was that our older Main from the 2014 NA’s in Rochester was a bit softer now and provided more power that would be needed for the light air anticipated for NA’s.   While we came away from the New England’s with a win, I felt like for us to be competitive at our weight range in light air, we would need a better downrange soaking kite if we were going to have a shot at the podium.21098589443_b8c69acdea_o

After returning from the San Diego testing session, we raced in our fleet on Labor Day weekend in perfect San Diego light air and had great upwind speed versus our competitive fleet; but of more significance, we tested a refined early VMG design from 2013 that had always been a good light air spinnaker.  We nicknamed it “Billy Baroo” after Judge Smails old wooded putter he used to sink his final putt in Caddyshack. That kite generated the most sheet load and would fly the most eased of any of our kites.  That performance difference was generally dismissed and we decided that I was too heavy to be fast downwind. Initially, we dismissed the design because we were also too concerned about its planing ability, but testing a spinnaker’s planing performance is not an exact science. There are so many factors when comparing planing performance, that it is hard to prove one kite is clearly better than another in those conditions.  One thing was for certain, since I am one of the heaviest skipper in the 70 class, and we would be one of the heavier crews, selecting the best spinnaker would be critical to our success.

21085390163_6a37f09239_oWe were able to test both days prior to the practice day and final day of measurement.   On Monday, we tested inside the bay in very light air with Hooligan and Savasana.  On Tuesday, we were able to test on the NA’s track with many top boats in 6-8 knots.  We had competitive speed upwind, and experimented with different tuning settings to see which one worked best.  We found that 2 settings below our base was the best for those conditions, that were unstable 6 to 8 knots.   Downwind we swapped between kites to see which we liked better and selected the “Billy Baroo” as our primary kite and AP as our back up.  At this point, most of the class has 2 viable spinnakers, and it makes sense to add in a specialized Light Air VMG spinnaker for regattas when you know the breeze is going to be under 10 knots and declare that as your primary spinnaker.

Regatta Strategy

Going into the NA’s, we knew that to be among the top boats at the end of the regatta would need good consistent scores and I didn’t think any one boat was going to  dominate the event.  There was plenty of talent in the fleet and with all the races counting, the outcome would come down to the last race.  The goal was to be one of those boats with a shot at the title going into that final race.

One thing that cannot be stressed enough that made a difference was having a consistent crew.  Will Felder and Marc Gauthier sailed with me for most of the regattas this year, and we worked Victor Diaz in for a number of practice sessions as well.  His knowledge with the San Diego venue proved invaluable and allowed all of us to work well together and keep our eyes on the prize throughout the regatta.  Having confidence in  your crew is essential to coming away from big regattas with a win.

Starting Strategy

The Velocitek ProStart does change the game, since everyone knows where the line is.  There are some teams that like to mix it up at the ends of the line, but it is hard to pull off good starts near an end over the course of a 10 to 12 race series.  Most of the fleet likes to start near the favored end, or in the case of San Diego near the windward end.  If it looked too congested at the weather end with a couple of minutes to go, we would often bail out and move down the line.  The times we started in a congested area, we would have been better off moving down the line.  If the line was 15 or more degrees favored at the pin, the fleet would move to that end.   10 degree bias seemed to be about the right bias to spread out the fleet across the line.J 70 Start

In a big fleet, we generally do a port approach (unless it is heavy air) and try to get on starboard between 1:30 and 1 minute to go.  I still try to approach the line with seconds and meters closely matching during that final minute on starboard. If it’s lighter, we have the jib deployed to be able to approach the line at a meter a second ratio and still have some time to scrub off.   When it is 8 + knots, we approach with the jib furled, since we can approach at a meter a second ratio with just the main only.  In that condition we generally deploy at 30 seconds but even later the windier it gets.  Once the jib is deployed, the J/70 accelerates quickly, except in the light conditions.  Deploying the jib in fresher conditions too early makes it hard to hold back and protect space to leeward.  Any time I find myself with a minute to go and only 30 meters from the line, unless it is very light air, it generally does not end well.

More information on Doyle’s J/70 sails here.