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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.

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