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J70 Worlds Recap

Written by Victor Diaz de Leon

The first time I sailed a J70 was at the 2013 Key West Race Week. I had recently met Willem Van Waay and he had asked me to join his team. He thought I was the right weight to complete his crew trimming main legs in. Once there, I quickly volunteered to dive the boat, bail between races, and do other chores. It seemed to me that those had my name all over it, since I was the youngest and most inexperienced by a long stretch! Going forward from that regatta, Willem took me under his wing and took me along with most of the programs he was involved with. I guess he saw my passion and enthusiasm for the sport. He introduced me to pro-sailing, always having my back and looking after me. He still does.


Willem and I sailed with Catapult for two years. We had so many great tacticians sail with us including: Jeremy Wilmot, Vasco Vascotto, Chris Rast, and Bill Hardesty for the longest stretch. I picked up tricks from all of them and observed what aspects of racing each guy valued. I learned the importance of boat speed from Billy. We spent most of our time speed testing with various set ups and techniques. Sailing with all these guys was like getting a college degree in sailing.


I decided to find my own team to try calling the shots and being in charge. I started sailing with Gannon Troutman and his dad on Piper. Gannon was very young and therefore a great listener and fast learner. Some of our highlights were placing second at Charleston Race Week with over eighty boats competing for two years in a row. The first we lost on a tie breaker to Catapult, which Willem and Hardesty were sailing on. I was hoping to kick their ass, but it was still rewarding to battle with the old mentors!


Double Bracket: This was the first time I had sailed with a high clew jib in the J70 with the possibility of unlimited in-hauling. It was also the first high clew jib on the market.Jud and I sailed together in the j70 for the first time in the San Diego NA's. We decided to team up in order to have a shot at winning the event. We showed up about four days before the start of the regatta with the rest of our team: Will Felder and Marc Gauthier. We had plenty of work to do as we had never sailed together, the boat needed work, and we had different sail combinations to try.  


I knew this was a great opportunity. I was sailing with Jud Smith as his tactician.  This was my chance to learn from one of the best sail makers in the industry. We tried different sail set ups before the regatta started. All built by him. To me, it was fascinating. We finally decided to sail with the M1 and the new, at the time, J6 jib. This was the first time I had sailed with a high clew jib in the J70 with the possibility of unlimited in-hauling. It was also the first high clew jib on the market. Boy did it work well! We thought we had a speed edge with this combo and we eventually proved to be right. It was a very good light air set up.
Double Bracket: Peter is one of those owners that are hard to come by. He is a very talented driver, comparable to a 'pro-driver,” and has the time and desire to put the hard hours in.During the event, Jud and I clicked and developed an enjoyable friendship, as well as a deep trust of each other's sailing. Well, I already trusted and admired the guy: but I was surprised that despite my young age, he fully trusted my tactics. He asked for my opinion in sail combos and rig tune. I guess for Jud, it was an opportunity he didn't yet have since he started sailing the j70s. To sail with a younger guy who pushed him to think outside the box and was deeply invested in getting the program to the top.  We went on to win the event. It was my first big win as a tactician and what a great feeling it was!


After Winning the NA's, Jud and I decided to sail the San Francisco Worlds together, holding the same key positions of him driving and me on tactics. In the meantime, Jud hooked me up with his long-time client, Peter Duncan, to be his tactician. Peter is one of those owners that are hard to come by. He is a very talented driver, comparable to a "pro driver,” and has the time and desire to put the hard hours in. We did a few events and had Jud's team as tuning partners. We did a week plus of two boat testing in Key West 2016. We kept refining shroud tuning ratios, jib lead positions, in-hauler amounts throughout the wind range, etc. We finished in second place behind Calvi Network and beat some of the top guys like Tim Healy, and the reigning world champion at the time, Julian Hernandez.


Jud and I made our way to San Francisco to get ready for the Worlds. We showed up a few days before big boat series, which was the tune up event. We again had a new team and hadn't done a lot of practice. Alec Anderson trimmed and Fin legend, Ed Wright, did the bow. We were off the pace compared to the top teams. It took a week of long days to get the heavy air set up dialed in. We added rake, tweaked main luff curve, completely changed shroud ratios, etc. We finally found another gear and led the first and second day of Worlds. Having Jud trim the main sheet upwind gave me the freedom to keep the jib in-hauler in my hands and off the cleat. I experimented with it and discovered how powerful this tool is. I played it constantly, depending on sea state and wind changes. Off: during puffs or in chop. On: in flat water and lighter air. Unfortunately it wasn't in the cards for us to take that Worlds home. I called a gybe set in a race and lost a lot of boats. I still remember the moment: it was too high risk and cost us the chance of winning the event. It was a bitter sweet regatta for having a chance and losing it. But it was very rewarding to sail amongst the best and be a contender. It gave me confidence in our approach and philosophy. I felt that if we put more time and a greater effort, we could take Porto Cervo home.


After Worlds, Peter Duncan and I teamed up again and did many regattas together. We even did Melges 24 Worlds and Nationals. Willem Van Waay joined our team in Bacardi cup. We passed boats every downwind. Willem’s downwind expertise helped us improve our technique and we became one of the fastest boats downwind. We won the event. 
Jud joined our J70 team for The Europeans in Cowes. He was so cool to come in and do the bow. It was trial by fire, since it blew 25 plus in every race. It was the windiest event I have yet sailed. Jud's experience in sail design and sail making was so helpful in our campaign. We kept refining the heavy air technique in Cowes. We sailed most of the regatta using the winch to allow us to play the jib upwind. It proved to be very effective in terms of speed, but made tacking and sailing in close quarters very difficult. 


Next up on the events were the Scarlino Italian Nationals and the New England's in Newport. We won both using the same set up used in Porto Cervo: The M2 mainsail and J6 jib.  
Double Bracket: Jud built the J7: a jib of the same radial design as the J6, but slightly fuller in certain areas of the sail. We tested it in Porto Cervo and it proved to be very fast throughout the range.For our final tune up event before Worlds, we did the Ted Hood regatta. We experimented with an older Main design version that I thought might be better in light air. But I was wrong. We were reminded that the M2 is so far the best main in all conditions that we have used. We took a third place. It was a good wake-up call that there are other strong teams and that we needed to keep working towards Worlds. What we did take away was that maybe a fuller jib would be better for light air. Jud built the J7: a jib of the same radial design as the J6, but slightly fuller in certain areas of the sail. We tested it in Porto Cervo and it proved to be very fast throughout the range. We decided to go with the J6 because of a windy forecast, and a flatter sail would probably be better. 


In Porto Cervo, we had a great tuning session with our training partner Peter Cunningham, which was the fastest boat we lined up with in Porto Cervo. They won a day in gold fleet, but unfortunately had a break down the last day, which kept them out of two races. We were able to test some ideas I had of rake combinations with different tack shackle heights. We also developed a jib trim that was as fast as using the winch for heavy air.  It is nice to have Jud around to monitor my ideas and experiments. He is very open-minded, but also has so much knowledge and experience. I have many ideas but little experience so it’s a good balance! He says one out of every ten ideas I have work out. 


Double Bracket: By the end of the tuning session, we never lost a line up against any team, including the former World Champs on Catapult. I knew then we had superior gear.By the end of the tuning session, we never lost a line up against any team, including the former World Champs on Catapult. I knew then we had superior gear. All the hard work we put into tweaking the sails, the set up, and technique paid off. This gave me confidence that if we had good low density starts, we would probably win the event. So we focused on low risk starts and races, so our speed could take care of business. We sailed away from the fleet. What a great feeling, we won the Worlds! 


I loved sailing with Peter, Willem, and Jud. They are all badass sailors and I learned from all of them. It is so special when you win something so big with your friends. After all, we are all buddies and enjoy hanging out with each other. Four buddies conquered the world for a week. 


I am thankful that Willem, Jud, and Peter have taken me under their wing. Willem showed me work ethic and taught me how to sail keel boats. Jud taught me about sail trim and sail design. Peter showed me that I can do it. He trusted me to lead the best team one could ask for. 

 

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