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Africa sailed through thick and thin to become the 2018 J/70 World Champions

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In Marblehead on Saturday afternoon, September 29th, one might have thought it was a holiday as powerboats fired cannons off their sterns and a flotilla of spectators blew their foghorns and tossed brews to an incoming J/70 keelboat. Local legend, Jud Smith, and his team on Africa were returning to the harbor after PRO Hank Stuart flew AP over A from the Eastern Yacht Club Committee boat. No wind and no racing on the last day of the 2018 J/70 World Championship meant that Doyle One Design's Jud Smith first place standing in the regatta held as the overall result. Commentator, Louay Habib, joked that the number of spectators gave racing a feel similar to the America’s Cup. He led a Facebook LIVE feed during the starts and finishes of each race for supporters at home, which had high rates of viewers.

J70 Worlds 2018 Africa Going In For Group Hug
Team Africa, ecstatic, go in for a group hug upon winning the J70 2018 Worlds

The fifth J/70 World Championship was hosted by the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts and consisted of three days of measurement followed by five days of racing for 91 boats from 18 different countries. Three of the four past J70 World Champions were competing as well as Olympians, Volvo Ocean Racers, and National Champions. The depth of competition was so strong that twenty two teams made the race podium during the 11 races. During his awards presentation speech, Jud commented, “This fleet was incredibly deep. We all have the utmost respect for all 90 of you. Anybody could have won this regatta and we respected that. It was really a privilege to race here and a lot of fun.”

Although he is always humble, Jud has been training with his team of Lucas Calabrese, Will Felder, and Marc Gauthier all year. Willem van Waay, trimmer on 2017 World Champion boat, mentioned that even during the regatta, Relative Obscurity and Africa were always the first boats out on the course as tune up partners. Willem said, “We both had a chance to win on the last day and winning was no accident. We fell short placing fourth, but are psyched our teammates took it down!”

Marblehead Light J70 Africa
Africa sailing the 2.5 miles out to the racecourse from Marblehead Harbor

Marblehead is also the birthplace of Doyle Sails where Founder Robbie Doyle opened his first sail loft back in 1982. Robbie Doyle comments on Jud's Marblehead win:

"It was special to see Jud win here at home. Jud, Dave Curtis, and I were asked to provide our thoughts on local knowledge. And the consensus was there is no local knowledge for late September sailing in Marblehead, and this World’s illustrated this observation. There was a bit of everything. Jud won because he & his team consistently adjusted to the varying conditions."

Unlike the summer conditions most teams used as training for the Marblehead 2018 Worlds, the fall regatta had high sea states and heavy breeze nearly every day. The first day was incredibly tiring with consistent breeze over twenty knots and 8-10 foot swells. Only two races instead of the intended three were carried out because gusts increased and boats were wiping out. At the local Doyle loft, we saw many kites torn to shreds and the local boat yard, Marblehead Trading Company, was quick with carrying out pretty substantial hull repairs. Each day the conditions settled down a bit more, but gusts of 25 knots were always present. Some days had gorgeous sunshine and others chilled the competitors to the core with rain. Only the last day was absolutely stunning with breeze directly in the harbor, but not present on the race course. Although the Race Committee went as far as Halfway Rock (the halfway point between Gloucester and Boston) in order to find breeze, racing was finally called off

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Doyle Sailmakers Founder Robbie Doyle and Jud Smith Celebrate at the Eastern Yacht Club

With 91 boats on the start line each race, choosing the correct side of the line and getting off the line with some chance of clean air was incredibly important. For some teams, this meant a necessity to be aggressive on the line, which combined with various current situations meant the race committee had trouble getting starts off fairly and were forced to use the U flag and Black flag. On Race Day Three alone, fifteen teams received a black flag and were either not permitted to start after the general recall or were not scored. Jud explains, “We did not start well because we didn’t want to be over – I didn’t want to take myself out of it. My Tactician (Lucas Calabrese) is of the same mindset. We just want to stay in the game, which made it hard because as a result we didn’t do anything particularly brilliant.” Like many others, last year’s champions on Relative Obscurity had to use their toss out score on a black flag.

Africa Jud
After rounding the leeward gate Jud Smith carves his way through a barrage of spinnakers

For Jud Smith, this World Championship victory marks his 10th as part of the winning team and 3rd as the driver. Jud jokes in his acceptance speech that the easiest position on a J/70 is driving, but his elation shined through nonetheless. The town cheered on Team Africa at the yacht club and carried the celebration down to Maddie’s Sail Loft in old town Marblehead. Doyle is proud to have such a modest yet remarkable guy on our team. Jud has worked incredibly hard to perfect the J/70 sails he designed and built. It is great to see him and his sails win the World Championship in the most competitive One Design class two years in a row! He is always keen to share his knowledge with customers and competitors alike, so don’t be afraid ask him questions.

Africa Jud 2
Africa on USA 1310, a French boat with a Selden mast, settle into a downwind leg

How will the 60-year-old One Design guru celebrate his big win? Jud has gone straight back to his workstation to build sails for next week’s Star World Championship. He will also be participating in the Farr 40 World Championship in Chicago this weekend. Fun fact: Jud will be jumping on a plane the very day after his daughter’s wedding for the Etchells Worlds in Brisbane in two weeks’ time to skipper Mark Johnson’s boat…Champions never rest!

Jud Working On Star Sail
Jud back to work sticking a Star jib after the J70 Worlds win. What a legend!

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