The inaugural J70 North Americans, held from September 25-28, was hosted by the always hospitable Annapolis Yacht Yacht in Annapolis, Maryland. The attendance was an spectacular with 89 boats. This is especially impressive considering the class is less than two years old! The depth and talent of the competition was top notch and, coupled with the conditions, I have to say this was one of the most challenging regattas I have ever sailed.
It was very exciting for many of us to see, North clients, Heather Gregg Earl and Joe Bardenheier crowned the 2013 North American Champions. Heather and Joe have worked hard for the past couple of years and have put together a great program and their hard work was rewarded. Ably assisted by Bill Lynn and Stuart Saffer, the team on “Muse” sailed a terrific series. Perhaps the best part of the week was watching the 4 of them when they realized, well after docking, that they had actually won! Any regatta with nearly 90 boats is going to be tough, but this one was especially so with an unstable N/NE breeze and a fair amount of unpredictable current. For the twenty or so spectator boats, the weather was picture perfect – warm and sunny – but to those of us racing it was a constant mind game of tactics, tuning and retuning, and trying to find the next favorable puff and shift.
AYC’s race committee, headed up by Sandy Grosvenor, did a fantastic job of getting seven races off in only two days of sailing (the second day was called due to no wind), with long starting lines, plenty of course changes to keep up with the shifty breeze, and considerable current.
What follows are my observations, tuning tips and ideas my team compiled throughout the week.
Day One: Light air – 2-8 knots
We left the dock at 22 on the uppers and 12 on the lowers. As the breeze got lighter, we loosened the rig up before each race. The lowers were very loose to leeward and the uppers ended up being just taut on the leeward side. Our speed on the first day was okay, but we felt like we were missing a gear. When we got in to the dock and measured the rig, it was at 12 on the uppers and 6 on the lowers. This was a little lighter than I think we should have been on the uppers. With the wind at 4-6 knots the main needs more pre-bend, and one way to get this is to ease the lowers and keep the uppers firm. With firm uppers, you can get the long spreaders working to bend the mast. If the main does not have enough pre-bend, it gets too deep and the leech becomes very sensitive to trim. You may find that the boat feels “locked in” and going fast occasionally, but that it is hard to get it going again when you slow down.
Day Two: Light air again – 3-5 knots
The second day, anticipating little to no wind for the first race, we left the dock at 18 on the uppers and 7 on the lowers. The wind was very light and racing was eventually cancelled for the day, but we did have some time to tune up before the wind died. After taking off another half turn on the lowers, the main looked much better. It was flatter from top to bottom, and the leech was much more responsive to trim and small velocity changes. It was easier to keep the leech telltales flying and the boat had a wider groove. We proved faster when we lined up with other boats.
Day Three: 18 kts for the first leg, diminishing throughout the day to 6-10
We started the first race at 24-16 and went off on the rig to 22-12 for the second race because the wind dropped to 8-10 knots. For the last two races of the day we backed off again to 18-7 because of the dying breeze and the large holes forming. Our speed was very good for all four races on the last day so we were happy that our observations over the previous 2 days led us to some fairly solid tuning numbers, specifically in the lighter air conditions we saw most of the event.
TO SUM UP: The biggest tuning lesson for us was to not to go too loose on the uppers when sailing in 0-6 knots. The mast will become too straight and the main too deep. This will cause the main to stall too easily and your speed will suffer.
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