Wind Disappoints, But J/35 Series Doesn't

SAILING

Changing Conditions Test Big Fleet's Skills

September 25, 1991|By Nancy Noyes

This year's annual J/35 North American Championships took place Friday through Sunday out of the Annapolis Yacht Club.

The event drew a healthy fleet of about a dozen local contenders, along with a substantial number from New England, New York and New Jersey, and teams from Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, southern Virginia, Canada and Suffolk, England.

That made for an impressive group of 31 of the big one-design boats, which are often as aggressively raced as the hottest dinghies.

Though a lack of wind on Sunday made racing impossible and shortenedthe planned five-race series to four -- with two races on each of the regatta's first two days -- widely varied results for virtually allcompetitors clearly showed that it was a challenging and highly competitive series.

In a relatively unusual turn of events, none of the top four overall finishers won an individual race during the series, while bullets were found as deep in the final standings as the teamof Randy Scarborough of Cherry Hill, N.J., and Bill Weisberger of Arnold on Downtown Girl, 11th overall after acing the first race.

Consistency was more critical in the series than getting guns, and mostconsistent of all was New Jersey J/Boat dealer Jeff Udell with his team on Telegraph Road, first in the fleet with a 20-point overall score and finishes of 2-6-9-3.

Brisk winds Friday sped the fleet around the course in fast and furious contests and put a premium on skillful boat handling, while an ever-lightening breeze and still bigger wind shifts on Saturday made the series more of a mental challenge as it drew to a close. The wide variety of conditions forced those who ultimately did well overall to demonstrate all-around skills.

Leading the local finishers were Annapolitans Jeff and Stephen Todd, sailing Hot Toddy with their crew to fourth overall with finishes of 7-4-7-8.

"We raced Friday in a northwesterly," Jeff Todd explained. "Inthe morning it was pretty heavy and we used our No. 3, and then we used the No. 2 in the afternoon when it got a little lighter.

"Saturday, it was northeast and that was mostly the heavy No. 1, but it was pretty shifty both days, with 20- to 30-degree shifts. It wasn't very steady, even with that much wind."

Todd said that the constant shifts were responsible for the generally uneven results.

"The wind was so shifty it was hard for somebody to really dominate the wholething," he said. "It was tough to be very consistent because of all the shifts. You had to take some risks now and then, and that makes it hard to stay up there all the time.

"But we enjoyed it, althoughwe would have enjoyed it a little bit more if we'd had our last shotat everybody on Sunday. We were really looking forward to racing on Sunday because it was all so close -- just a couple of points, really. We knew the wind would be light out of the south and the ChesapeakeBay guys would have a chance to give the Long Island Sound guys a lesson in using the light No. 1, but it didn't come around. It was justtoo light."

Next in line behind Hot Toddy, on an upswing through the regatta with steadily improving finishes, starting with a 15th and a ninth on Saturday and culminating in a third and a bullet on Sunday, was Annapolis sailor Kevin McNeil and his team on Banzai. McNeil joined the J/35 class a few months ago.

"It was very good competition," Jeff Todd said, as he ticked off the list of top sailors who were here for the event, including Carter Gowerie from Connecticut, aboard Touch of Gray; co-skippers Bob Burgess and Ross Curtis, also fromConnecticut, on Celerity; and former Michigan All-American and top J/24 sailor Scott Ferguson of Jamestown, R.I., sailing Moderation.

He also pointed out that while Udell's Telegraph Road team and fellowNew Jersey sailors Sag Sagerholm and his team on Aunt Jean were tiedfor first at the end of Saturday's racing, having each posted a second and a sixth, the best single-day performance in the regatta was McNeil's pair of very strong races on Sunday.

"Our J/35 fleet reallyenjoyed hosting the regatta, and we had a good turnout," Todd said. "I think the Annapolis Yacht Club did a really good job with the breeze that they had."

Other regatta features included parties at AYC Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, and a blowout at the Sobstad loft on Saturday night, complete with door prizes and dinner.

"Tim and Sally Bowen, who sail Cheers -- especially Sally -- really did an incredible job," Todd said. "She really put it all together, did the cooking for the dinner, took care of everything with registration and all the entry forms, did all the hard work."

Todd and other local fleet members already are planning their revenge on the New York and New England teams.

"I think next year they're going to have the North Americans up in Newport, so hopefully we can get up there and give those guys a run for their money," he said.

J/35 NORTH AMERICAN

CHAMPIONSHIPS

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