What happens when some of the world’s best keelboat sailors climb aboard high-performance One Design boats on a famously windy racecourse for a world-class regatta? In the case of the J/111 Worlds, the result will involve tightly contested starting lines, high-drama mark roundings and ample bow spray.
Since launching in August of 2010, the J/111 class has enjoyed steady, sustainable growth for a high-end, mid-sized keelboat, with more than 120 boats now sailing in over 12 countries. The class debuted their World Championships in 2014 in Cowes, UK, and made an appearance stateside in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2015 before returning to Cowes for their most recent Worlds. But the 2017 J/111 World Championships (August 23-27, 2017), hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) in San Francisco, California, will represent the first time this red-hot class has contested their Worlds on the West Coast. Registration for this regatta is now in full swing, and StFYC encourages teams to sign up early.
To date, nine American-flagged boats have entered the 2017 J/111 Worlds, including Peter Wagner (StFYC) and his Skeleton Key (USA-115) crew, who earned a proud second-place finish at the 2016 J/111 Worlds and an even prouder first-place finish at this year’s Key West Race Week. While Skeleton Key might be sitting on years of hard-won local knowledge, they will be joined on the starting line by other talented and locally savvy teams, including Dick Swanson (StFYC) and his Bad Dog (USA-103) crew and Reuben Rocci’s (Richmond Yacht Club) Swift Ness (USA-101) squad. And that’s to say nothing of overseas teams who are looking to leverage their class knowledge on American waters.
“There are two things we’re renowned for here: world-class race management and reliable wind conditions,” said Gerard Sheridan, co-chair of the 2017 J/111 Worlds at St. Francis Yacht Club. “We have a great Race Office staffed by committed and highly skilled professionals, and a dedicated team of race-committee volunteers. We run more races per year than any club in North America, so we get plenty of practice!”
As for the competitors, there’s no question that holding the 2017 J/111 Worlds on San Francisco Bay represents a coming-of-age for the class, especially when it comes to brass-against-the-bulkheads spinnaker sets and gybes. “There’s an old saying: ‘If you can sail in San Francisco Bay, you can sail anywhere in the world,’” said Rob Theis, owner and skipper of the J/111 Aeolus (USA-007), who advised that visiting teams should use the remaining months before the starting guns sound to familiarize themselves with StFYC’s City Front racecourse, create a big-picture strategy and a little-picture playbook, with focus on boat-handling skills. “Prepare well and never give up!” said Theis. “It’s a bucket-list venue you won’t forget.”
While predicting weather conditions can be a slippery foredeck, San Francisco Bay has decades of reliable meteorological data that strongly points to August as a great sailing month. “Typically the first race of the day will have wind speeds in the low to mid-teens,” explained Sheridan. “As we get into the afternoon and it heats up inland, the breeze can pipe up into the high teens with gusts into the low-20s. This gives the crews variety of conditions to demonstrate their finesse, gear-changing and boat-handling skills.”
San Francisco Bay’s typically breezy conditions are a powerful magnet for sailors, but this sophisticated, world-class city also presents itself as a superb vacation destination for families, and StFYC’s clubhouse and facilities make visiting a treat for sailors and non-sailors alike. “There’s no better or more comfortable viewing location than our Race Deck with its panoramic view of the Bay from the Golden Gate Bridge to the west; Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island and Alcatraz to the north; and the Berkeley Circle and Treasure Island to the east,” said Sheridan. “In a flood tide, you’ll have all the boats short-tacking along the City Front, providing those on shore—and particularly on our Race Deck—quite a spectacle.”
For teams seeking to glean empirical knowledge before the 2017 J/111 Worlds, StFYC’s Aldo Alessio/Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta is scheduled for August 18-20, and is an ideal opportunity for teams to familiarize themselves with racing along the City Front.
Registration for the J/111 Worlds is open until August 1, 2017