by Becci Eplett
At the J/80 World Championships, it seems that the few golden hours of sunshine enjoyed by the 76 competing teams on Wednesday were perhaps the last of the championship. The four races completed on Thursday 14th June, the penultimate day of the regatta, were sailed in lumpy seas and building breeze from 125 degrees and which topped out at 20 knots in Race 9, the final race of the day.
J/80 World Championships 2012
Spaniard Jose Maria van der Ploeg is still leading the championship in Nilfisk on 57 points but Rayco Tabares of the Canary Islands who won the J/80 World Championship in 2010 has pushed through to second place just five points behind in Hotel Princessa Yaiza. Eric Brezellec of France, who won Spi Ouest Regatta at Easter, is in third place sailing Interface Concept 1 with 71 points. The next two boats at the end of Day Three are both Brits: Kevin Sproul is fourth in J.A.T with 73 points and the Rob Larke and his team on board J2X sit in fifth with 83 points.
It’s tough out there on the race-track in Start Bay: the nine races sailed have each delivered a different winner and today the victors were Hotel Princesa Yaiza in Race 6, Alexis Henri and his crew of VADK One in Race 7, for Race 8 the spoils of success went to Javier Chacartegui on HM-Hotels and the final race of the day was won by Carlos Martinez in Mabfre. The fleet is chock full of sailing champions and superstars and with just two races left to sail on Friday 15th June (storm fronts permitting) the pressure is really full-on.
Hugo Ramon (the bowman on Nilfisk) is excited and perhaps just a little nervous about what the final day might bring. Hugo said ‘We’ve done a lot of training over the last two years and our skipper (an Olympic Gold medallist for Spain in the Finn Class) is an amazing strategist on the water, boat on boat. It would be awesome to hold our position until the close of the championship.’ Hugo is no sailing slouch himself having just come back from competing in the Global Ocean Race.
Elsewhere in the fleet J/80 UK Class Secretary and stalwart Mark Cockrill (who races on Just Do It with the UK Class Chairman Terry Palmer) is currently in 41st place. He explained ‘Racing in the J/80 class gets better every year and every day is more exciting than the last at this World Championship. The big breeze and waves today made things really exciting, the racing is incredibly close and of course it’s fabulous to have so much competition from so many international entries.’
Currently lying in 33rd place, Christian Birrell is part of one of the youngest crews at the event and they are sailing in a borrowed boat called Josip Tito which is skippered by Ian Dobson. ‘This is the first time we have ever sailed in the J/80 fleet’ he said, ‘and we are loving it. We struggled for boat speed yesterday but today we had two results in the top ten. It should have been four though…’
But it’s not just the competition on the water though that keeps the skippers and crews smiling through their fatigue and the rain. The owner of J/80 Peloton, Mark Greenaway, has done masses of sailing in numerous different Sportsboat classes and he has his whole family down in Dartmouth with him. ‘Dartmouth is such a fantastic place to come and race’ he enthused. ‘It’s a stunning coastline, the town is beautiful and the team from the Royal Dart Yacht Club are doing a fabulous job on the race-track. The people who live in the town have given us a great welcome too. The J/80 fleet is competitive but classy and this all combines to make the racing all the more enjoyable’.
The two final races of the J/80 World Championship are scheduled to take place on Friday 15th June. The Principal Race Officer and all of the competitors taking part are mindful of the heavy winds which have been forecast but one thing is not in question: the new J/80 World Champion will be crowned on Friday night at a Closing Ceremony and Prizegiving Dinner which will take place at the stunning and auspicious Britannia Royal Naval College.
J80 Worlds website