No one could have scripted the extraordinary day experienced by the fourteen J/111s that are sailing in their inaugural J/111 North American Championship.
With a forecasted easterly breeze in the 4-7 knots range and an insane amount of chop bouncing off the Chicago city waterfront (with a few thousand powerboats adding their wakes into the mix watching the Chicago Air & Water Show), it was anyone's guess who would continue to lead the fleet after day three.
What was known was the 'wind wizards' on Richard Lehmann's Windczar team from Harbor Springs, Michigan only had to stay in sequence with the breeze and walk off with the regatta. Or, at least that seemed to be the case after their dominating performance on Friday. Not to be discounted as a contender was the fact that the Lucky Dubie gang spearheaded by Len Siegal were not far off the pace and that Paul Stahlberg's Mental gang of merrymakers had a shot at the gold.
The day dawned with a beautiful sunrise and an easterly breeze in the 4-6 knots range and the Chicago YC PRO determined the fleet had to start far enough offshore to mitigate the enormous spectator chop from powerboats partaking in the Chicago waterfront festivities. It was a good idea! The first race started off in an ESE breeze in the 135-140 degrees range. From there it was anything but obvious that the left hand side of the course would pay off for the rest of the day sailing upwind.
Starting fast off the starboard end of the line in the first race of the day, William Smith's Wooton simply sailed off to the left, tacked once for the weather mark and won the race by a country mile. Simple, smart and a no-brainer. Sailing an incredibly smart race behind them was Rob Ruhlman's Spaceman Spiff from Lakeside YC in Ohio, taking second place after rounding the weather mark in the top half of the fleet. Also showing signs of brilliance were Dr George Miz's team on IMPULSE, sailing fast and taking a third in a closely fought race.
In the second race, Smith's Wooton followed the same formula. Why not? Start conservatively, sail higher and faster than anyone around them and simply win the race! That's exactly what they did. Starting mid-line, they took off and after a few hundred yards simply sailed away from the fleet, taking their second first in a row with a dominating performance. Second was Dave Irish's NO SURPRISE crew from Harbor Springs, MI and third was Paul Stahlberg's ascendant Milwaukee crew on Mental.
The third race proved to be the roller-coaster ride so far for the regatta. For many, the 'wheels fell off the shopping trolley', in other words, like the proverbial 'Icarus' flying too close to the sun, their wings got burnt off and came crashing down to the reality of Earth. Remarkably, the regatta leader Windczar fell into that category. After a brilliant second day, the 'wind wizards' posted a 6-8-8 for the day to drop into a tie for second place one point off the lead!
The Lucky Dubsters led by Señor Siegal sailed a solid day to take a 4-7-2 for the day to become, again, the regatta leaders by one point. Finishing in triumphant fashion after their first two races was Stahlberg's Mental, improving every race to post a 5-3-1 score to emphatically put their mark on their bid for top honors overall. Tied with them is Marty Roesch's Velocity team from Annapolis, Maryland in the top five. Just behind this group with a shot at the top three are Ruhlman's Spaceman Spiff, Brauer's Fleetwing, and Miz's Impulse.
Tomorrow promises to be another cliff-hanger for the fleet with a light ESE breeze that will likely be fed by an onshore sea-breeze effect midday. The fact the lead has changed hands so dramatically in the last two days and that the top five are all within ten points of one another means the championship is wide open for the team that can rise to the occasion.
For more J/111 North Americans sailing information
by Stuart Johnstone - 6:17 AM Sun 18 Aug 2013 GMT
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