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An interview with Katie Coleman Nicoll about the 2017 J/24 Worlds

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 11 Sep 2017
2016 J/24 North American Championship - Day 1 Christopher Howell
Yacht designer Rod Johnstone didn’t know that he was starting a keelboat revolution in 1975 when he decided to home-build a tidy 24-foot raceboat, but that’s exactly what happened. Johnstone’s first boat, which he named Ragtime, was fresh out of her mold for the 1976 Block Island Race Week, which Johnstone and company handedly won, and the inquiries started pouring in. Within a few years, a bona fide One Design class had been born, and now, 42 years ex post facto, there are more than 5,480 J/24s afloat, with active racing taking place in at least 110 different countries across 165 fleets.

Best yet, while faster, more modern designs have followed in the J/24’s cutting-edge wake, including plenty with the J/Boats logo on their sails, the venerable J/24 still attracts many of the world’s fastest One Design sailors to its regattas, making a J/24 World Championship a who’s-who of the sailboat-racing world.

This year’s J/24 Worlds will unfurl from September 15-23, 2017 on the waters of Canada’s Lake Ontario and will be hosted by the Port Credit Yacht Club, which is situated on the lake’s northwestern shores. While any World Championship regatta is likely a highly organized affair, the Port Credit Yacht Club hosted the 2016 J/24 North Americans, giving the club’s on-the-water and on-the-ground staff extra experience hosting a high-level J/24 event.

The Port Credit Yacht Club is expecting 80 teams, consisting of more than 400 sailors, and the event has worked hard to make charter boats available for visiting teams.

I caught up with Katie Coleman Nicoll, secretary/treasurer of the Canadian J/24 class and a member of the 2017 J/24 World Championship regatta’s organizing committee (as well as a competitor and a heck of a fast sailor), via email, to learn more about this exciting event.

The J/24 is one of the older one design keelboat classes that still draws deeply talented fleets – what do you think is this class’s gravity?
The J/24 is now 40 years old and you can easily sail hull number one as well as hull number 5,000 and be competitive. It is One Design sailing, which you can’t beat! Of all the boats that size, [The J/24] is the most affordable and fun. Because of the crew restrictions, there are often many women who sail in the fleet, and you can easily pick up [a used J/24] for a very reasonable price-so it suits the 20-30 something crowd.

The class is not loaded with Pros, as are many of the fleets in the same size range.

How many boats are you expecting on the line, once the starting guns start sounding?
We expect 70-80 boats (currently there are 70).

How much of a factor do you think that local knowledge will be at the world Championship?
With the high water levels, cooler temperatures and abundant rainfall that the Great Lakes have experienced this year, there are additional currents and wind patterns that have emerged.

The phrase…. “It’s never like that here,” has been very frequent this summer.

Are you anticipating mostly windward-leeward courses, or will the RC possibly get creative with course shapes.
The [Sailing Instructions] have been posted on Yacht Scoring and there are only two course possibilities with two races/day – windward-leeward twice around or windward-leeward twice around with an extra windward

Any advice for visiting teams who are new to Lake Ontario?
The water has been very cold this year, although clear and clean. Our temperatures have ranged this summer from 11-37 degrees Celsius. There can be a lot of chop, and when the wind blows from the east we get waves that build up from the end (although not legendary like Lake Erie).

What kinds of steps has the event taken to be environmentally sustainable?
The province of Ontario is committed to recycling – to the end that there is more recycling than garbage that is collected on a weekly basis. We will be encouraging all participants to actively recycle in the appropriate bins at Port Credit Yacht Club. There will be recycling bins for plastic bottles, as well as reusable water bottles in the skipper’s package.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?
The following eight notable skippers will be attending: Mike Ingham (one-time world champion and two-time North American champion), Will Welles (one-time world champion and three-time North American champion), John Mollicone (two-time world champion), Matias Pereira (three-time South American champion), Rossi Milev (one-time North American champion), Travis Odenbach (one-time North American champion), David Klatt (one-time North American champion), and Andy Taylor (one-time winner European Championships).

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