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J/70 Africa crowned Marblehead NOOD overall champion!

by J/Boats 3 Aug 2018 04:50 PDT
Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta at Marblehead © Paul Todd / www.outsideimages.com

The 2018 edition of the Helly Hansen Marblehead NOOD Regatta was not without its dramas for the huge 57-boat J/70 class as well as the talent-laden J/24. Hosted by the triumvirate of clubs in Marblehead (Eastern YC, Corinthian YC, Boston YC), the regatta PRO's managed to get off six races over the first two days for the J/70s, seven races for the J/24s and eight races for the J/105 classes.

In the end, it was local hero- Jud Smith- and his very talented crew onboard the J/70 AFRICA that not only won their class, but were also awarded the Overall Marblehead NOOD Champion Award for best performance at the regatta. As it turns out, Jud and crew now have a chance to race a "party catamaran" in the Caribbean for the Overall NOOD Championship from all the other NOOD regattas nationwide. Here is how it all went down over those three days of racing.

Day 1- Friday

Spectacular sailing conditions marked the first day; gentle breezes and moderate seas made for a full day of close racing, as crews stayed on the water late in order to fit in the maximum number of races possible- like finishing at 1700 hrs late!

Among the eight classes competing on Friday were the popular J/70s. The pro-laden fleet was the largest of the regatta and, for them, this regatta had an added layer of importance. In addition to vying for the overall prize, teams in this class were training for the World Championship in Marblehead this September.

Local skipper Jud Smith, who led the fleet after three races, said this event was critical for J/70 crews to get a feel for the rest of the fleet and get used to the venue— even local sailors, like himself.

"We're sailing in an area we don't normally sail in," Smith said. "And there's nothing like sailing in a big fleet. The starting line is especially challenging."

Smith and his team on AFRICA haven't been sailing together long and are hoping to continue working out the kinks this weekend as they prepare for the class championship.

"We're trying to get better at starting and be more consistent," he said. "It's just about getting used to working together and everyone doing their job. We're happy with how we're going, and we're happy with our boat speed, so the biggest thing is to start more consistently."

Before leading his own crew, Smith served as strategist on the J/70 World Champion team in 2017, alongside skipper Peter Duncan, who currently holds the second spot in the fleet only three points behind team AFRICA.

For Duncan, the Marblehead NOOD is a fun opportunity to go head-to-head with his friend and former teammate, and a can't-miss opportunity to train for this year's championship.

"It's so wonderful to have an event where you can get nearly 60 boats on the starting line in advance of a World Championship in the venue you're going to be sailing in," Duncan said. "It's nice because there are a lot of boats here, a lot of foreign boats and most of the top Americans. That makes for great racing and you get to learn a lot."

Day 2- Saturday

For the second day in a row, consistent winds fueled a full day of races on Saturday. With slightly more wind than Friday, plus light waves and current, fleets kept very close for tight racing and crowded mark roundings on the race course.

When winds are moderate and less physically demanding, boatspeed differences tend to be minimal between competitors, which result in close-quarters racing and passing opportunities. In these conditions, however, it's the best teams that tend to demonstrate their strengths.

Local J/105 skipper Charlie Garrard wasn't getting comfortable just yet with the weather conditions. He led the fleet by two points and credits his success so far to the help of his kids, who are sailing with him, and a focus on finding clear air on the racecourse.

"A two-point lead isn't really a lead," Garrard said. "The way I look at it, there are three boats tied for first right now. So, tomorrow we get out there and try to race our own race. I think it can go any which way."

The largest of 10 fleets competing in this year's event, the J/70 class saw extremely close racing again on Saturday, especially during mark roundings.

Former J/70 World Champion Timothy Healy and his crew on USA 2 staged an impressive comeback to move into second place overall after posting uncharacteristically high scores on Friday's first day of racing.

"The key for us was getting better starts," Healy said of his crew's day two success. "We had clean starts and were able to use our boatspeed to get to the front of the pack. The first day our starts weren't too good, so that was the big difference."

Team USA 2 had one fifth and two first-place finishes on Saturday. The crew hasn't sailed together before, so it's also been important for them to gel and improve communication.

"I can tell that the sail trim and all the little fine-tuning is happening quicker and more effectively now," Healy said. "Boatspeed comes and tactics get better when the communication is better. So all of it came together today."

Looking ahead to the final day, Healy said his goal is to keep improving, especially on starts and speed. "That's the key," he said, "just keep working and learning and getting better."

Day 3- Sunday

Though early morning winds appeared promising, the breeze disappeared and never returned for the final day.

As the winner of the largest, most competitive class in the regatta, J/70 skipper Jud Smith and his crew on Africa earned the coveted Overall Winner prize. In addition to new gear from Helly Hansen, the Swampscott, MA, native and his teammates earned a berth in the Helly Hansen NOOD Caribbean Championship regatta, hosted by Sunsail in the British Virgin Islands in October.

The team won by a considerable 14-point lead, but success didn't come without its challenges. Their big focus this weekend was to start well and consistently – and when that didn't happen, they had to rely on good communication and teamwork to pull them through.

One particularly bad start on Saturday saw team Africa behind the majority of the 57-boat fleet, but the crew was able to battle back to the weather mark and finish in 13th place.

"In a tough situation, we just kept going and we got to the weather mark in the top 15," Smith said. "To me, it was the race we sailed the best, because those are the hard races. The easy races are the ones where you have a good start and you get clear and it's pretty straightforward. The hard races are the ones where you have to overcome adversity, and I thought our team did a really good job."

Smith has been sailing with Marc Gauthier (bow) and Will Felder (trim) for years; in fact, they won J/70 North Americans together in 2015. But tactician Lucas Calabrese — a 2012 Olympic sailing bronze medalist in the 470 class — is a recent addition to the team, and Smith said Calabrese has helped the crew step up its game.

"Now, everyone in the fleet is going close to the same speed and the top boats are sailing really well, so it all comes down to the team dynamic in the end," he said. "I thought our team did really well."

Team Africa also won the 2018 J/70 New England Championship this weekend, which had greater than usual significance for Smith and his crew. After taking the year off from driving in 2017 to sail with Peter Duncan's team — and winning the J/70 World Championship in Italy along the way — Smith said he was "pretty rusty" when he returned to his boat in February. This win is a symbol of his progress.

"For me, it's about getting back to the form I was in a few years ago," he said. "And it was important for us as a team to get to work together better, feel confident about what we're doing and trust each other."

As an added layer of importance, the regatta was also the J/70 sailors' opportunity to familiarize them with the venue for the World Championship, which will be held in Marblehead this September. Smith said there was one key element they learned, "there's more current out there than we were all aware of. People might get the impression that we have some sort of local advantage, but we were just sailing well. That current we were encountering was new to us, too. I've never sailed in that section of the water before."

Behind Smith's AFRICA and Healy's USA 2, it was another J/70 World Champion that took third place- Joel Ronning's CATAPULT from Lake Minnetonka, MN. Rounding out the top five were Peter Duncan's RELATIVE OBSCURITY in 4th (current J/70 World Champion) and Oivind Lorentzen's NINE from Long Island Sound.

To appreciate the relative "fire power" and depth of talent that some J/70 teams bring to the table in a simple little regatta like the Marblehead NOOD, here are the notable combinations of skippers and pro-sailors on the top teams (note- never in the world of sailing has such an extraordinary amount of sailing talent been amassed in one place and in one class!):

  • 1st- AFRICA- Jud Smith- 3x Etchells 22 World Champion, 2017 J/70 World Champion strategist/ Lucas Calabrese- Olympics 470 Bronze Medallist for Argentina
  • 2nd- Tim Healy's USA 2- first J/70 World Champion, 3x J/70 Midwinter Champion, 2x J/24 World Champion/ John Mollicone- J/24 Midwinter Champion, Brown University Coach
  • 3rd- Joel Ronning's CATAPULT- J/70 World Champion, Melges 32 World Champion/ John Kostecki- J/24 World Champion/ Offshore World Champion, America's Cup Champion
  • 4th- Peter Duncan's RELATIVE OBSCURITY- J/70 World Champion/ Willem van Waay and Victor Diaz de Leon- 2x J/70 World Champion crew
  • 6th- Glenn Darden's HOSS- J/105 North American Champion, J/80 North American and J/80 World Champion/ Jonathan McKee- Olympic Gold Medallist
  • 7th- Brian Keane's SAVASANA- 3x College All-American and J/80 North American Champion/ Thomas Barrows was College Sailor of the Year at Yale.
  • 9th- Bruce Golison's MIDLIFE CRISIS- Etchells 22 World Champion/ J/24 North American Champion
  • 10th- Martie Kullman's HYDRA- J/22 World Champion
  • 11th- John Brim's RIMETTE- multiple-trophy winning owner offshore- Farr 60 RIMA/ Taylor Canfield- 3x World Match Racing Champion/ Congressional Cup Champion
  • 12th- Will Welles' SCAMP- J/24 World Champion/ J/24 North American Champion
  • 13th- Bruno Pasquinelli's STAMPEDE- J/70 Midwinter Series Champion/ Charlie McKee- World Champion/ Olympic Coach
  • 15th- Martin Dent's UK-based JELVIS- J/111 World Champion/ Ruairidh Scott- J/70 UK Champion
  • 17th- Jack Franco's 3 BALL JT- 2x College All-American/ Bill Hardesty- Etchells-22 2x World Champion and J/70 World Champion tactician/ Allen Terhune- J/22 World Champion.
ALL of these teams are sailing the J/70 World Championship. Then, consider what the European teams are bringing to the table, a few guys with more World Championship credentials on their C.V.'s; such as Paul Goodison (British Olympic Gold Medallist in Lasers and 2x Moth World Champion, Laser World Champion, Melges 32 World Champion- tactician) and Cameron Appleton (Kiwi tactician winning 3x Farr 30 Worlds and 2x Melges 32 Worlds), just to name only a few.

Interview of Jud Smith from AFRICA

In the J/70 Corinthians Division, it was yet another win for Jenn and Ray Wulff's JOINT CUSTODY from Annapolis, MD. Second was Stein Skaane's SHRED, a local boat from Marblehead. And, third was another local team- Daan Goedkoop's LOCOMOTION.

Watch interview of Jen and Ray Wulff's JOINT CUSTODY

In the J/105 class, Charlie Garrard's MERLIN ultimately took the class after posting a 1-2 in the last two races. Second was Mark Lindquist's STERLING and third Jon Samel's BLOWN AWAY.

The J/24s saw a "foreigner" win the event over the local hotshots. Winning the event on a tie-breaker at 13 pts each was the appropriately-named HIJACK, skippered by Fred Deom from Montreal, Quebec. Second on the count-back was Chris Clancy's LITTLE MARTHA and third was Martin Gallagher's SHIFTY.

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