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An interview with Richard Hamilton about the Jamin J/22 Jamaica Invitational

by David Schmidt 2 Dec 08:00 PST
Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta © Jamin Jamaica J / 22 Regatta

As December’s first volleys of cold roll across North America, it’s tempting to cast one’s mind back to last summer’s perfect spinnaker sets. While this is effective for a short-term saline fix, a longer-lasting solution involves traveling to where the weather matches one’s ideal sailing clothes (read: shorts and a t-shirt). If this seems more to your liking than yet another stroll down memory lane (in the last five minutes), the Jamin J/22 Jamaica Invitational could be your ticket.

Impressively, the regatta supplies boats, sails and equipment, so interested participants can keep their packing list to an absolute minimum (again, read: shorts and a couple of t-shirts).

Even more impressive, the regatta sets visiting sailors up with free home stays, which encourages cultural exchange beyond the normal starting line sambas.

I checked in with Richard Hamilton, regatta chair of the 2019 Jamin J/22 Jamaica Invitational, via email, to learn more about this welcoming warm-water regatta.

How many boats are you expecting at this year’s Jammin Jamaica J/22 Regatta?

Also, do you expect that most teams will be flying sails that read “JAM” in front of their numbers or do you expect a lot of international entries?

We are proud to announce the 30th running of our Jamin Jamaica J/22 regatta. Every year boats are donated, with no rental charges, to visiting teams on a first come / first serve basis. This year’s theme, with a nod to greatness, is appropriately a pirate one Jamin is the oldest J/22 regatta in Jamaica and extension the region and we have gone to some measure in 2019 to make it a real celebration.

We will be swelling the fleet by 20-percent with the generous sponsorship of Seaboard Marine who will be shipping two boats in from Cayman. So this will be the largest fleet ever in Jamaica–and may be for some time to come.

Between our repeat friends every year and this special anniversary edition, we have more crews than boats with big representation from Cayman, the USA and Canada. There are two boats from Kingston, Jamaica representing as well as two local Montego Bay boats.

What kind of weather conditions can sailors expect? What are the best-case and worst-case scenarios?

December is probably the best sailing month in Jamaica with the end of the unstable summer storm cells, the end of hurricane season and temperate north easterlies. Of course, part of the course takes us into the lee of Montego Bay town where conditions can get squirrely at certain times of day but the other part of the race track is in clear breeze with some of the course options into the ocean swell.

Having said that, we have sailed in norther conditions with a eight-foot swell rolling through inside the bay and the adjacent boat disappearing, white out conditions where the next mark disappears and occasionally flat calms where some of our visitors have taken advantage of the lull to experiment with some of Jamaica’s better known agricultural products.

How important do you think local knowledge will be? Also, do you expect most visiting teams to arrive early and acclimatize to conditions?

For anyone coming from the north they should come for as long as possible and get some warmth in their bones. Local knowledge is critical and so dependent on wind direction. Current is really limited as our tidal range is so small and it really allows focus on wind conditions, crews have to use as many early warning clues as they can as Montego Bay is a little bit of an anomaly to what today’s wind and weather apps actually predict.

How stiff do you think competition levels will be at this year’s regatta? Also, how do you think this competition would stack up to the fleets from a few years ago?

With the largest fleet of J/22’s ever assembled in Jamaica and some of the most loyal J/22 sailors returning, competition should be off the chart. This year, after nearly 30 years, we are proud to welcome back rock stars such as Galen Freeman, Bruce Berner and their teams to relive the glory days.

The regatta started as JamAm – an invitation to U.S. sailors to come and race before it was expanded to Jamin – any international individual welcome to come and claim glory.

In addition to multiple-time champions back in the fray and the always competitive local teams, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Do you have any teams that you are eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

The recurring story of this regatta, year after year, is one of the haves and the have nots.

Those who turn up and draw a boat that may not be the best-looking in the fleet thinking they ‘have not’ more often than not point the boat the shortest direction with the least fuss and become one of the ‘haves’.

It always balances out and everyone leaves happily.

This year former multiple winning skippers Mike Farrington, Bruce Johnson and their teams from Cayman are bringing their own boats. This could dictate a real change in balance for this year’s event.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

If you want to win, bring all your go-fast bits with you. Or if you don’t want to bother [to] bring all that, you can probably still win anyway and have just as much fun. Enjoy the parties, enjoy Jamaica, enjoy the club and most of all enjoy the sailing.

Oh, and watch out for the fish pots in the middle of the start line.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lowest the regatta’s environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

We actually had a sub-committee set up to consider possible improvements this year over previous years with the concern that we all have about our environment.

As our footprint is already so small, there were minor adjustments in type of packaging of lunches, the amount of junk in the skipper’s pack and the size of water bottles made available to the boats but considered key was making sure that everyone was never to throw Red Stripe bottle caps overboard, particularly during racing.

Anything else about the regatta that you’d like to add, for the record?

We have always prided ourselves on running a fun, low-cost, safe regatta and the more we have done it the more we see our competitors being considerate participants.

We have not had a protest in recent memory and we want to keep it that way. We must be doing something right as people keep coming back year after year.

Big thanks to our major sponsor this year, Seaboard Marine.

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