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An interview with Spencer May on the 2020 Jamin' J/22 Regatta

by David Schmidt 8 Dec 2020 08:00 PST December 10-13, 2020
Jamin Jamaica J/22 Regatta © Jamin Jamaica J / 22 Regatta

If you're a J/22 sailor, it's hard to imagine a better regatta than the Jamin' J/22 International Regatta, which is set to unfurl on the waters of Jamaica's beautiful Montego Bay and the nearby vicinity on December 12, 2020. The event, which is being hosted by the Montego Bay Yacht Club, typically supplies boats, sails and equipment, allowing visiting participants to focus on winning races rather than organizing their kit. To facilitate this, local J/22 sailors participate in "qualifiers" that allow the strongest teams to represent Jamaica. The rest of the fleet is then loaned to the visitors in a lottery system.

While the still-raging pandemic has impacted the Montego Bay Yacht Club's ability to host a full invitational event, including the usual home-stay accommodations and parties, participating sailors can still look forward to plenty of on-the-water competition. In honoring the "international" component of Jamin, local teams will each represent a foreign fleet for the day of racing. Jamaica will be represented by the recent Nationals champion Renegade, which will skippered by the veteran Jamin competitor Richard Hamilton.

Once on island, participating sailors can look forward to great racing. Provided that the weather gods cooperate, the event is planning on running four races. I checked in with Spencer May, Jamin chair and vice commodore of the Montego Bay Yacht Club, via email, to learn more about the this classic warm-water One Design regatta.

Can you tell us about the regatta's culture?

Jamin' has a longstanding culture of inclusion and hospitality. Offering North American and the rest of the world sailors an opportunity to sail and enjoy pristine conditions (warm prevailing trade winds and the clear, warm water of the Caribbean Sea) in early December, with the U.S. and Canada are usually battling snowstorms.

During the event's infancy, the late Tony Hart (the original "host") would take visiting sailors on excursions to some special places around the island. Good Hope in the interior and Sea Grapes Villa in Discovery Bay were both incredible day trips for the visiting teams. Home-stays were common and visitors would usually extend their trip to explore Jamaica on either end of the three-day regatta.

Jamin' has a culture of fun-loving friends gathering to compete and create memories, with laughter and smiles galore (and plenty of cold drinks!).

Can you tell us how the 2020 edition of the regatta will be different than previous years?

2020 will be unlike anything we have seen before. The event has been closed to foreign teams, as travel restrictions and Jamaica's regulations have been a constantly moving target.

We did not want prospective visitors to have to cancel flights or accommodations due to all the factors currently out of our control.

We also will not be hosting the usual themed parties that have been such a standard as there are currently Government restrictions on the number of individuals allowed to gather.

Given the pandemic, how many boats are you expecting to attract this year? Also, where will they hail from?

We are hoping for eight boats on the starting line. This number represents just over three-quarters of the local fleet with a couple of the teams traveling to the Montego Bay Yacht Club from Kingston's Royal Jamaica Yacht Club.

What kind of competition levels are you expecting this year?

With our Nationals behind us, we have a very good idea of the level of competition...HIGH!

The first and third places finished within three points of one another. Renegade took the win with 12 points and Ayahso and Tsunami scoring 15 points each over the two-day, six-race weekend.

We are expecting some tight competition from this year's Jamin' Regatta as many of the same teams will be represented (though they will all be flying different colors as we are representing different countries).

We will be missing the international teams and their ability to mix it up with the fleet, but rest-assured racing will be competitive. The plan for the final race of the series is to do a reverse start. The boat with the fewest point going into the last race will need to cross the start line last and the team with the most points will have a bit of a head start. Call it the handicap race for this series, as we are not doing any throw-out races.

Do you have your eye on any pre-racing favorites in both classes? What about any dark horses?

Using our 705-pounds limit on the boats keeps everyone honest and if the wind is light for any races that will give the three-person teams an advantage over the teams that sail just below the limit.

In the absence of last year's 30th-anniversary race winner, Mike Farrington, it will once again give local heroes a chance to shine!

Does the event still plan to hold post-racing festivities/parties, given the pandemic? If so, can you tell us what we're missing out on?

We are not going to be hosting the traditional booze-soaked parties as alcohol doesn't make it easy to follow local Covid protocols... So, we will have to party double-time in 2021.

In the '90s there was a tradition of a boating "Parade of Lights" in the past and it was revamped last year for the first time in recent history. Open to motorboats, cruisers, and catamarans, all clad with festive lights and blasting holiday tunes, this event is perfect for respecting Covid protocols.

On a quiet evening (just after sunset) we will leave the club and do a few laps around the harbor, gleefully singing and drinking on our own boats with friends and family, celebrating together and apart! J/22s are traditionally towed behind one of the larger motorboats.

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

We utilize one five-gallon bucket per boat for the entirety of the event to dish out the ice/food/drinks/welcome packets and t-shirts. These buckets are re-used year after year.

Anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

We have had a 30-plus years of historic events, creating lifelong friendships from all over the world, and it has been incredible to build those relationships and see some familiar faces over the decades.

Many of the members have connected with us on Facebook and Instagram. Anyone that is interested in seeing future event details should also follow along:

www.facebook.com/jaminj22

www.instagram.com/mobayjamin

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