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An interview with Mark Pincus on the 2021 J/24 Midwinters

by David Schmidt 23 Feb 08:00 PST February 26-28, 2021
Day 2 - 2020 J/24 Midwinter Championship © Christopher Howell

The J/24 might be venerable design, but the now 44-year-old design still draws some of sailing's best talents to its ranks. Better still, the boats are affordable, relatively easy to maintain, and transportable enough to be taken to destination venues or warm-weather locales during the cold months. One great example of this type of destination fun is this year's J/24 Midwinter Championship (February 26-28), which is being hosted by Shake-A-Leg Miami and which will be sailed on the waters of Florida's Biscayne Bay.

While J/24s may be portable-and their small crew numbers conducive to (relatively) easily creating coronavirus bubbles-the simple fact that the pandemic is still raging has forced many regattas to cancel. Fortunately for J/24 sailors, this year's Midwinters is still happening; better still, the event organizers are taking COVID precautions very seriously and have worked hard to create a safe event for all involved.

Which brings us back to the earlier point that, while now an older design, J/24s have long earned their well-deserved reputation for delivering great racing, and this year's Midwinters promises to be no exception.

I checked in with Mark Pincus, regatta chair for the 2021 J/24 Midwinters (and fleet captain for J/24 Fleet 10 in Miami, Florida), via email, to learn more about this competitive regatta.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, how do these stack up to previous editions of the regatta?

We are about on track from other years at 23 entries...there are several entries I know are pending, so we should see 25-30 entries on the starting line.

For this COVID environment, we're very happy to be in the normal range! There is a cap of 35 boats, and we were hoping to have to make a wait list but that's probably not going to be necessary.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Biscayne Bay in late February? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Our winter season is great sailing weather typically with balmy mid-70 degree Fahrenheit temps and nice breezes.

We normally see easterly winds from NE-SE and mid-teens in velocity. If a front is coming through then anything is possible. It's very rare to have temperatures below the 50's but in February they can happen.

With the cold fronts it depends on how strong they are and if they make it all the way south past Miami. When the fronts stall it can leave us without much wind but hopefully the doldrums we have seen this season are past and the breeze will be on for this year's J/24 Midwinters.

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

Biscayne Bay is not a hard place to sail and all but maybe one of the current entries has raced here more than once before. The tides are pretty easy to understand, and there are many options for getting current real time info on conditions.

Where we will be racing—a little south in Biscayne Bay—we are removed from the few local-knowledge spots near shores.

And yes, I already know of several boats that are coming early to get some practice sailing done!

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

It's different this year: BE SAFE!

Respect all the preventatives put in place to keep both sailors and hosts safe and COVID-free. The last thing we want is to have any regatta become a spreader event.

Other than that...bring plenty of water and suntan lotion!

In the ideal world, how many races do you and the other organizers hope to score? Also, how many races will you run per day?

We have ten races are scheduled. Hopefully with good breezes we can run four races each on Friday and Saturday so that only two are needed on the last day.

What kinds of safe-play pandemic tactics are you expecting from the racers on the water? Also, what kind of shoreside Covid precautions will the event employ?

Looking at our NOR ( will give an idea of all the precautions we have put in place.

Starting with requiring all participants—whether they are racing, supporting, or race committee—to provide negative rapid Covid tests that are less than 72 hours old to be at the event.

We will have temperature takers stopping all persons entering the property and issuing color-coded wrist bands after being allowed entry.

We have suspended all social functions and will prohibit gathering at the venue. If the previous regatta we ran in December is a model, than we expect the sailors to be respectful of the world we are dealing with and not be ultra-aggressive, both on the water and in the jury room!

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?

The biggest environmental effort this year—other than the fact we are sailors who by description do not pollute the atmosphere and are usually very cognizant of keeping our waters clean—is the addition of MarkSetBot to the race course!

Although interest in these GPS battery-operated robotic race marks was already building, the onset of COVID hastened their acceptance in the sailboat racing world. They make staffing the Race Committee much less demanding, controlling the race circle super-fast and easy and require less motorized equipment on the racecourse.

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

We look forward to seeing all of our J/24 friends here in beautiful Coconut Grove playing on our Biscayne Bay waters again in February!

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