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An interview with Annett Petersen on the 2021 J/80 World Championship

by David Schmidt 1 Jul 2021 08:00 PDT July 3-9, 2021
J/80 Worlds at Kiel day 2 © Sven Jürgensen / Mittelmann's Werft

The J/80 might not have attained the same level of popularity as its forebearer—the venerable J/24 (established 1977)—however the newer 26-foot One Design keelboat (established 1992), which was also designed by Rod Johnstone, has attracted fans on multiple continents and numerous countries. As of this writing there are (ballpark) 1,600 J/80s afloat, and the boats have proven themselves to be highly capable of everything from around-the-buoy racing to offshore work. Two Swedes crossed the Atlantic in a J/80 in 2007, however the class' sweet spot is One Design fleet racing, such as this summer's J/80 World Championship (July 3-9, 2021), which is being hosted by the Royal Danish Yacht Club on the waters off of Copenhagen, Denmark.

While plenty of other world championship-level regattas were forced to fold their tents before the starting guns began sounding due to the still-churning coronavirus pandemic, the Royal Danish Yacht Club and the J/80 Class have worked hard to create a Covid 19-safe event that will offer great on-the-water competition to those lucky enough to attend and compete.

As of this writing, there are 41 J/80 teams, hailing from nine different countries, entered in this year's Worlds. This includes one team from Belarus, 19 teams from Denmark, nine teams from Spain, one team from France, four teams from Germany, one team from India, one team from Ireland, and five teams from The Netherlands.

I checked in with Annett Petersen, event manager of the Royal Danish Yacht Club, via email, to learn more about this exciting world championship-level regatta.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Copenhagen in early July? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

In July in Denmark, you can experience temperatures as low as 15 degrees Celsius [59 degrees Fahrenheit] and as high as 20 degrees Celsius [68 degrees Fahrenheit].

It is the perfect sight-seeing weather for Denmark, as it is neither too hot nor too cold—I guess that goes for sailing as well.

There might be some rainy days in July in Denmark—even the most experienced event managers cannot control that unfortunately, so be sure to bring appropriate clothing for all weather conditions! The latest long-term weather forecast predicts warm and stabile weather in June and more shifty conditions in July.

Let's hope at least the warm temperatures stretches into July.

How important do you think local knowledge will be at this world-championship regatta? Also, do you expect most visiting teams to arrive early and acclimatize to conditions?

Local knowledge is always important. However, if you are an experienced sailor, you will pick it up quickly.

It is nothing like racing on an Austrian lake, where the wind 'falls down' in unpredictable spots, and we do not have strong tides like off the French coast or in England.

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

One only!!! That's tough.

With regard to the sailing, I'll strongly suggest that everybody signs up for the Danish J/80 Nationals July 1st and 2nd, as well as the J/80 Worlds July 3rd to 9th. You don't get a better tune-up than that.

Mingle with the Danish sailors and pick all the good advice you can out of them. They are a friendly bunch of people who don't mind sharing.

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 racing begins?

Spain has proven themselves to be a very strong nation and has won in a number of J/80 Worlds in consecutive years, and I know that the Danish teams are determined to break that 'trend'.

Personally, I'd like to see a female team win overall—why not—any country is fine.

How many races do you and the other organizers hope to score over the course of the regatta? Will these be windward-leeward races? Finally, will you use traditional racing marks, or will you use some of the new GPS-guided autonomous robotic marks such as MarkSetBots to administer the racecourse?

In the Notice of Race, we have scheduled three races per day, weather permitting, in all 15 races during the Worlds and they will be windward-leeward races.

For this World Championship we will use the traditional inflatable marks. We do have the new GPS-guided autonomous robotic marks that are now available and are currently testing them. It certainly seems like the way to go, and I am so looking forward to not having to haul anchors in the future and to be able to change a course quickly.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta amidst a pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

This is definitely a new kind of challenge. We've hardly had any physical meetings in the regatta work group yet, and halfway through the project we had to determine if we could keep the date or had to move.

However, suddenly, all other regattas had been moved into September, so we decided that we could do this and that restrictions would be lifted to allow it. It still appears to be the right decision and we can 'open' the season with Danish Nationals and the Worlds.

The hardest part has been to interpret the ever-changing announcements of the government and the health authorities. Eighty-percent of our effort so far has been to communicate with the international sailors in order to make them come out of their Covid-19 hibernation.

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?

Royal Danish Yacht Club has had for a while a hard-working sustainability committee that works diligently in a selected number of the areas designated by Unesco.

That includes eliminating single-use plastics, clean ocean, green fuel, and if possible electric engines for the race committee boats, waste sorting and energy-saving measures.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Yes absolutely! Just for reference we have an American jury foreman this year.

But above all, we are doing everything we can to make this a great event on the water— as always—and a safe event on land. We have strived to provide private free or affordable accommodation for as many of the visiting teams as possible, and still more are coming, so it is worthwhile to follow the latest updates on the regatta website:

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