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An interview with Michael Weber and Jeff Braddon on the 2021 Jackrabbit J/22 regatta

by David Schmidt 15 Sep 08:00 PDT September 18 and 19, 201
Racecourse action at the Jackrabbit J/22 Regatta © Image courtesy of the Jackrabbit J/22 Regatta

When it comes to keelboat simplicity, it's tough to beat the J/22, a design that Rod Johnstone lit with sense and color in 1983. While the J/22 wasn't the global sensation of its older sister, the J/24, or its much younger niece, the J/70, the 22-foot, family-oriented keelboat is actively sailed in some eighteen countries. To date, some 1,650 J/22s have been built, and the design was used as the platform of choice for the International Women's Keelboat Championship from 1991 to 2011.

Today, the now-classic design is widely raced on both saltwater and freshwater, and it regularly attracts strong sailors to a wide range of events.

One such freshwater regatta is the 2021 Jackrabbit J/22 regatta, which is set to unfurl on the waters of Canandaigua Lake and will be hosted by the Canandaigua Yacht Club in Canandaigua, New York, from September 18 and 19.

I checked in with Michael Weber and Jeff Braddon, who serve as advisor emeritus and chair (respectively) of the 2021 Jackrabbit J/22 regatta, via email, to learn more about this One Design event.

Can you tell us about the regatta's history and culture?

The Jackrabbit was initially held in the mid 90s. The Canandaigua [J/22] Fleet was newly formed, and we had half a dozen boats at the club.

Over the years our fleet has grown to 17 boats. The regatta is meant to be a fun time for all. We want sailors to come to Canandaigua and enjoy our beautiful Finger Lake.

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

With the pandemic still active we are hoping for 20-25 participants. Last year we did a racing day and picnic just for [our local] fleet. We have [been] drawing participants mostly from the Northeast [USA] and Canada. Some Ohio participants say that they have their best sailing of the year at Canandaigua.

We are hoping that the Canadian border will open as we have had a strong showing for them with skippers and crew who have participated in J/22 events in North America and Europe

Given Canandaigua's proximity to Canada, has the border situation cast any shadows on your entry list?

Definitely. We typically have three to five boats form Canada. They usually win the Distance Travel Award each year.

We are in close contact with our Canadian friends, and [we're] hoping [that] things will open up.

[Our friends at the Hudson Yacht Club in Canada] are hosting the Canadian Championship the week before our regatta and in hopes that some participants will join us.

What kinds of competitors does this regatta tend to attract? Also, where do these sailors tend to hail from?

Competition comes mainly from the Northeast, but we have many top sailors show up. [For example,] Travis Odenbach, Chris Doyle, Kevin Doyle, Mike Ingham, Michel Cimon, Ron Harris, Richard (Dick) Hallagan are among the many sailors who have attended.

Weather-wise, what kind of conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Canandaigua Lake in mid-to-late-September? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

We have held the regatta in the spring (mid-May) for many years. The conditions could be pretty much anything you might expect cold, warm, too much wind and not enough [breeze].

This year we are trying the early fall, which is beautiful in the Finger Lakes. The temperatures are typically mild during the day with lots of sunshine. Great for those that camp at the club. Winds will hopefully be in the 8-12 range.

Fall here is beautiful!

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

Come ready for great small lake racing. We typically have winds from the west, but they can be shifty.

If the winds are southerly, races tend to be longer and waves build the length (16 miles) of the lake. Water temperature is delightful so swimming is always an option if the winds die.

I know that it's still early days, but are your eying any perennial favorites for strong finishes? What about any dark horses?

Dick Hallagan is usually up there. Travis Odenbach and his crew is serious competition for everyone. Cory and Mark Sertl, if they show up, are a threat.

As we do get some very good sailors, we have a Mid Fleet Award that is the best award presented, and there is always active completion for it. Much harder to figure out or plan to be there.

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 run a pretty tight race with the committee boat parked at the start finish and two mark-set boats. Safety is our priority and we do not feel that fewer powerboats are a good move.

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

All of our fleet has been actively involved to make the regatta fun for everyone attending and with lots of hands involved in the planning and execution we are shooting for Fun for All. If it looks like a J/22 you are welcome to come and play on beautiful Canandaigua Lake.

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