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An interview with John Farris on the 2023 J/22 Midwinters

by David Schmidt 14 Mar 08:00 PDT March 16-19, 2023
J/22 Midwinters at New Orleans day 1 © Christopher E. Howell

The year was 1983, and the J/22 was the latest One Design from the pen of celebrated yacht designer Rod Johnstone. The trailerable ride boasted 22' 6" on the waterline, a fractional sloop rig, a slippery-looking hull form, and 700 pounds of lead hanging from her undercarriage. Unlike her bigger, more offshore-worthy sister, the J/24, the J/22 is sailed and raced sans lifelines, giving the boat clean-looking on-deck aesthetics and a sporty feel for those on the foredeck's sharp end.

Flash forward 40 years and some 1,700 J/22s can be found plying the word's racecourses.

Take, for example, the 2023 J/22 Midwinters (March 16-19), which are being organized by the U.S. J/22 class association and the Fort Walton Yacht Club (FWYC), and which is being hosted by the FWYC, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida on the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay.

I checked in with John Farris, regatta co-chair of the 2023 J/22 Midwinters, via email, to learn more about this exciting warm-water One Design regatta.

How many boats are you expecting on this year's starting line? Also, where do most of these boats and teams hail from? Any geographical concentrations?

We have fifteen boats registered. We expect to have twenty to twenty-five [boats] start the first day of racing.

Most boats and crews are from the south, with several from the upper Midwest.

How would you describe conception levels at this year's Midwinters?

The competition levels at this year's J22 Midwinters are intense and highly competitive. The event [is attracting] many skilled and experienced sailors, all vying for the top position.

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay in mid-March?

Mid-March weather here is frontal-driven. We could have blustery conditions out of the north or pleasant, easy conditions out of the east or south.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Local knowledge usually doesn't affect the outcome at the J/22 Midwinters. It's usually 'anybody's game' with this fleet.

I realize that these are still early days, but do you have any entries that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

Our vote for a 'dark horse' would be Kurt Taken-Holtze from [Minnesota]. He's been eyeing the top spot and improving with each regatta.

In the ideal world, how many races do you and the other event organizers hope to score each day and over the regatta?

As event organizers, we aim to score as many races as possible each day and over the regatta, depending on various factors such as weather conditions, number of participants, and competition schedules.

The ideal number of races would be three per day for [a total of] nine to eleven races. It varies from event to event, but the goal is always to provide the best possible experience for the participants.

What kind of onshore entertainment can sailors look forward to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

Once the finishing guns have gone silent daily, sailors can look forward to various onshore entertainment options in and around Fort Walton Beach. We are known for our beautiful beaches, and Fort Walton Beach has several restaurants and bars where sailors can enjoy delicious seafood and drinks while relaxing and unwinding after a long day on the bay.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made to green-up the regatta and generally lower its environmental wake?

Fort Walton Yacht Club is a certified Clean Marina, and the club is registered with Sailors for the Sea. To the best of our ability, we have incorporated many Sailors for the Sea Best Practices by advertising to our members and guests ahead of time.

Specifically, by asking them to bring reusable water bottles, reusable cups for beer (if serving with kegs), reusable coffee cups, use reusable bags while provisioning for the regatta, reef-safe sunscreen, eco-friendly cleaning products, and recycling waste.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about the 2023 J/22 Midwinters, for the record?

Fort Walton Yacht Club hosts various local, regional, and national regattas in Choctawhatchee Bay. Events such as Laser Nationals, Melges 24 Nationals, Thistle Nationals, four Catalina 22 Nationals, Trimaran Nationals, Coronado 15 Nationals, Tornado Nationals, Hobie 16 Nationals, Hobie 20 Nationals, Y-Flyer Nationals, and A-Cat Nationals are just a small group of various classes who have chosen Fort Walton Beach as their National Championship Venue.

Our dedicated team of US Sailing certified race officials and assorted volunteers have several years of experience handling races and regattas, making all sailors happy with the results.

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