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St. Francis Yacht Club Kicks Off USA Sailing League with Inaugural Event

by St. Francis Yacht Club 11 Jun 16:03 PDT June 8-9, 2024
SAILING Champions League at St. Francis Yacht Club © Gerard Sheridan

Competitors were treated to perfect sailing conditions for the first-ever American-based event of the SAILING Champions League, held at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, June 8-9, 2024.

A total of 21 races were sailed in J/22s, with eight teams competing for the wild card berth to represent the United States at the SAILING Champions League Championship in Vilamoura, Portugal in September. Short races with constant boat changes ensured dynamic and fair competition.

The following clubs competed: Richmond YC, San Diego YC, St. Francis YC, Santa Barbara YC, Encinal YC, Berkeley YC, San Francisco YC and New York YC. At the end of the exciting weekend of fast-paced competition, Richmond Yacht Club prevailed against the competition for the overall win, with skipper Lucy Wilmot and team Haydon Stapleton, Chris Weis and Mike Quinn.

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"The racing was tight, the course was extremely well set up, and it was a great format to battle in," said Lucy Wilmot, a well-known campaigner in the 49er FX fleet. "I really enjoyed the rapid succession of races, which made for lots of tight action at the start and marks, as well as being able to watch racing and observe what was happening. I can't wait for the event to gain more momentum next year. We are working hard to put together our team for Vilamoura, a place near and dear to my heart when I trained in the FX."

StFYC's Race Director Felix Weidling is overjoyed that eight teams were able to compete despite the short notice. "We did a lot of quick promoting and presented the new format in detail, receiving great feedback. I think that we will sail the next event with more than 15 teams. Looking to the future, I could see organizing qualifiers on the east and west coasts, who would then compete against each other in the final. The European Sailing League has used soccer as a reference. Here in the USA, the NFL sets the bar in terms of sports in the media—who knows, maybe it will become the Super Bowl of sailing!"

Last-minute registrant, Berkeley YC skipper David Janinis, said after the award ceremony: "The Sailing League at St. Francis Yacht Club was impressively well run. The event was efficiently organized, with clear communication and many qualified volunteers. The race management team showed adaptability by using RIBs for pickups and adding another J/22 boat on the second day. Overall, I really enjoyed the new format and the opportunity to connect with sailors from other clubs. Thank you to the StFYC for hosting this fantastic event."

The 11 flights with two races each were organized by StFYC's Race Committee, featuring many volunteers working with the club's professional staff. "I had a lot of fun holding such short and snappy races," reported Shannon Bush (IRO), who was invited from Texas to serve as Race Official. "We moved the windward mark and pin-end countless times without any grumbling from the volunteers in order to offer fair sailing. We always kept to the time limit of 12-15 minutes per race. That was a great team effort! Thanks to everyone."

League Sailing was established 10 years ago, drawing on the better aspects of fleet, team and match racing to create a new format using pairing lists to eliminate unfairness with unequal boats. No round robins are sailed, but up to 16 flights can be paired and the organizer can end the event at any time without the laborious calculation of points. Umpires follow the fleet to address protests directly on the water. The emphasis is on short races in one-design boats on a standardized course with the best club team advancing to compete on the global stage.

"It was an event that will be remembered by all and laid the foundation for future competitions in the United States," said Chris Perkins, 2024 Commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club. "Thank you to all who traveled to compete at our club and we look forward to hosting you again."

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