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Peter Wagner's Skeleton Key continues winning ways as J/111 North American Champion

by Julie & Christopher Howell 11 Jun 07:28 PDT June 6-9, 2024
Skeleton Key wins ORC honors in the Around-the-Island Race at the 167th NYYC AnnualĀ Regatta © Paul Todd /

Point Fermin is located just outside Los Angeles Harbor near San Pedro. Since 1905 it has been the location for the Transpac Race start. This iconic ocean race runs from Los Angeles to Hawaii for over 2,000 miles.

Under normal sunny conditions for Transpac, this location provides an upwind start on starboard with the west end of Catalina Island as the mark to round before heading southwest out across the Pacific Ocean.

For the J/111 North American Championship 2024, this race area normally would expect wind from a direction of 240 degrees at 10 knots building to 20 knots as the day progresses, however that was not to be the case.

Day 1
AP at 1155

Thursday started with clouds and little or no wind initially. When we had 5 knots, we set a course at around 180 but a shift forced a general recall and a reset before we were racing. The expectation of a shift to the right was slow to arrive, and so was the sun. It finally appeared late in the afternoon and the third race did see wind of 12 to 14 from a direction of 235.

Day 2
AP at 1155

Once again, the morning started with very little wind and a direction from around 160 with significant cloud cover. The needed shift never happened on Friday and despite bringing the weather mark down to under a mile we only completed two successful races but to finish the second race, race committee had to shorten the course and finish the fleet at the leeward gate.

Day 3
AP at 1155

What irony. With an extreme heatwave inland all week, still the clouds along the coast persisted, and the direction for the first race had the boats heading south, upwind toward Mexico. The second race moved the course around to 210 with a little more pressure. The third saw the beginning of sun and a course now heading west up the coast at 255.

Day 4
AP at 1155

Finally, we had 235 when we arrived on station, but there was little pressure. With two races planned to bring the total to ten, both races started cleanly, and for the second race the sun surprised us with an appearance that allowed the pressure to build to over ten knots for the last race.

On all four days there was current running east to west which set the signal boat facing across the start or even downwind on occasion. Because of the rotating wind direction, the sea state remained unusually flat most of the week, but on Sunday the wind was more stable with swells coming out of the west and this had the boats heading inshore on port to come out lifted towards the weather mark. The last leg of the last race produced some very tactical sailing, but many of the races produced finishes with boats overlapped on the line.

A quick glance at the winners shows five boats winning over ten races although SKELETON KEY, after a slow start, was clearly the boat to beat.

A huge thank you to all the volunteers, staff and sponsors who worked on this event to provide a week of racing for the J/111 fleet under particularly challenging conditions. Special thanks to Bruce Cooper of Ullman Sails for measuring all the sails and Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club for providing their line boat. Thank you also to Lisa Bronitt for all the pictures. Los Angeles Yacht Club extends its sincere appreciation to the sailors who travelled to San Pedro for the annual gathering of the J/111 Class.

Co-chairs, David Collins and Marjorie Irvin, along with Commodore Ken Corry.

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