(Chicago, IL)- With great anticipation a crowd gathered around the dock at Chicago YC on Friday afternoon September 6th to take their first peek at the recently arrived J/111. Like a powerful stallion pulling at its reins in nervous anticipation of a quick trip around the race track, the J/111 was waiting to gives its crew a fast flight across the fresh water of Lake Michigan.
Expectations were not unfounded. After the first leg of the Tri-State Offshore race was canceled due to gale force winds, the J/111 instead went sailing on Saturday with a number of prospective 111 one-design fleet owners. In the puffy westerly winds blowing 10-22 knots and a large swell running in a southerly direction, the stage was set to test the performance of the 111 in Lake Michigan’s notorious chop. The boat left the dock, set the smaller 111m2 asymmetric spinnaker and took off on a couple of 18+ knot puffs. By the afternoon, with a number of skeptics on board loaded with handheld GPS’s, there was no question the 111 was easily planing off the wind and hitting 16+ knots in 22 knots of wind. One owner was told by a crewmember that he better wipe the smile off his face or it would kill him!
Sunday’s racing dawned with a forecast for 10-20 knot winds from the S-SW for the 35 mile leg from Chicago to Michigan City, IN– basically a drag race under spinnaker headed at Michigan City’s power plant stacks. The 111 started with the large 130m2 kite, sailed off below its competitors and established a lead less than three miles after the start over a Grand Soleil 44 IMS/IRC racer, Mumm/Farr 36s, J/120s, J/109s and a Sydney 38. The wind varied from 85 to 110 apparent with the large A-sail for half the race. The wind moved further south and increased slightly in velocity into the 15+ knot range, moving the apparent wind to 65-90 degrees, necessitating a change to the smaller 111m2 kite. The tighter reach also proved to the liking of the boat and by race end, the J/111 crossed the line 4th boat for boat, behind a RP 66, a TP 52 and an RP 46 and winning on corrected time.
Labor Day Monday dawned grey and cool with a brisk breeze blowing in from the S-SW 10-20 knots with a short, steep nasty chop. Like the day before, the forecast suggested a rhumbline route, a drag race for 35 miles pointing at Chicago’s Sears Tower from the Michigan City’s starting line just off the long jetty. The leg was a 32 mile “power beat” with jib just inside or just over the lifelines. Only in the last 3 miles did the bigger boats have the wind temporarily free-up to set code zero’s or spinnakers. The 111 started at the RC boat end, to leeward of all competitors. Stacked to windward basically dead even were the two J/120s, two Mumm/Farr 36s, the Grand Soleil 44 and the Sydney 38. What surprised everyone was the fact that the 111 managed to just stay ahead of the 36-41 footers in these conditions, slicing into the waves, accelerating rapidly off wave-tops and rarely ever pounding. Even in these conditions, the 111 was hitting 7.7 to 8.5 knots “power beating”. The GS-44 is a powerful boat and as expected, powered away from the fleet to win boat-for-boat on what was essentially a “waterline” race. With good management of their sail selection and better playing of the wind shift, the J/120 and the Sydney 38 caught the 111 in the last five miles of the race. As a result, the 111 finished 4th on elapsed and 2nd on corrected, the J/120 winning the class on this leg. Overall, the J/111’s 1-2 for the weekend meant that she “unofficially” won her class for the shortened “Bi-State Race”. For more J/111 sailing news and information.
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