(Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)- The fifty-three J/24 competitors are enjoying a very special treat sailing off Puerto Vallarta in Bahia de Banderas. So, far the weather has held true to form with the midday westerly thermal winds 5-15 knots from 220-240 degrees giving way to the afternoon thermal breezes from 300-320 degrees. The shifty, streaky winds make for challenging conditions and are keeping the tacticians on each team anxious to avoid significant mistakes going around the race track.
The current leaders include J/24 class veterans fighting it out for the podium separated by only three points after four races and two days of sailing. It will be interesting to see if the top three can maintain the consistency they’ve managed to achieve so far with three more days of sailing left. So far, Maurizio Santa Cruz from Brazil, the current J/24 World Champion, is in first place sailing BRUSCHETTA to a 13-4-1-1 record. After a slow start the first day, Maurizio and team were red hot the second day, getting two firsts in very tough sailing conditions. Javier Arribas Leigh from Peru is second overall sailing PRIMERO to a consistent 1-8-4-8 tally. Just one point back is Chris Snow, the current J/24 NA Champion, sailing “S” to a 10-1-5-6 record. Chris and Javier were both in the top three going up the final leg of race four, leading the series until the wind got very shifty with puffs coming off the beach and down from the mountain ridges off Puerto La Cruz. The top ten shows the diversity of international talent in the world’s largest one-design keelboat class; Brazilians are 1st, 6th; Peruvians 2nd; Americans 3rd, 7th, 10th; Mexicans 4th, 9th; Puerto Ricans 5th; and Germans 8th.
The sailing has been fun and challenging so far, but what a social event! Peter Wiegandt and Kenneth Porter have done a spectacular job for everyone to enjoy. The Mexican Ministry of Tourism, the President of Mexico- Felipe Calderon (a sailor himself sailing on the lake of Valle de Bravo) and the Mexican Navy (with Optimist youth training programs at every facility) are all supporting sailing, the Regata Copa Mexico and the J/24 Class in particular. And, the line-up of sponsors is extraordinary: MICROSOFT Office, Nyssen, Dos Equis XX Brewery, Nextel, Icon Vallarta, DELL Computers, Comex, Grey Goose, Coca Cola, Marival and Banamex. The Marival Suites Hotel, an all-inclusive resort, has every amenity, activity, food and drink one could ever wish for in a beach-front complex- four pools, horseback riding, hiking in the mountains, sailing, surfing, paddling, shuffleboard, bocce ball pits, tennis, 18-hole golf course, world-class spa (mud baths, whirlpools), the list is endless. Throw on top of that a spectacular sunset dinner on the beach and a Mayan-inspired evening show at the romantic and gorgeous Bahia Las Caletas on the luscious, mountainous south shore of Bahia de Banderas and you have a recipe for a fabulous event (read more about it below in an excerpt from SAIL’s Kimball Livingston’s blog). For more Regatta Copa Mexico sailing information.
(Simpson Bay, St. Maarten- March 7)- There can be few events in the world that match St. Maarten Heineken Regatta’s unique cocktail of fun and serious racing. Under the leadership of Robbie Ferron – St. Maarten Yacht Club commodore – who set up the regatta 30 years ago, this Caribbean classic continues to go from strength to strength and, if the positive buzz on the street is anything to go by, next year’s event is going to reach record levels.
With some of the world’s most talented sailors including the likes of many J/24 and J sailing veterans like America’s Cup legends Peter Isler, Peter Holmberg, round the world PUMA sailor Kenny Read and Olympic/America’s Cup skipper Andy Beadsworth, among the many high profile sailors competing here this week, it’s not surprising this event is fast becoming a Mecca for seriously fun winter racing.
The final race of the three-day St. Maarten Heineken Regatta may have lacked one special Caribbean ingredient – sun – but there was certainly no shortage of action for the 240-boat fleet in the extremely lively northerly breeze which allowed the big raunchy yachts the opportunity to really strut their stuff on the 27nm race from Marigot Bay back to Sint Maarten Yacht Club.
In what was arguably one of the most competitive fleets at the regatta, Spinnaker 5 class saw two J’s vying for class honors, the J/120 EL OCASO and the J/122 LOST HORIZON. The first day of racing was an auspicious one for Jim Dobbs J/122 LOST HORIZON. Starting off with a 1-3 on the water, Jim later find out the first turned into an OCS. Nevertheless, Jim and the LOST HORIZON crew dominated the rest of the regatta with three straight firsts over the next two days to get third overall. Rick Wesslund’s veteran Key West Race Week winning J/120 EL OCASO sailed a remarkably consistent series, with a 2-2-3-2-3 record, to finish second overall, just two points out of first.
Two J’s sailed very well in Spinnaker 6 class to finish third and fourth respectively. David Cullen’s J/109 POCKET ROCKET finished third and the new J/95 SHAMROCK VII saw its Caribbean racing debut with Tom Mullen and crew sailing to a very respectable fourth overall in this large class– not bad for a shoal-draft cruising and day sailing boat that draws only 3.5 feet!
Bob Armstrong’s red-hot J/100 BAD GIRL that has been winning a number of the Caribbean events over the past few years managed to finish third in this year’s St. Maarten regatta in Spinnaker 7 class. Rumor had it the gang on BAD GIRL were really enjoying the festivities and reggae bands in apres-racing during the evenings.
After a relaxing afternoon prize-giving on Sunday at St. Maarten Yacht Club, competitors and guests were treated to an exuberant evening dancing the night away on the beach in the presence of International Reggae superstar Maxi Priest and his band who played classic hits of the last three decades, concluding yet another successful St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. For more St Maarten sailing and regatta information.
(Miami Beach, FL- Mar 4-7)- There was an interesting mix of IRC entries at Miami Grand Prix with the TP52 DECISION (Stephen Murray, New Orleans) and the J/105 GUMPTION (Kevin Grainger, New York) at opposite ends of the spectrum. Meanwhile, in between were the two Jim’s, Jim Bishop on the J/44 GOLD DIGGER and Jim Madden and his crew aboard STARK RAVING MAD who were eager to see how the J/125 performs in IRC.
“We always assumed this boat would have a poor IRC rating, but have discovered there are a few minor changes that can be made to get credits under the system,” said North Sails president Gary Weisman, tactician on STARK RAVING MAD. “So we are testing the waters and seeing how well the boat can compete under IRC.” In retrospect, Weisman now wishes STARK RAVING MAD had entered IRC 2 class at Key West 2010 instead of PHRF 1, which it won in convincing fashion – finishing first in eight of 10 races. “This will be an interesting regatta because there is such a wide spread in boat sizes and speed from the top to the bottom end of the fleet that it’s hard to gauge how things will turn out,” he said.
After ten races, sailed in mostly N-NW winds ranging from 10-15 knots, it was clear the outcome of the series. Jim Bishop completed a wire-to-wire win in IRC class with a first and a second in Sunday’s two races. The Rhode Island skipper steered his 20-year-old J/44 to victory in five races and finished no worse than second in totaling 19 points. Jim Madden’s J/125 STARK RAVING MAD was in second most of the series but just lost out the last day to finish third overall– a remarkable achievement considering that it’s a “pre-IRC” designed boat.
“It’s absolutely fabulous,” an ecstatic Bishop said of the victory. “We had an excellent crew and great preparation, and were fortunate to get the type of conditions that favor this boat. We need a breeze and it blew pretty strong for this entire regatta.”
“GOLD DIGGER is very capably sailed and does well in the moderate breeze,” Madden said. “We’d like to see winds that are either 18 knots or more so we can plane or less than 10 knots so our lighter displacement will be an advantage. This moderate breeze is challenging for us.” STARK RAVING MAD normally sails PHRF and Madden’s team is using this regatta as a test for how the J/125 can perform under IRC. “It’s been a competitive class, evidenced by the fact only four points separate the second through sixth place boats,” he said. “While there is a wide range of designs here, the speed differences aren’t as great as you might think. We’ve seen a lot of other boats within our quadrant of the race course.”
Organizers with Premiere Racing had no trouble completing the 10-race series as winds rarely dropped below 10 knots and often reached the upper teens. Principal race officer Dave Brennan and team set terrific courses and it was notable that there was not a single protest. “South Beach once again delivered the conditions it’s known for, the competition in all three classes was tremendous and the race committee work was flawless as usual,” event director Peter Craig said following the awards ceremony at Miami Beach Marina. “Combine all those factors and that explains why there are so many smiling faces around here.” For more Miami Grand Prix regatta information and sailing results