The J24 class is alive and well in Australia. Under threat of another Covid shutdown that has claimed the S80 and SB20 class regattas at Sandringham, the J24 class got away with a successful 12 race National Championship Regatta over 4 predominantly light and sunny (and stormy) days.
Our ‘new normal’ SE breeze stayed in for the regatta, with days one, two and four being in the 8 – 12 knot range with flat water and glamour sailing conditions, although extremely shifty, catching out many experienced crews. Day three was cloudy and a stronger 12 – 16 knot breeze that saw some competitors on jibs for the first two races, but most changed back to genoas as the breeze backed off in the afternoon.
The fleet did suffer a few covid losses in some crews and we had to find new people at the last minute and during the regatta to keep boats fully crewed.
Sixteen boats entered and finished the regatta, with a strong five boat representation from NSW and the balance being from our local fleet, the standard was as high as any we have seen in the last decade. At least six boats were sailing their first Nationals and were well represented across the finishing places, so yes the fleet is alive and well with a bright future.
There were the usual amazing stories in boat preparation and delivery, with one of the Sydney boats having to change drivers when Terry got called home with too many Coronas in the family and then Gardo having some night-time nav problems running into a tree and wiping out the pulpit and foredeck on the second half of the trip south. Still it was repaired urgently by JP, one of our excellent shipwrights at Sandy. Jack Felsenthal keenly preparing one boat only to find out it needed major work, so changing to ‘Sidetracked – Bandit’ and then finally succumbing to Covid in the family house after the first day. A great young skipper and keen, taking out a 4th in the 3rd race on the first day. Sometimes the luck just isn’t with you ! Despite this ‘Sidetracked – Bandit’, along with many other boats suffering from crew being ‘pinged’ as close contacts, the true ‘J24 Community spirit’ shined through where swapping/drumming up additional crew allowed all boats to see out the regatta!
So, how did it all turn out?
Tight, very tight and not sorted till the last race. For most of the regatta the top five were within five points of each other, so it could have gone a number of different ways right up till the end. Of course, there are some hard luck stories, mostly from second place down you might say, but in reality three first time competitors finished in the top five, with a total of 3 race wins going to two of the top three newbies. A real sign of up and coming and new talent to the class. Another sign of commitment was the number of new sails being pulled out. Investment in the class !
With some of the old guard finishing down the list a bit, and the competition being fierce all the way to the back, the podium was finally taken by new National President and sometime contender to the throne Steve Wright and crew on ‘Tinto’. Only three points behind was long time and multiple national champion Sean Kirkjian with the very recently damaged and repaired ‘Sailpac’. Third place was the very aptly ‘Covid’ named ‘Jab’, sailed by the very able Warren Slater and crew.
Places four and five were taken by newbies Adam Keys-Tilley in ‘Baile de Luna’ and Jack Fullerton in ‘Two Dogs’, with the long-time Victorian ‘Mr J24’ skipper and multiple nationals winner Hugo Ottaway in sixth on ‘Bruschetta VI’. Newly crowned NSW State champ Dave McKay in ‘Stamped Urgent’ only came in 7th. See how tough it was !
OK, so the rest of the rabble fought it out somewhere back there. Probably got hard luck stories and showed flashes of brilliance or good luck. Not covering them here in the OD placings, except to say they are the stuff of future or past champions and we love and respect their engagement and good company. They are the vital strength of the J24 class in Australia. Yes, I am one of them this year !
Of course, this all changes in the Zimmer frame competition where the accent is on providing a level playing field for the fleet. Richard Taylor has done a maaaagnificent job of preparing his boat ‘Haywire’ and rightly took out the PHS section with four wins out of the twelve races. Somehow Dave McKay contrived to fall into second in between drinks and Mark Foster, a long time Sandy skipper in ‘Gridlock’ took out third.
On behalf of the Vic Assoc, John ‘Firecracker’ Neville once again conducted the prizegiving in his usual inimitable, enjoyable and politically incorrect style. Great job John ‘well played you’ – don’t go anywhere !
The race management team led by RO Chris Waters did a great job in the shifty breezes to get 3 races in on the first day before a huge thunderstorm, one race on the second day just before another huge thunderstorm trashed the racecourse and then four races a day on the remaining two days. Twelve in all.
Off the water, we had to make allowances for the corona problem again with staff shortages, so most of the action was held outside in the newly updated Ken King Centre. But with a bar and cold drinks at the centre of the action it wasn’t too hard to endure.
These Nationals were the qualifying regatta for the Worlds in Corpus Christi in Texas this year, but it doesn’t look like anyone wants to brave the covid travel problems. However next year’s Nationals are the qualifying regatta for the Worlds in Greece in 2023 and it looks like there is a large amount of interest to travel to there. That means the next Nationals at Cronulla in January 2023 will be a huge regatta. There are around seven boats with trailers in Vic and I think we would see most of those boats making the trip to the Shire for a little paddle in the ocean with the Med in mind. Woo hoo !
But before you all rush off to the travel agent, we have two great regattas happening at Sandy soon, Sail Sandy 19-20 February and then the Vic States 26-27 March, and with some NSW boats staying down and potentially more coming, you can bet it’s another couple of tough regattas. So put them both in your diary. The Vic Association usually puts on Coronas for that – the cold kind !
Our thanks to Sandringham YC for putting on the regatta under difficult circumstances, thanks to all the volunteers that made it possible, thanks to the Vic Association for getting it across the line and thanks to all the competitors for getting out on the track and making it a great and tough regatta. You know who you are – well done.
Simon and Adam