End of an Era

Pacemaker wins, Dave, Herschel, Sam, Damo, Rachael
Pacemaker crew, Dave, Herschel, Sam, Damo, Rachael (Luke)

When I read the text message that announced that David Suda and Herschel Landes were selling their J24 , I was not surprised. Current Australian and Victorian Champions, 2016 twilight series winner, David crowned 2015 Victorian Keelboat sailor of the year, they were exiting their extensive association with J24 on a high.

Whist David steered Pacemaker to 3 National titles and multiple state titles, it was Herschel who put the teams together. Both Herschel and I bought our first J’s in 1986, in 1988 we sailed against each other in the World Championships in Sydney where his crew included two World Laser champions, American Ed Baird and Australian Stuart Wallace, Ed steering, later went on to win a J world championship and sail in the America’s Cup. The following years Herschel’s team included Campbell Rose and Addie Bucek, both Olympic representatives, Addie a World Champion.

It was his insight that put these teams at the front of the pack. Herschel also had an eye for the future of the class. He was the principle person who introduced a culture of youth sailing to the class, he along with Damian Lee both worked tirelessly to attract a new breed of junior sailor. Herschel was instrumental in moving the class from Royal Brighton Yacht Club to its current home, Sandringham Yacht Club, a move which not only saved the class, but gave it a new focus, currently boasting the most competitive fleet in Australia.

Herschel sought out the best sailors, both Damian Lee and Australian Cadet Champion Luke Mathews had a stint at steering his boats, but it was the combination of David Suda also a Cadet Australian Champion, steering and Luke trimming that gave them the edge. Apart from multiple titles, they represented Australia in two J24 World Championships, Sardinia and Melbourne 2006.
I spoke with Herschel and reminisced some of the high’s and lows of his 30 years of J24 sailing, many of which I witnessed.

On the low side was wiping out in 30 knots in the 88 Worlds whilst trying to avoid a boat sinking collision with Nick Chapman and Ian Torode, Sailing in front of the Manly Ferry an act that almost cost them, the boat, a fine and the exit of the entire crew, and later that day a T-Bone collision on port tack, only stopping the boat sinking by stuffing the brand new Genoa into the hole. I also experienced disaster as a guest helmsman, Herschel and I sailed in Metung in 30 knots, with the spinnaker up, only to tear the rudder off the back of the boat, resulting in us tipping over and shredding his brand new mainsail …oops.

There are many on the high side, with Luke Mathews steering Herschel told me of the fastest kite run he ever did an estimated 17 knots totally out of control on Lake Macquarrie , their first National Title in Adelaide, backed up with a second in Melbourne against the newly crowned 2016 World Etchell Champion Ben Lamb. How ever I believe they sailed their best this year, despite the absence of Luke Mathews following a horrific accident, the team of David Suda, Damian Lee, Rachel Suda, Heschel Landes and Sam Clayton won both the 2016 J24 National title and arguably the harder 2016 Victorian title.

I have sailed against Herschel and his teams for over 30 years, longer than anyone else I have competed against, we have been fierce and some times bitter rivals on the water, no matter what the event, it has always been sailing against each other to the maximum. I will truly miss that. To Herschel, David and the Pacemaker crew, all the best in whatever direction sailing takes you……….

Hugo Ottaway Bruschetta VI.