RIP Raymond La Fontaine

Ray with Hugo

Raymond La Fontaine. 19/ 1/1962 – 19/2/2024.

Written by Hugo Ottaway 

Many individuals have contributed to making our J24 Class what it is today.

One of those is Raymond La Fontaine.

I first met Ray in 1985 when he, his father Barry, myself, Herschel Landers and Ian Torode (RIP) bought our first J24s. Discovering the Victorian class had disbanded, we sailed club course and Junior Offshore Group overnight bay races.

In 1986 Ray and I appointed ourselves President and Vice President, reforming the J24 Class Association of Victoria. That year despite having no experience, we secured a sponsorship with Club Marine Insurance for the Victorian and National Championships held at Royal Melbourne yacht Squadron.

The following year, Ray took ‘New Horizon’ KA 96 to Sydney for the 1987 Nationals, having no money, he slept on the boat at CYCA for a week before sailing down the coast to Port Hacking, establishing a camping ground in the club grounds, sleeping in tents.

In 1988 Ray took ‘New Horizon’ to the Worlds in Sydney. It was here that he met Ian Bashford the builder of J24s in Australia (RIP),  Ray formed a friendship with Ian that resulted in the purchase of a new J24, ‘French Connection’ AUS 146 which he sailed in the 1996 World Championship in Melbourne.

In 1998 Herschel Landers, President and Ray, Vice President, facilitated moving the remaining five Royal Brighton Yacht Club J24 fleet to Sandringham Yacht Club, initiating what remains today, a fleet of 21 J24’s on the hardstand.

It was this move that arrested the decline in numbers due to the Brighton J24s being overshadowed by the Etchell Class.

With a new home, it was identified that short courses and multiple races would keep the fleet together, the J24s ran their own races with self starts and laying their own marks . A totally new concept away from the traditional Saturday afternoon race around the cans.

In another pioneering concept, the class began racing on Sunday mornings with a rule that the boats must be back at the dock by midday. That decision helped those J members with young families, get back on the water. All of these totally new approaches to yacht racing, remain today, thanks to the committee and Ray, who made a significant contribution.

Ray’s crew included many SYC members, David Suda, Dee Telford, Andy White, Grant Robinson, Grant Wilmont and past Commodore  Phil Coombes to name but a few, competing in many J24 Nationals and World Championships in Sydney 1988, Melbourne 1996, Sardinia 2006 and Argentina 2007.

There are many wild and colourful stories about Ray that will be shared around bars where J’s are sailed, however on a brief sailing note, surfing down wind in 25 knots, two handed  with Robbie Hartnett passing most of the fleet with the kite up, sailing from Westernport Bay offshore, through Port Phillip heads in 30 Knots – pure madness! Putting a brand new genoa in a dump bin after race 3 at the Nationals (which was hilarious to watch from the bar) exemplifies Ray’s colourful personality.

The J24 class in Australia is richer thanks to the contribution of Raymond La Fontaine.

Ray is survived by James, Mitchell and Violet.                                              8 Bells.