Corinthian, Woman, Winner

Published on January 6th, 2014

Heather Gregg-Earl is a finalist for the 2013 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award, based largely on her win at the inaugural J/70 North American. Her success is deeply rooted in her past as three-time College All-American on the Tufts University Women’s Sailing team, and placing second in the 1992 470 Olympic Trials to JJ Fetter/Isler by just one point (JJ went on to grab a Silver Medal in the Olympics). Here’s an excerpt of a recent interview with Heather in J/Boats News

After trying nearly ever small keelboat one design, she hopped on the J/70 wave. Here she shares her experiences thus far racing in the class…

“I have to say I haven’t had as much fun sailing since college sailing!! The J/70 is a blast!! The boat is a hoot to sail, especially in the breeze. It truly is one-design, it’s manageable in terms of crew (only three other people needed to sail), it’s great value for the money, and the fleet after one year has such depth in talent. Eighty-nine boats on the line and just one year old…impressive. When I was looking for a new One-Design Class to jump into, I wanted one in which the sailing itself was more fun. And buying into a Class where I had a lot of confidence that the fleet would develop quickly and with a lot of talent was important to me. As a mom chasing my 10-year-old around the Opti circuit, I needed to make sure that the new Class I picked had enough well-attended regattas throughout the year to make it worthwhile. When I went for my first spin in the J/70 with Stu Johnstone one 20 knot day in Newport, I was sold.”

Do you feel the J/70 is a good platform for women sailors?

“I think it’s a great boat for women. It’s manageable in terms of putting a program together given number of crew, and women can easily sail the boat. It’s totally manageable for women as drivers or any crew position for that matter. I’ve sailed it with an all women crew a few times, and we had a ball.”

While her goal at the North Americans was to merely win the Corinthian Division, here she offers advice for fellow amateur racers who want to compete in major championships?

“Crazier things happen! My advice to fellow amateurs is:
– I think it’s great to stick together as an amateur team! Stay together!
– Putting together a good team with great chemistry goes a long way – don’t underestimate the power of this!
– Practice, practice, practice – together as a team!
– Make sure having fun is one of your goals- we all tend to do better when we do!”

QUESTION: Heather will be competing at Key West Race Week (Jan 19-24) in the J/70 fleet, which has seen its fleet size increase from 39 boats in 2013 to 62 entrants for 2014. At the same time, the Melges 24 has gone from 23 to 6 entrants, and the Melges 32 has gone from 11 to 8 entrants. Any comments on why the J/70 fleet is growing and/or the Melges fleets are shrinking at this event?

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