J/70 class rides momentum into inaugural World Championship

Published on September 3rd, 2014

Newport, RI (September 3, 2014) – In the two and a half years since being introduced, the J/70 has not only become one of the most popular and competitive classes in the world – with 600+ boats sailing in 20+ countries – it has been chosen Sailing World’s 2014 Boat of the Year and also been designated an International Class by ISAF (International Sailing Federation).

With that kind of momentum, it is no surprise that the class’ inaugural world championship – the 2014 J/70 World Championship presented by Helly Hansen – would see a stampede of entries for the September 9-13 competition. Adding to the luster of competing in the inaugural worlds is the fact that the racing will take place on the fabled waters of Newport, Rhode Island, where it will be hosted by the venerable New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court.

Ninety teams – representing 14 nations – have registered, many having proven their mettle via the Qualifying System which was established to facilitate an outstanding level of competition. As can be expected for such a popular class, the entry list is replete with world, national and regional champions:

2013 J/70 North American Champion Heather Gregg-Earl (Boston, Mass.), 2006 Audi Etchells World Champion Jud Smith (Marblehead, Mass.), 2013 J/22 World Champion Allan Terhune (Arnold, Md.) and 1996 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Dave Ullman (Santa Ana, Calif.), along with top international skippers Chuck Millican (Hamilton, BER), Mauricio Santa Crux (Rio de Janeiro, BRA), Pieter Taselaar (Amsterdam, NED) and Juergen Waldheim (Berlin, GER).

Local favorites include 2013 J/24 World Champion Tim Healy (Jamestown, R.I.), 2014 J/24 US National Champion Will Welles (Portsmouth, R.I.) who took the J/70 class win at Newport Regatta® in July, and Suzy Leech (Jamestown, R.I.). Leech, having gained an international reputation as a top competitor via Olympic and America’s Cup campaigns, is a former “bow chick” who has moved to the back of the boat. She will steer the only (as of press time) all-woman entry: Junkanoo Racing.

“A few years ago, I lost my motivation to be on the bow,” said Leech citing the cold, wet and physicality of that critical team position. “I was looking for a boat that I could race in a competitive fleet, yet also be able to take out with my husband and 7-year-old daughter. The J/70 has turned out to be the perfect boat for me.”

Anticipating the top-level helms she will be up against, Leech is hoping to be in the top 20% of the fleet. She will race with champion dinghy sailor and match racer Elizabeth Kratzig of Miami, three-time Olympian Annemieke Bes of The Netherlands, and another experienced local, Newport’s Chafee Emory who was a member of the Melges 32 winning team at the 2014 Key West Race Week.

“We are again sailing with an all-female crew, as we did in Key West. That makes us significantly lighter (roughly 100 lbs.) than most other crews which could be a disadvantage if it blows over 15 knots as it can at this time of year. But I really enjoy sailing with my friends. I love the camaraderie, and it doesn’t hurt that most of my friends have been, or are currently, coaches and are patiently improving my helming skills.”

Leech admits that the hardest thing to learn has been how to start in a big fleet. “You can’t get coached in those few seconds; you have to really do it yourself because there is no time to wait for directions … your hole will be gone. Only time in the boat and lots of starts will help make up for all my years not driving, but for now, I just try not to start on some great boat’s hip.”

Leech also feels there is not a significant home-court advantage for local teams. “Newport is a very neutral venue, as long as you are sailing outside on Block Island Sound. There are a few general weather patterns that local knowledge may help with, but even those are not set in stone, and can often catch you unprepared if you rely on them and don’t keep your head out of the boat. If we race up the Bay then tides become a major factor – and local knowledge could make the difference.”

Event website: www.j70worlds.com

Source: Media Pro Intl.

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