Secrets to Success, sailing edition

Published on September 17th, 2014

Carter Williams, President of the J/105 Class, shares important observations in the J/105 Summer 2014 newsletter that can apply to all one design classes, and some advice to insure the long term health of the sport…

In Harbor Springs, MI this summer, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Northern Michigan, also known as an NM. First launched in 1934 at the height of the depression, my historian friends at New York Yacht Club tell me the NM is one of the oldest active one design classes in the world.

About the size and shape of an IOD or Etchells, the NM is the base inspiration for many great boats. Dave Irish, now in his 70s, first sailed an NM when he was 12 years old. Dave skippered his boat this season with a young girl from the local sailing school on his foredeck. On any weekend, a crew of an 80 year old, 40 year old and 12 year old will be out competing with a crew of teenagers from a local sailing school. What makes the NM a durable one design class are the people.

This summer, I took my J/105 on the Chicago-Mackinac Race. Andy Giglia, another great sailor, and I did our first Vineyard Race when we were 15 on Dooie Isdale’s Fair American. So, I took four junior sailors on the Mac so they could ‘Level Up’. The youngest of my crew was Ben Varner, age 14. We finished 9th out of 20. The kids may have drifted off a bit at 2am and been a bit queasy at times, but they survived. As we left Chicago, I told the kids about Jim Mertz who did the Newport Bermuda race 30 times. I suggested to Benny, as one of the youngest kids in the Mac, he has a head start on setting his own record for passages. I wonder, when Benny is 70 will he race the Chicago Mac on a J/105?

The J/105 is a truly great one design Class. Pure amateur competition, not check book champions. The Class attracts talents of all ages and capabilities. At 23 years old, it is not quite an NM, but the Class continues to thrive because of the individuals who sail it. While the Class leadership can make sure we adapt the Rules over time to keep the boat competitive, the fleets and local sailors are ultimately the source of the Class’ vitality.

The NM fleet survived because individuals ran races, maintained boats, learned to crew, sailed as kids, and skippered as adults. The J/105 is a boat that everyone will sail at some point. The future of the fleet is not about technology, design or fancy sails. The future of the fleet is about people of all ages enjoying sailing with others, sort of like Dave Irish. It is about each of us taking kids sailing, working as a team to win a regatta, offshore races, perhaps some single/double, building lifelong friendships, and having important memories while enjoying sailing with others.

comment banner

Tags: , , , ,

Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.