Neckelmann Wins Day, Takes Lead at J/70 Worlds
Published on September 28th, 2016
San Francisco, CA (September 28, 2016) – San Francisco has a storied reputation as a world-class venue during the summer and early fall, and Day Two of the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club, did not disappoint.
A marine layer and 10 knots of westerly breeze greeted racers at the docks, but by the time the fleet arrived at the Berkeley Circle, pockets of blue sky and gathering airs created visually stunning optics. The Race Committee quickly started the first of the day’s three races, as they well understood that the morning’s flat waters would grow steep and sharp once the afternoon’s ebb tide arrived.
Pied Piper (USA 380) enjoyed a fantastic start, which they leveraged into a thin-but-comfortable lead at the first mark rounding, and Gannon Troutman, the team’s brilliant 13-year-old skipper, made sure to press this advantage hard as a scrum of boats battled for position in his wake. A flurry of crew movement produced a fine A-sail set, and Pied Piper launched off toward the leeward gate. Flash forward thirty minutes, and Troutman was still leading the hunt as Pied Piper whistled across the finish line to a round of crew celebrations.
“It was hard in the chop, but it got easier in the flatter water,” said an elated Gannon, seconds after beating many of the world’s best One Design sailors. A great start was an obvious key to Pied Piper’s success, but the team managed to stretch their lead considerably from the windward mark to the first gate by sailing low and fast through the building chop. When queried about his team’s three smartest strategic and tactical moves, Gannon wasted no words: “The start, a later gybe on the first downwind leg, and sailing conservative.”
Stronger airs and a gathering ebb tide conspired to kick up bigger seas, which would only intensify as the afternoon continued. The next countdown commenced, headsails unfurled, and 68 boats hit the line at pace with the race committee citing only two boats for being over early.
Most of the fleet opted for left side of the line and a starboard tack start, but within minutes defending world champion Julian Fernandez Neckelmann (MEX) and his Flojito Y Cooperando (MEX 384) teammates found their own lane and began making big gains on the fleet; by the top of the second windward leg they enjoyed a 1:15 lead over Claudia Rossi’s Petite Terrible (ITA 853), who rounded in second. Come the finish, Neckelmann and his tactician, San Diego-native Bill Hardesty, had stretched this lead by another 42 seconds to take a decisive win.
Consistency is key at any big-fleet regatta, and Neckelmann and company clearly demonstrated they have unlocked the Berkeley Circle’s secrets in moderate-to-heavy conditions by repeating their stunning performance on the day’s final race, commanding every mark rounding and delivering a finish that few eyes witnessed, as the bulk of the fleet was far astern, skirmishing for points and finishing slots.
“There’s still two days to go,” said Neckelmann, who looked happy but was clearly conscious of the remaining races—and other brilliant sailors—that still separate him from winning back-to-back J/70 World Championship titles.
While Flojito Y Cooperando exemplified textbook A-sail sets and gybes, plenty of other teams learned the Bay’s lessons the hard way as shrouds kissed the brine and more than one crew watched valuable sand bleed through the metaphoric hourglass as they fought to retrieve their water-logged kite. Still, broad smiles and happy faces could be seen aboard all boats, irrespective of their finishing positions.
“It was windy at the top mark, but we’re having a great time!” said Heather Gregg, skipper of MUSE (USA 95) and the 2014 J/70 Corinthian World Champion, moments after she and her all-Corinthian crew crossed the finishing line in the day’s final race. “It’s tough sailing in such a big fleet—you make a few mistakes and you’re shot out of the back. But we have a great team and we’re having fun!”
Racing resumes tomorrow, with San Francisco’s famed wind and tidal conditions again expected to be the dominant racecourse features. Twelve races are scheduled for September 27 to October 1 with a team’s worst score discarded after 6 or more races are completed.
Source: St. Francis Yacht Club