Charting a Course to J/111 Worlds
Published on August 16th, 2017
Every team’s journey to a starting line is a tale of organization, crew alignment, vessel preparation and practice. Add in international travel, and the complexity snowballs. Then, weave in the pressures and prestige of a World Championship and the situation compounds. The emphasis on organization and practice is a constant, but the logistics escalate the farther afield you venture.
But what if the crew is (mostly) from Australia, the regatta is in the USA, and the boat is one that no one on the team has sailed? For skipper Rod Warren (AUS) and his crew, the rhumbline hasn’t been simple to the 2017 J/111 World Championships (August 23-27), hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, CA.
While Warren has owned and raced his J/111 Joust (AUS 1110) for the last four years in Melbourne, bringing her to the USA was a bridge too far. With transpacific vessel shipping off the table, he said “the hardest thing was finding a charter boat and a good owner.” When these efforts came up shy, Warren got creative.
One of Warren’s Aussie mates, Phil Simpfendorfer, was shopping for a J/111 and found one in the Bay Area (Rob Theis’s former Aeolus). Phone calls and discussions ensued, and—to cut a long, dead-downwind leg short— Simpfendorfer generously offered Warren and crew (including Bay Area locals Chris Watts and Jennifer Canestra) a crack at the world-championship title using his Joust before she gets shipped back to Australia.
“It’s a lucky break and a generous friend,” said Warren, who is now busily preparing for San Francisco conditions. “We love the wind and are used to big seas. Recently, we’ve been sailing in heavier winds, perfecting some new techniques. Time will tell if they work.”
The St. Francis Yacht Club is no stranger to hosting international teams for world-championship events, or to welcoming sailors to San Francisco Bay’s gorgeous natural amphitheater.
“My event co-chair Susan Ruhne and I are looking forward to welcoming competitors and their families to the Club,” said Gerard Sheridan, co-chair of the 2017 J/111 Worlds. “We love sharing the St. Francis Yacht Club experience with visitors, many who will be here for the first time.”
In addition to some sailors first experiencing St. Francis Yacht Club and the Bay through this regatta, this will be the first time the J/111 Class (established 2012) will host an international championship on the West Coast, as their previous two world championships were in the United Kingdom (2014 and 2016) and Newport, Rhode Island (2015). “With our typical August conditions here on the Bay, a fleet of local and visiting J/111s will be a sight to behold, planing downwind in the afternoon breeze,” said Sheridan.
Of the ten teams currently registered, four are from the Bay Area while the other six, including Warren and Joust, are from elsewhere. “Local knowledge is almost always a factor at most racing venues,” said Sheridan. “However, I find most good visiting teams to the Bay quickly get the big picture of our current patterns, tidal cycles, and rules of thumb that locals are happy to share.”
A preview of coming attractions will occur for the J/111 teams competing in the Aldo Alessio and Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta on August 18-20.