Skeleton Key Wins J/111 Worlds
Published on August 27th, 2017
San Francisco, CA (August 27, 2017) – After nine races spread over four grueling days, Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115) is the 2017 J/111 World Champion. Going into day four, this regatta was still anyone’s game, and all eyes were on the top three contenders who had tussled for pole position throughout the regatta.
Bright sunshine and 10 knots of air greeted the eight J/111 crews that assembled on San Francisco Bay this morning for the final day of racing at the 2017 J/111 World Championships hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California. Racing had been consistently competitive throughout four days of competition, with regular leader changes and a good mix of boats winning top-three finishes. Better still, the weather cooperated perfectly, giving sailors a hearty dose of what they came for: San Francisco’s legendary summer breeze.
Going into the final day, Jim Connolly’s Slush Fund (USA 019) topped the leaderboard, tied for total points (18) with Rod Warren’s Joust (AUS 1110). However, Slush Fund had a net score of 12 points (due to discarded races), while Warren and company carried 13 net points; Skeleton Key was in third place with 17 total points and 13 net points.
“Coming into today, we had already enjoyed three days of racing,” said Jenn Lancaster, St. Francis Yacht Club’s Race Director. “After a challenging distance race yesterday, it was great to round-out this championship with racing on the Berkeley Circle.”
This return to the Circle wasn’t without its management headaches for StFYC’s capable Race Committee and their visiting Principal Race Officer, Jeff Johnson.
“Today’s concern was to figure out how to complete a great series on the Berkeley Circle in the midst of other classes and clubs,” said Johnson. “We had to contend with the Moore 24 Nationals to the east of us and the Optimist Pacific Coast Championships to the northeast, but we still had to fit in a 1.7 nautical-mile course without spilling into the shipping traffic.”
A moderate breeze worked in tandem with the current and tide to create lumpy seas that would only increase in height, steepness and frequency. The Race Committee signaled Course 14 (windward-leeward, twice around), and teams jostled for a favored spot on the starting line. Come the starting signal, Skeleton Key, Martin Roesch’s Velocity (USA 008) and Joust were the quickest off the lime, with five of the eight boats opting for the stronger pressure on the course’s left-hand side.
A strong North Bay push threatened to set boats to the southeast that didn’t properly account for this influence, and, at the first windward mark, Slush Fund rounded and hoisted their kite first, followed by Skeleton Key and Doug and Jack Jorgensen’s Picosa (USA 120). Slush Fund successfully held their lead through the gate, followed by Skeleton Key and Joust, but fortunes changed come the second weather mark as Skeleton Key rounded first, followed by Picosa and Slush Fund. Numerous gybes and more leader changes ensued before Skeleton Key’s bow pierced the finishing line to take the win, followed by Picosa and Slush Fund.
The RC promptly signaled the day’s last race, which was a windward-leeward-twice-around affair, fortified by an extra windward leg for an uphill finish. The starting signal sounded, with Skeleton Key again enjoying a fine start, followed by Velocity and Reuben Rocci’s Swift Ness (USA 101). By the first windward mark, Joust had claimed the pole position, followed by Skeleton Key and Slush Fund. Kites were hoisted and the bow spray instantly started flying.
Positions held at the leeward gate all the way to the finishing line, where a loud chorus of cheers could be heard coming from the lone boat flying an overseas sail number. But while Joust sailed a phenomenal last race, this wasn’t enough to earn them the regatta’s highest honor, which went to Skeleton Key, a team that consistently proved their mettle. “Congratulations to Skeleton Key and Slush Fund,” said a tired-but-happy looking Warren, reflecting on his third-place overall finish. “I thought four bullets would have done it, but not quite.”
After nine races, Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key crew are the new J/111 World Champions, and their victory on their home waters is made all the sweeter by the fact that they came in second at last year’s J/111 Worlds in Cowes, UK. “It took a lot of patience,” said an elated Wagner. “There was a lot of depth at the top of the fleet. Slush Fund had the best speed; Joust was consistent and fast; we had our moments; and several others such as Picosa and Velocity sailed well. We took nothing for granted out there. It was a long regatta that wasn’t decided until the final beat. It took a lot of concentration, but I’m glad we held it together.”
When asked about the origins of his boat’s moniker, Wagner cracked a small smile. “A skeleton key is an Australian term for a surfboard that performs well in a variety of conditions, and we like to think that we sail well in all conditions.”
Based on all evidence seen this week, the entire sailing world would agree.
The 2017 J/111 World Championship regatta was held in San Francisco, CA, August 22 – 27.
Source: St. Francis Yacht Club Communications