Winning Attributes of a Successful Fleet
Published on January 8th, 2018
by Doug Bullock, J/105 Class President
On Lake Ontario, we have a relatively short six-month sailing season from May to October. So to be a successful fleet, you have to have the right combination of boat, culture and schedule to attract and retain owners and crew.
J/105 Fleet 4 Lake Ontario has been a very successful fleet, and I thought I would share what I believe for us are the winning attributes of the J/105 as a boat, the culture of the Class, and our own approach to each season’s schedule.
Our schedule looks for a balance of our racing life with our other life that really helps owners get the crew out and committed for the summer. Our goal is to hold two regattas per month while ensuring that every other weekend and every long weekend are free. This creates a balance that owners, and especially crew, love because it allows them to enjoy other activities during our short summers. It is a winning formula we have used for years.
As for J/105 culture—it is one thing to get people out racing and another to ensure their total experience for the weekend is a good one. There are two essential ingredients of every weekend regatta, the racing and the social.
With the racing, the J/105 Class nailed it with the Corinthian approach to the Rules, and while our fleet is very competitive, it is the camaraderie between owners and crew that is Corinthian to the core. It is this culture of our Class that I believe is one of the true attractions that keeps our fleet alive and vibrant.
With the social, it is the “off the water” receptions, BBQs and dinners that help ensure a regatta is remembered as a good time. This is where the camaraderie of sharing knowledge and helping each other to do better reflects the true Corinthian culture of the J/105 Class. We always work at ensuring everyone attends with free dinner and drinks tickets, live bands and fun games, like Flip Cup, Bocce Ball, and Beer Pong.
Then there is having the right boat, and here the J/105 is nothing short of awesome. It was a revolutionary one-design when it came out in 1991 with its asymmetrical spinnaker on a bow sprit, huge cockpit, sleek low profile hull, and it is still one hot boat to race today 26 years later. It is easy to sail, yet challenging to master.
We have 21 boats in our fleet, and it is the largest one-design big keelboat on Lake Ontario. Most of the boats have been in the fleet over 15 years, and while the owners may change occasionally, the boats remain. It is just the right boat for us.
I am going into my eighth year of owning a J/105, and while I am never on the podium at our regattas, I never tire of participating in the racing. A great start, a well-executed duck or perfect mark rounding give me huge satisfaction. When everyone on my boat is having fun, we have completed the regatta to our best ability and at the end of the weekend everyone had a good time, then I am one happy skipper.
To continue the success of J/105 fleets everywhere, we need to support the one design nature of the J/105 boat and ensure there is always a balance to all our fleet activities while embracing our Corinthian culture.