Surviving the battle to win the war

Published on September 14th, 2018

by Bill Wagner, Capital Gazette
Annapolis skipper Zeke Horowitz won the regatta on the water then survived a lengthy challenge in the protest room to capture the 2018 J/22 World Championship on the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s an incredibly humbling thing, for sure,” Horowitz said. “We were going over some of the other names on the perpetual trophy and it’s a very impressive list. It’s certainly quite an honor to get my name on there.”

Horowitz was a member of the College of Charleston sailing team and had Greg Fisher as head coach his last two years. Remarkably, the inscription on the J/22 World Championship perpetual trophy listing Horowitz as 2018 winner was placed adjacent to the one recognizing Fisher as the 2008 titlist.

“Greg Fisher is my ultimate mentor and made a major impact on my life, both as a sailor and as a person,” Horowitz said. “So it was really cool when I saw the columns lined up perfectly so that our plaque is right next to Greg’s.”

Allan Terhune led the regatta at the end of racing on both Day One and Day Two and carried a nine-point lead into the final day of an event ending one day early due to the threat of Hurricane Florence. Horowitz held second place, but readily admitted he needed Terhune to make a mistake in order to have a chance of claiming the title.

Terhune did just that, drawing a “U” Flag penalty in Race 7 for committing a rules violation during pre-start maneuvers. That saddled the Annapolis skipper with a finish of 65th, which he was forced to throw out.

That meant Terhune had to count an 18th place finish in Race 5 that he had previously used as a throw-out. Meanwhile, Horowitz tossed his worst result of 11th in Race 4 and his consistency made the difference.

“Allan’s team sailed an incredible regatta. They were really fast and in the right place a lot of the time,” Horowitz said. “We had to hope they made a mistake and that’s what happened.’

It took almost two hours for the final results to become official as a series of protest hearings dragged on through the scheduled awards ceremony and held up formally crowning the 2018 J/22 world champion.

Horowitz and Terhune, who worked together at the North Sails-Chesapeake loft in Eastport, were adversaries in a protest that potentially could have changed the final outcome.

Terhune alleged that he was fouled by Horowitz in the ninth and final race. That protest was ultimately dismissed by the International Jury after hearing testimony from both sides.

Terhune then protested being assigned the “U” flag penalty in Race 7, hoping to receive redress and a result that would have wiped out the three-point deficit. That protest also was eventually denied.

“I really don’t want to comment on any of that,” Horowitz said of the protest ordeal. “I’ll just say it’s not the way anyone wanted the regatta to end.”

With Jackson Benvenutti on tactics, Jo Ann Fisher handled the foredeck while Emmy Stuart worked the pit aboard Uncle Fluffy, which represented Eastport Yacht Club.

“I owe it all to my team. They were on point the whole event. They were all calm, cool and collected even when things weren’t going well,” Horowitz said. “Everyone was totally focused on doing their job. It’s a really, really cool thing to be able to focus solely on driving boat and going fast while letting the team worry about everything else.”

Horowitz was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he developed into a top-notch youth sailor. He became an All-American competitor at the College of Charleston, where he was a teammate of Benvenutti. Those two have been friends since they were competitors on the Optimist class travel circuit as pre-teenagers.

“I can’t say enough about Jackson’s contributions this week. He is such a gifted sailor. It’s really a pleasure to sit next to him and watch his brain work,” Horowitz said. “How Jackson can focus on trimming the jib and also concentrate on watching the race course in order to make sound tactical decisions is truly remarkable.

“Jackson is a brilliant, but conservative sailor who is always looking to hit singles instead of home runs and that was really the key to our success in this regatta,” Horowitz added.

Horowitz also had high praise for Stuart and Fisher, former of whom just happens to be his girlfriend and latter of whom is a past J/22 world champ as crew for her husband.

“We set this goal two year ago and it’s been a long process,” Horowitz said. “This is particularly special because I got to do it with my closest friend, my girlfriend and a veteran sailor who I respect immensely in Jo Ann. Getting this outcome with people you love is really rewarding.”

As an up and coming professional with North Sails, Horowitz readily admitted this result was a big boost for his career. The 28-year-old previously captured the 2016 Viper 640 World Championship off Bermuda.

“It means everything. My career revolves around winning champions so getting my name on a world championship trophy is a huge steppingstone,” he said. “Winning a world championship in a class as competitive as the J/22 is very validating.”

Racing was held September 11 to 13 for 64 teams represented Canada, The Netherlands, South Africa and the USA.

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