Highs and lows as time expired

Published on September 30th, 2018

by Amy Baxter
After beginning with harsh conditions that turned the race course into a combat zone, the 2018 West Marine J70 World Championship (Sept 25-29) ended with a whimper when a lack of wind prevented racing on the final day in Marblehead, MA.

Leading by just a point, with only three points separating the top three, winner Jud Smith (USA) was okay with the outcome.

“[Race committee] went in with best intentions, but with the forecast, at best, it was going to be one race,” said Smith. “There was no upside for us to go race. We were just as happy. We’d rather let the clock wind down in the fourth quarter.”

Smith’s overall win also underscored an old tried-and-true testament that consistency can win a regatta more than winning individual races. With a 105-point total, Africa averaged nearly 11 points per race, and Smith snagged the top spot without winning a single race.

Regarding the high average score, Smith attributed it to the tough competition amid the 91-boats and his conservative starting strategy. Under the threat of a black flag, which dealt a blow to last year’s winner Peter Duncan (USA), Smith chose to hang back off the line, not willing to take any risks when it came to the start line.

“We did not start well because we didn’t want to be over–I didn’t want to take myself out of it,” he said. “My tactician [Lucas Calabrese] is of that same mindset. We just want to stay in the game, which made it hard because as a result we didn’t do anything particularly brilliant.

“Maybe [Duncan] took a little too much risk, and more risk than I would’ve taken. …. I’ve never sailed any other way for 25 years. It doesn’t always win, but at least you always have a shot.”

Smith, who crewed for Duncan to win the 2017 title, now looks to him for on-the-water tuneups. “We think Peter is the fastest guy in the world,” Smith said. “If we can just have good enough speed to be at least be close to him, then we have enough speed.”

Those tuneups likely came in handy when it came to dealing with the Marblehead conditions, which threw not only competitors through the ringer for five days of heavy winds and high seas, but also the race committee and regatta organizers.

“Conditions were unlike anything what anybody was forecasting for this week and venue,” Eastern YC PRO Hank Stuart said.

Despite a no-wind final day, the afternoon was not without some excitement–and horror. David Koski’s Soul (USA) was struck by a spectator powerboat about an hour before the final call of the day. “Hundreds” of spectator boats and passersby were milling about the water during postponement, according to David’s brother Greg Koski. After being struck by a powerboat that “came out of nowhere,” Soul sustained significant damage to her bow.

“We were taking on water, so we had to call the race committee to bail out. And they sent over a bunch of power boats,” said Greg Koski of Soul. “A bunch of witnesses came over and said they saw the whole thing and that really helped out. The committee here at Eastern has been phenomenal. Sail22 went and got our trailer and straps and got us out of the water very quickly.”

The strike was not Soul’s only bout of bad luck. On the first day of the regatta, the team also discovered their trailer had been ungraciously borrowed by another team.

Other aspects of the regatta sailed along without issue, according to Stuart, who remarked there were no rules issues. Or as Ed Furry, owner of rigging company Sail22 put it, “No a**holes, no cheating. Just good sailing.”

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