Not obsessing about crew weight is good

Published on September 13th, 2023

While the growth of women participating in handicap racing has mostly the hurdle of male stubbornness, obstacles in one design racing has to do with ideal crew weight. When classes have a maximum limit, odds are that is also the ideal team weight, and often it is hard to fit smaller people into the crew.

But according to Josie Gliddon (GBR), who finished fourth in the 2023 J/70 European Championship, this 23-footer are “brilliant boats for gender, equality, and diversity.”

Gliddon, who also competes in Cape 31s and International Moths, enjoys the close one-design nature of J/70 racing, and the fact that it is so easily sailed by women and men of varying sizes. “I think the J/70 is a really good class because you can choose how many people you sail with on board. Some are racing with four, and we’re sailing with five-up, and we’ve got two females on our boat.

“There’s not a huge amount of load in these boats. I’m doing the steering, and I’ve done the mainsheet on the J/70 too. There’s a bit of load in the gennaker sheet but it’s all quite doable. Whether you’re a man or a woman isn’t really the issue. As a human being, as a sailor, you go out and you do what you want to do and you practice and you get better and you become the best person that you can possibly can be, whatever your gender.”

She also likes the simplicity of the J/70 as a boat. “It’s fairly easy to set the boat up correctly. It’s not quite plug and play, but it’s not far off. It’s very one-design, very fair racing, and they’re easy to tow on the road. Times have changed and people are looking for convenience. You come down to the dock in the morning, you take off the hatch cover, hoist the mainsail and you’re pretty much ready to go.”

Another common bugbear of many keelboats is the obsession with crew weight, the need to go for a last-minute run or sauna to try to dip below the maximum allowable all-up weight. Not so in the J/70 which places no constrictions on overall crew weight. Teams can race four-up or five-up, and both options have proven competitive.

“The limiting factor is you can only have two sets of legs out. And also you’re not allowed to hike out in the traditional sense,” says Gliddon. On-the-water umpiring at major events like the Europeans ensures that no one is pushing the hiking rule, or if they do, it’s a penalty turn.

Gliddon likes the open weight rule. “It makes the J/70 quite appealing for a wide group of people. We sail five-up, and I think there’s a competitive range of about 20 to 30 kilos variation between the top teams. It’s nice not to have to obsess about crew weight.”

Source: Andy Rice

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