Vene Vidi Vici- The Spanish Team Came, Saw and Conquered the J/80 Worlds. And, they can dance the Salsa on tables!
Surprised? I’m not. It was a lot of fun to be challenged by some great sailors. How appropriate. Columbus Day is this weekend, he was a Spanish sailor, too, right? Somehow, Columbus thought the world’s riches lay somewhere west of Spain across some vast desert of water that may have a cliff at the far end? Who knew back then in the 16th century. Magellan was no genius at the time either- just sailing by braille like most of us.
Anyhow, the winner was Jose Maria "Pichu" Torcida sailing ECC VIVIENDAS from Santander, Spain (if you’d read our J/Newsletters you’d know this team are always serious contenders). Nice guy, the "old man" of the group, somewhat humble, and a wise sailor to boot. They were not without their hiccups going around the race track, getting an 18th on the second to last race after a massive cock-up and broaching somewhat spectacularly. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot before actually winning a Worlds Championship with a massive crew/ skipper mistake. As a result, after the the 10th race on Friday, they were not a contender to win the Worlds and, in fact, winning at the time was the American team of Scott Young and Terry Flynn team on QUANTUM RACING. Imagine that.
One freakin gybe and you’re toast. Forget the fact that Carlos Martinez on PERALEJA GOLF in the first race of the day (race 9 for the series) sailed off into oblivion going the wrong
way and scoring a 24th to torpedo his chances for winning the event (remember, he was leading going into the day). Rayco Tabares sailing HOTEL PRINCESSA CANARIAS, the young buck of the team and a bit of a hot head at times, sailed an amazing series himself, but managed to get a few too many people pissed off at him to either throw him out (a DSQ) or get BFD’d even though he tried to convince the Jury the "cosmos" (or the rest of the universe) was somehow against him and no amount of witnesses (none of which spoke English) who said all exactly the same thing (hmmm, which photocopier were they using?) were able to exonerate him of his transgressions. Oh well. If Rayco had kept himself out of trouble, deservedly, he should have won the regatta. Next time.
The fleet experienced three pretty amazing things going to the starting line offshore for the last day of the regatta. First, a giant US Navy guided missile frigate, the "stealth" version, came through the fleet in the East Passage, cruising past Castle Hill, taking the turn left at the "house on the rocks"- "Clingstone" (great party place) and cruising on underneath the Newport Bridge to the Navy Base. Secondly, the next experience was a phenomenon that no one in Newport that I know of has ever experienced, a large pod of about 75-100 porpoises playing in the area between Castle Hill and Hammersmith Farm in the East Passage. Pretty unbelievable to see them racing across the water wearing a smile on their face as they come ripping past you at 30+ knots…the water was literally foaming in their wakes– we’d never seen anything like it and it was witnessed by at least 20+ J/80 crews and countless other SailNewport and photoboats out there on the way to
the starting line.
In fact, Scott Young (QUANTUM RACING) and Glenn Darden (LE TIGRE), Allen and Daniela Clark (PHOTOBOAT.COM), Paul Todd (OUTSIDE IMAGES NZ), and countless others related seeing the same phenomenon. Personally? It was simply extraordinary to see such a display of fun, frolic and pure joy amongst some of the coolest mammals on the planet. Third, the weather conditions we were about to experience were nothing like what anyone expected…and you could tell based on what we saw testing the winds before the first start. The forecasts were far lower than what we were seeing and if all else held true for the past few days, we were about to experience an epic, mind-blowing day of sailing.
The first race of the day started off in a beautiful 10-18 knots Westerly swinging 10-15 degrees in the 270-290 range. The fleet somehow felt that going to shore was the right thing to do as all tests before the start showed that once you got in close enough to Whale Rock that right-handers would come in off the shore and lift you on starboard up to the windward mark– true enough, in most Westerlies. However, with an ultra high tide (remember the Newport Yachting Center parking lot flooding?), this meant the out-flowing ebb tide from the Bay would produce abnormally high ebb velocities, so one had to be mindful of that effect, not only upwind, but downwind most of all. Furthermore, it was a sunny day. Sunny days in Newport with Westerlies generally mean that the winds tend to go WSW to SW when the land starts heating. And, throw in the geographic shift effects of a large headland, land mass near the weather mark and you can begin to understand how
going left of middle in the first two-thirds of the windward leg would pay while staying right near the top third without overstanding could pay off huge. It worked. In fact, for all three races. In the end, it was great to see Tom Klok, Marie Klok-Crump and Will Crump and Vince Brun ("Vinne") get around the race track in first!
As an interesting aside, Vinnie had a few laughs recalling our first J/24 Midwinters racing against one another in 1978 in Key West! I don’t think Vinnie had his USA Green Card yet. Nevertheless, what was clear for everyone who cared was that it was a disastrous race for Carlos Martinez on PERALEJA GOLF, 24ths are not a good thing to have as a throw-out if you’re trying to win a regatta. Pichu Torcida’s ECC VIVIENDAS got a third to keep him in contention. And, Jeff J’s LITTLE FEAT efforts to hang tough meant a second was a really good thing. Plus, Scott Young and Terry Flynn on QUANTUM RACING got a fourth, mathematically
giving them the lead or something close to it.
If the first race wasn’t dramatic enough for the ulcer-inducing anxiety-ridden types, the second race was surely going to be a cliff-hanger. The conditions went from benign to dramatic. A beautiful Sunday walk-in-the-park, to an anxiety-driven "dogs blown off chains" experience ragging mains, shredding spinnakers and generally trying to keep "chaos" out of one’s M.O. Few avoided it, that’s for sure. Gusts started to hit 30 knots plus with waves tops getting blown off as spume with foam lines on the water. Sailing upwind was a challenge enough with mains vang-sheeted to the max, mainsails and backstays inverted to keep it flat and jib leads way aft to keep the sails board-flat. Even then, puffs were high enough to ease mains until they were flogging uncontrollably. Downwind, it was simply wild, flat-out planes with bow waves bursting over the boats 10-15 feet into the air with cockpits full of water after each dousing…truly epic conditions, the
fire-hose in the face stuff you hear about for days on end in the Volvo 70s. It was during this race Scott Young on QUANTUM RACING said "we hit 19.9 knots and there was so much spray at the stern of the boat we couldn’t see a thing!". What was most amusing was to see the fact that the American teams were so fast upwind and downwind that they took the top two places- of all things a TEXAS team who almost always sail on FLAT water- Glenn Darden on LE TIGRE from Fort Worth Boat Club and a Long Island Sound team that almost always sails on FLAT water with NO wind- Kerry Klingler on LIFTED from Larchmont YC. Not doing so well was Pichu Torcida on ECC VIVIENDAS. While Pichu sailed well to be in the top ten, a pretty spectacular broach (the "keel-flapping" type) erased his chances of winning the regatta at this point. Carlos on PERALEJA GOLF did himself no favors earlier by getting a first race 24th, at least kept himself in contention with a fourtn.
Glenn’s first place put him solidly in the race for the top three.
By now, it was pretty clear that fleet attrition was starting to mount. Minute by minute after the finish of the second race, fatigue was setting in and many boats started to radio in that they were withdrawing from racing. I’m not surprised, as we were physically fatigued beyond anything you could imagine. But, the conditions were so incredible, that it was hard NOT to race. How could anyone turn down sailing in 20-30 knots in a race around the track against a bunch of really good sailors? While going uphill was painful, challenging and incredibly tactical, the rewards were freakin’ mind-blowing- all out planes downwind hitting near 20 knots in a 26 footer?? Sunny day. Out with friends. Sailing against multiple World Champions from many different classes? Sorry, I’d rather be doing this than driving a bloody desk any day! So, we had fun. Eat your hearts out.
The last race of the regatta was bloody awesome. Of the 62 boats, only 35 of us sailed. Yeah, just the REAL sailors hung in there. For us, it was an easy 15-20 knots downwind all the time. Spray flying everywhere. Can’t see a thing. Cockpits full of water. Adrenalin pumping the entire time, hanging on for control. Our start? Great, other than the fact that we got OCS’d and had to restart last! So, we said let’s go catch them all! Getting 10th was not so bad, eh? Beating two former J/80 World Champions, to boot, across the finish line as we climbed up the ladder– fast! What played out in front of us simply blew our minds. Somehow, Scott and Terry on QUANTUM RACING couldn’t get it together and we caught them, much to our surprise. Pichu on ECC VIVIENDAS did himself no favors either but managed to salvage victory from the jaws of defeat himself by getting a fifth. Carlos on PERALEJA GOLDF had to win or at least keep Jeff J on LITTLE FEAT and
Glenn on LE TIGRE at least 2-3 boats behind them to beat them and finish 3rd for the regatta. Somehow, he won the race, with Jeff J getting 3rd and Glenn 4th. Jeff J’s LITTLE FEAT shrimped the kite on the last hoist and ripped it to shreds, finishing 80% of their last downwind leg with main and jib wing-on-wing…still planing!! Lotta drama. Lotta fun. The "cardiac kids". Perhaps that could explain the feeling for all of us. Amazing regatta, one for the memory books.
Gotta hand it to my cousin Jeff J…holy smokes, J/80 Worlds Regatta Chairman, working together with him to get the J/111 ball rolling and all the other stuff that’s associated with keeping a small family business together and moving along in the right direction. He and Kendra Muenter did an amazing job to make it all happen. So did Brad Read at SailNewport and the PRO Tom Duggan– truly remarkable job and the conviction to make it happen.
At the end, it was the Spanish Team that won the Awards dinner party, especially "Ramon" serenading the attendees with a classic Frank Sinatra tune. What a blast. Spanish Salsa and dancing on the stage and on the tables. Everyone had a ball. Then, off to that infamous Top Ten Sailor’s bar, the Clarke Cooke House Candy Store for some more fun, cheers, serenading by many others and, later, to the equally notorious Boom Boom Room for some dancing. We’re nursing our sore muscles, bruises and aching joints this Columbus Day weekend, thank goodness we have three days to recover. – Stuart Johnstone