spills and thrills
I know that J24s are often maligned as old fashioned boats these days but they still provide tight tactical racing in good sized fleets and at an affordable entry level. I sailed my first J24 back in the late 70s and was the original Victorian dealer for the class so I have a bit of a soft spot for the boats. Indeed, the very first SPORTSCAR was a bright red J24 purchased right after she had been chartered to a Japanese crew for the 1982 J24 Worlds in Sydney.
We have a growing and very active fleet at Sandringham Yacht Club with 18 boats now parked on the hardstand and prospective owners clamouring for space for more boats. A fantastic initiative from the local fleet has been to provide two fully kitted J24s for intermediate & youth sailors to charter and race for a season as a stepping stone from the off the beach dinghy scene to keelboat racing.
Last Sunday I was fortunate to hitch a ride with ISAF judge Rob Ware on the Jury boat to observe and photograph the 20 boat J24 fleet fighting out the last three races on the final day of their 2012 Victorian State Championships off Sandringham. It’s a privileged position for a keen sailing observer and photographer to be in as we were right up close and personal with the sailors as they raced hard on a gusty Port Phillip.
We were closely observing a couple of the boats running hard past the leeward mark and on to the finish of the second race of the day in about 25 knots of gusty northerly when a big gust came through and caught the windward boat, Brendan Lee’s ominously named “By The Lee” and spun her out. At precisely the same time, the same thing happened to the leeward boat, class stalwart Simon Grain’s “Make My Jay”. Looking for all the world like a choreographed dance sequence, both Js were simultaneously knocked flat and eventually drifted into a side on collision, fortunately with only a minor scrape to show for all the drama. The crews scrambled frantically, initially just to stay on their boats and eventually, to recover the situation and get back on their feet to make a dash for the finish line. BTL completed her turns before crossing moments behind MMJ.
It wasn’t all spills however, there were thrills too as the boats punched upwind then blasted downwind in the fresh breezes of Day 2 and it was great to watch the skills of the crews in the testing conditions.
Series winner Ben Lamb in “Kaotic” was a standout, mastering the lighter conditions of the first day and then the stronger breezes of the final day to record five wins in the seven race series and run out a clear winner over David Suda’s “Pacemaker” with Stephen Girdis’ “Convicts Revenge” taking the third spot on the podium. Series results are here.
Chris Furey ./ SPORTSCAR