the big boys

Bouwe Bekking mastered the big, bad J Class Lionheart to a win Menorca Maxi. Here’s how it went down.

MENORCA MAXI 2014Sailing in Mahon on the J class Lionheart. A brand new event, the initiative taken by the Wally class and they have been so kind to invite the J Class to this magnificent and friendly island. It has been a long time ago that I have been racing here, but already wondering why not more events are organized here: a fantastic scenery with a beautiful natural harbor, the boats are downtown in the city , the restaurants and hotels are right there and above all there is a good breeze.

It was time to happen for us on Lionheart, the only owner driven J class in this Mahon event, In the previous two seasons we have been very close to win an event, but here finally the puzzle came together. 4 solid wins in row, nearly time to celebrate. Two more races to go, but we have sealed the win already, who had thought that! If an owner driver can beat Ken Read, helmsman on Hanuman and Earl Willliams steering Ranger, it means you seriously rock, welldone! Of course the optimization over winter has helped as well, the new Swiss Carbo-Link standing rigging and some new 3 Di sails have made a big difference. But also the team have been fantastic. We might not have all crewmembers who have done the America’s cup like they have on the other J’s, but tour guys are all standing their man. On these boats nothing is easy, but my approach is that you have to practice, practice and practice more and you can deal with every situation even on a J boat . For the last practice session we did an up and down course right down the harbor, leg lengths of only 0.7 of a mile, shorttacking and gybing downwind with the kite up,( the harbor is not very wide). That session did wonders, everybody on board believed 100% in themselves as we pulled something off, what most thought was impossible. Pure team work . Also Intensive de-briefs with footage of 3 synchronized camera’s , including instruments data running simultaneously and the sailing tracks of the other boats, we can see clearly where we have done well or were we can make improvements.

Having a break from our Volvo programme with TeamBrunel is nice. TeamBrunel is out of the water for the required 10000 mile service. We are here with 5 guys of our team. Of course a J is not a Volvo 65, for example we sail here with 35 crew and on the Volvo we are 8 crew, but since the speeds of these J’s are so close, it is a good way to keep the tactical skills sharp , work on the communication, making a game plan how to do maneuverers and how to approach the marks.. Also to meet new people and focussing on something else I think is good. We will be sharp and fresh when coming back onboard. On tuesday we do an offshore race to England.

Next event for the J’s is Palma Superyacht Cup , mid june. Valsheda and Rainbow will join us there making it for even more exiting racing. The class is in good shape, two more J ‘s are currently in build and will join in 2015. What a sight that will be, 7 J’s lined up on the starting line.