Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Storck Family Wins J/80 North Americans

(Marion, MA)- Vene, vidi, vici.  Five strong.  The Jackson Five they're not, but they sure put on quite a show.  The Storck family team again prevailed as J/80 North American Champions with a dramatic finish over a very strong fleet that saw competitors from Canada as well as from far-away places like Denmark, Hong Kong and Japan! It was an extraordinary event hosted by Beverly Yacht Club and superbly run by PRO Sam Vineyard.  Three great days of sailing, thirteen races and in wind conditions that varied considerably, providing a tremendous test for all forty-four teams.  And, it certainly proved to be an excellent "training" event for all teams participating in the J/80 Worlds happening in Newport, RI in early October.  Perhaps what was most remarkable about the quality and depth of the fleet was the fact that EIGHT different boats won over the course of thirteen races!  Boats were loaded with talent with National, North American, World Champions, college All-Americans and College Sailors Of The Year spread across the top fifteen boats.

The fleet was blessed with blustery N-NW winds on Friday.  Upwards of thirty degree shifts swept across the course varying in intensity from 5 to 18 knots...nowhere near what was forecast for the day (less).  With a course laid out across the easternmost portions of Buzzards Bay, the starting line was set just shy of the Cape Cod Canal shipping channel and weather mark set in the general vicinity of Converse Point. It was clear the Storck's (Dad- John III, sons John Jr and Eric, daughter Katie and Kayla Johnson) threw down the gauntlet early and were not to be denied, winning the first race in their well-known boat RUMOR, followed by Glenn Darden of Fort Worth Boat Club in second sailing LE TIGRE, Jay Lutz/ Gary Kamins from California YC sailing FIRED UP in third and Jeff Johnstone from Ida Lewis YC racing LITTLE FEAT into fourth.  This race proved to be a premonition of things to come, as three of the top four in the race took the top three overall!  The fleet continued to be treated with great racing conditions all day and PRO "Sam the Man" Vineyard simply told any competitor that inquired, "we're racing all day".  He wasn't kidding, managing to pull off five races by 5pm... a fun but exhausting 9+ hours of sailing!  In addition to the teams mentioned above, one of the better performances of the day was turned in by Ben Schwartz from New York YC, sailing his LUCKY FROG to a 5-8-8-3-6 record to be amongst the early regatta leaders.  Everyone else seemed to have one throw-out race already accounted for on the first day!

By the second day, the fleet continued to see a northerly gradient wind flow with N-NE winds forecasts up to 15 knots at midday and diminishing to 5 kts... very atypical for Buzzards Bay, more renowned for its powerful San Francisco Bay-like sea breezes than for multi-day northerlies.  How wrong those computer weather models were again!  By the start of the first race the winds were gusting well in excess of 15 knots from the Northeast and for the rest of the day winds blew in excess of 23 knots at times, creating some carnage on the race course with torn spinnakers, blown up spinnaker poles, bent stanchions and bruised egos. But for most, a blast to sail downwind as the 80s simply took off on fast planing angles.  At this point, the early regatta leaders began taking their steps to cement their positions atop the leader board.  Like the first day, the left side of the course continued to pay most of the time because of the geography (instead of Converse Point, this time it was Butler Point).  The Storck's RUMOR managed to avoid the one BAD race and sailed to a 9-8-7-2-8 score for the day; Darden's LE TIGRE really did have a tiger by the tail and got the day's best tally at 7-2-3-1-4; and Johnstone's LITTLE FEAT sailed nearly as well with a very consistent 4-6-5-4-5 record.  Sailing strongly on this day was New York YC's Henry Brauer and Will Welles on RASCAL, making their bid for a phoenix-like comeback with a 3-4-6-8-10 score, but had to take a DSQ for their 6th.

Sunday dawned with lots of low-level flying clouds with high-level cirrus layered above and another not so promising forecast with winds pegged to be in the 5-13 knot range from the NE and diminishing during the day.  Following the same theme of wrong forecasts as the previous two days, the fleet was treated to another excellent day of sailing with NE-ENE winds in the 8-17 knot range.  With the course setup so the windward mark was in the general vicinity of Bird Island south of Butler Point, one might have guessed that sailing off into the Cape Cod Canal shipping channel with favorable current in the morning races might help.  It didn't.  The first two races still saw a strong play to the left side of the course.  Not until the last leg of the last race did the "giant right-hand" shift kick in as all models kept forecasting to favor those who could see the black puff rolling across the Bay from Cape Cod.  With the regatta on the line, it was clear the top five boats were very aware of their placement relative to one another.  Johnstone's LITTLE FEAT drew first blood, opening the first two races with a 1-2 followed by Scott Young's and Terry Flynn's QUANTUM RACING Team from Austin YC (TX) with a 5-3 and Chip Johns' CAVITICA from host Beverly YC with a 3-5.   The Storck's started the day slowly, getting themselves in trouble with a 16-6 while Darden started with an 8-7.  The result of these finishes were that Darden's LE TIGRE could win the regatta if they could press Johnstone's LITTLE FEAT below 20th in the last race and simply hope that the Storck's RUMOR wouldn't get anything higher than a 2nd--- for the most part a pretty good bet.  Darden succeeded in preventing Johnstone from getting a 20th or better but he could do nothing but watch the Storck's sail an incredibly dramatic race to win the last one, the biggest one, to take the regatta, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat right at the finish line!  Nearly six boats all crossed the line in less fifteen seconds for the final race!  At the end, the top three were the Storck's RUMOR (pictured below), Darden's LE TIGRE and Johnstone's LITTLE FEAT.  Fourth was Scott Young/ Terry Flynn's QUANTUM RACING and fifth was Kerry Klingler and Robert Miller's LIFTED.

Special thanks to BYC Commodore Chip Johns and to Karen Manning, the regatta chair, and her team of volunteers for delivering a fantastic regatta.  As usual, the Beverly Yacht Club were terrific hosts, great volunteers and had amazing support from the local Marion community. The racing was excellent, with great courses and the pace of the racing kept everyone on their toes with little time to waste between each races.  Barden's Boat Yard also chipped in, and deserves special "thanks", for providing all the hauling/ launching for all J/80s for the event, including having an entire team of crane operators, bobcat drivers for moving trailers and cherry pickers for picking masts on Sunday (their day off!)-- now that's service with a smile! 

Sailing Photo Credits- Spectrum Photo/ Fran Grenon (BTW, some amazing shots!)

For more J/80 North Americans Sailing information.