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A Crew’s Perspective <br>2009 J/30 North Americans

2009 NA Team Fuzzy - from left to right: Kelly Robinson - Genoa trim, owner and driver of the Olson 911 "Poppy" out of Raritan YC Bengt Johansson - driver My wife Marie Johansson - spinnaker trim and tactics Johan Blok - Mast, borrowed from "Poppys" crew this year Jim Mackevich - tactics/strategy, owner and driver of the J/29 "ForSail" out of Raritan YC Jon Eberly - foredeck, our west coast support, just sold his Olson 911 and looking for a new Hawaii sled Allen Wolf - Genoa trim, member of Manhattan YC, get to sail as much (more if we include sailing trips to Monaco etc) as any of us without owning a boat With 5 drivers on the boat I sometimes wonder how we find our way around the race course!!!

Story by Jon Eberly and Kelly Robinson, Fuzzy Wuzzy

Obviously, when you win the NAs, you are likely to feel pretty good about the regatta.  For “Team Fuzzy”, 2009 was certainly as good as it gets.  Our win in 2008 was terrific, but as shown in the on-line poll before the 2009 regatta, it wasn’t clear that we were anyone’s favorite!  We hadn’t sailed against Zephyr since they crushed the fleet in 2006—also at Cedar Point and sailing the same boat they used this year (Bayou Bleu).   Smiles and Fat City had both beaten us in the  One Design Regatta at Cedar Point earlier this year.  Furthermore, we were missing a couple of our long-time crew, including our tactician from last year, Bob Matthews. 

Going into the regatta with such strong competition, we knew that every race would be critical and require total focus. Based on the forecast possibility for wind cancellation on Sunday, we also knew that regatta standings Saturday afternoon could be key to taking home the hardware. Our all-amateur crew brought a lot of experience to the course—five out of seven are boat owners and racing skippers, and everyone is a driver. On the water, we kept chatter to a minimum with everyone focused on their role (and watching for shifts, of course!)

In Race 1, we were peeled off at the Committee boat during the start and forced to follow most of the fleet over the line while Zephyr took their familiar place at the front of the fleet.  The only good news for us was that the right side turned out to be heavily favored, so we were able to get back in the race fairly quickly.  However, Zephyr led wire-to-wire.  One of the high points of that race was looking back to see first time competitor Michael Lusty rounding the weather mark in the top ten.

By the end of the first race, it was clear that speed was going to be key in the light air and choppy conditions.  Fortunately, we seemed to have that speed.  We did not sail much differently than we have in the past, although we did have a new genoa for the series.  We were also more aggressive about adjusting shroud tension for changes in wind strength than we had been in the past.  Bengt is a superb helmsman in any chop.

We were able to get good starts in both the 2nd and 3rd races which allowed us to get out and get clear air while most of the fleet were beating up on one another.  At one point in the second race, we were on port in the top half of the beat, with a long line of boats on the starboard layline showing a huge right hand lift and looking like they would have us.  About that time, we got a thirty degree leftie that put them all away.  We would get some other really lucky breaks like that during the regatta.  However, the one lesson we did take away from this was that, even though the right was favored, there were some very big swings out there that made banging corners a dangerous proposition. 

The Race Committee did a terrific job getting three races in that day with some very creative mark setting that eventually required the whole course to be moved uptide after Race 2.  Race #3 saw the best wind of the regatta.  We showed a high 12-14 knots.

On Day 2, Race #4 was probably the most interesting and pivotal race of the series for us.  We started at the pin, with Zephyr further up the line.  Further up the leg, they were able to get on top of us and held on like a junkyard dog.  Every time we’d drive off to try and get our nose out they’d drive down with us—gradually sailing us into a pack of boats while they tacked over leaving us wallowing in gas—OUCH!   We had to follow several boats around the weather mark, then jibed away to port instantly to clear our air. 

At the leeward mark, Zephyr took the port gate downwind to protect the favored right side upwind.  At this point, we took a gamble and went around the starboard end of the gate heading off to the left side of the course.  Once they could clear the downwind boats, Zephyr came back after us again.  We tacked just short of the port layline to give ourselves room in case we had to go back.  Zephyr was probably 2 boats lengths ahead of us at this point and had  a very difficult choice of whether to tack to leeward or to weather of us.  They opted to go to leeward and didn’t have quite enough speed out of the tack to hold us back.  With a port lift, we were able to wind up inside them and pass them.  This was probably the key crossing of the entire regatta.  If they had held us back there, it could have been a very different ending.  John and the Smiles  crew showed that  the Cedar Point boats couldn’t be taken for granted—slipping by both of us to win that one. 

Race 5 saw the wind totally collapsing.  By the end of the final run we were watching the fleet compress on us and just praying we could finish before they mowed us over from behind. The Race Committee wisely called for the boats to “protect the lobster side of the course,” and we all headed in.

Sunday was maddening.  There was a gentle breeze in at the club all morning with nothing outside on the course.  The Race Committee had a boat actually sitting out on the course taking wind readings all morning ready to call us out if it built to racing conditions—to no avail.  In at the Club, we got caught up on pretty much every topic—sailing and otherwise—anyone could think of to talk about.  In the end, there was no sailing Sunday and the importance of getting three races in on Friday became clear.

As a crew member, this year was a joy.  The boat was very quiet most of the time, and the integration of a couple new crew members was seamless.  Jim Mackevich was great on tactics, constantly in tune with the shifts and sporting about sixty yards of duct tape running down his legs with wind angles written everywhere.  It was a wonder he didn’t stick to the deck.  The crew was very collected and organized, but also “loose” and positive with plenty of joking between races. There was no yelling and no stressing on the course—whenever we  got into a tricky situation, we just stayed focused on what we had to do to get back in the mix at the front of the pack.

Great racing and great committee work, great competition, a great boat and a great crew. The 2009 J/30 NAs was the kind of event that keeps us all committed to the sport and the fleet.

2 comments to A Crew’s Perspective
2009 J/30 North Americans

  • JBro

    Great writeup, Jon and Kelly! It’s great to read these types of articles, not only to get a sense of what happened at the regatta but also to learn a few things about how to manage an NA event which is just a bit different from most club regattas. Congrats!
    – Jeff

  • Tan

    JB, Wow, looks like a great team! Good to see you doing what you love! Better get down to 27°24’S, 153°09’E – we need boats with all the floods! The best means of transport – Tan

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