Ladies Shine on Day 1 of 2021 J/70 World Championship Regatta
Thursday, August 12, 2021 9:20 AM
Marina del Rey, California 11 august 2021 - - An over-enthusiastic fleet of J/70s bolted off the line on Day One of racing at the J/70 World Championship regatta here, hosted by California Yacht Club.
"You all jumped the gun by three seconds,” Principal Race Office (PRO) Mark Foster boomed over the VHF, prompting a General Recall, and a U Flag* at the next start.
It’s no wonder. The overzealous racers have been champing at the bit for two years, awaiting the World Championship event, which was postponed due to the pandemic. Through tenacity and persistence, organizers at Cal Yacht Club – led by Chair Marylyn Hoenemeyer – succeeded in hosting 62 boats from 11 nations in the 10-race series, which runs through Sunday August 15.
Atypical cloudy skies fanned over the course, but the breeze held at 6 – 8 knots from the southwest. The overcast skies offered blessed relief from blistering temperatures inland, but the race action was hot!
When the fleet bolted off the line shortly before 1:00, it was Maggie McKillen and the crew aboard Magatron who led the fleet, pole to pole, to capture Race One. “We’re really stoked! There’s a lot of pressure being new to the fleet,” said McKillen, who started sailing the J/70 just one year ago, “but the guys I sail with know to keep the mood light and airy. I don’t pay attention to any other boats around me, so I don’t get anxious. My crew knows that; we focus on having fun and make a really good team.”
McKillen said her husband, Ryan McKillen, campaigning Surge in the Worlds, began J/70 sailing three years ago. “I was always on the sidelines watching and finally said, ‘I want to do this too.’” Since then, she said they have been sparring partners – although with a child due in December, she conceded, “we have a great chemistry on and off the water!”
Second across the line was Dark Energy with another woman - Laura Grondin - at the helm. Dark Energy ended the day in fifth overall. “Laura and our team are really good friends, and it’s always fun to see your friends next to you and doing well,” said McKillen. “Although this has been a male dominated sport, the fleet has been super supportive, really open and encouraging,” she added. “This is a fleet for everybody. You shouldn’t be intimidated, just go out there and have fun.”
Race Two was won by Brian Keane and the crew of Savasana, placing them at the top of the leaderboard at the end of Day One, in a tie with Bruce Golison’s Midlife Crisis.
The World Championship regatta began Tuesday Aug. 10 with a practice race and opening ceremony on the lawn of Cal Yacht Club. Hoenemeyer welcomed the fleet, saying the event was three years in the making. “When I agreed in 2018 to chair this, I had a vision of the J/70 fleet docked in front of the club, like the ULDB 70 sleds used to be. I’m delighted to see this vision has been realized.”
“It’s a different kind of 70,” she joked, “but now instead of being called Sled Row, I hope it’ll be called J Row.”
Hoenemeyer recognized volunteers and sponsors before Bill Stump, Staff Commodore, introduced the competitors, stumbling slightly over the names of the many international entries.
The roster includes one half dozen entries from Mexico, in addition to the 42 from the US: plus three from Chile, two from Brazil, two from Great Britain, and one each from Cayman Islands, Germany, Spain, Turkey, and Uruguay.
Gustavo Coll, skipper of Farrista and Commodore of Yacht Club Uruguayo in Montevideo, brought his entire family to the US to campaign their J/70 – and take a bit of a vacation. “It was a unanimous decision to come here with all the family,” he said. “I race with my kids, so when we qualified for this event in the 2019 South Americans, we decided to merge our common passion and come here.”
He described son Sebastian as a “tough crew member” while stating daughter Cecilia campaigned for the Rio Olympics and son Juan is an Opti champion. “We are a great team, here to test against the best in the world. We’ve seen some extremely well-prepared boats, and a lot of professionals who sail most of the year. We, as Corinthians, sail only on the weekends but we are here to fight.”
An entourage of six boats from Mexico made it to the regatta, with Marco Sparvieri of Buena Junta saying, “It was a bit difficult because the border was closed: crossing the border was a bit complex, but we made it. It’s the most important J/70 competition of the year so we all want to be here and do our best; compete, have fun. The nice thing about this class is people of all ages can compete together and be competitive, so it’s a really nice class.”
Mexico has a large J/70 fleet which races in Valle de Bravo, near Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta. “We know each other very well,” Sparvieri admitted, “but this is very competitive: the top in the world, so we are very excited and hope we’ll learn and have a lot of fun.”
Today’s courses were roughly 1.3nm long windward-leeward laps, twice around. Racing continues through Sunday beginning at 12:30 with daily post-race meals and activities at Cal Yacht Club.