By Simon Perry, J/109 Jiraffe
The J/109 fleet enjoyed a spectacular Lendy Cowes Week. We had 17 entries, the same as last year and the second largest Black Group one design class after the Sunsail fleet.
The racing was competitive as always, but greatly enhanced by the addition of a number of very strong crews in chartered boats and international participation from the very slick Jack Rabbit (Caroline van Beelen and Rutger Krijger) who convincingly won the week as well as Black Group overall.
It is the influx of these additional teams that really sets Cowes Week aside from the rest of the year and while it’s not the National Championships, it is certainly a major highlight of the season. In fact, all but one of the top 5 places overall went to teams who do not regularly compete through the year in the Solent with Jack Rabbit winning, Christopher Sharples and Richard Acland in the chartered Jumping Jellyfish in 3rd, Jamie Sheldon and Ross Walker’s chartered Brown Teal in 4th and Neil McGrigor’s Boo in 5th (there must be something very special about the wine they were serving at the Royal Yacht Squadron last week). Other charters by RYS members were Team Whiskey Jack (Nick Southward, John Scott and Andrew Christie), coming in 9th, and Moontiger IV (Lord Grade) at 16th.
Solent stalwarts Diamond Gem (Robert Stiles), Jukebox (Jon Smart and sporting a new dazzling logo), Jubilee (Chris Preston) and Jybe Talkin’ (Chris Burleigh) filled slots 6 to 8 and 10, followed up by the Royal Navy in Jolly Jack Tar and the Royal Air Force in Red Arrow. DesignStar II (Roger Phillips) achieved 13th from participating in just the first 3 days racing, Mojo Risin’ (Rob Cotterill) in 14th, but certainly the smartest looking crew in bright red crew shirts, then Jump Around (Gary Woodward) back in Cowes again, and finally the return of an old name to the fleet, Jambo, now owned by Steve Home.
Most of the crews were built around a core of a family team with husbands, wives and fledgling offspring racing together. The size of the J/109 and the easier handling of its asymmetrical spinnaker make it ideal for this crew mix without in any way compromising the competitive nature of the racing. The fleet were strong supporters of Tuesday’s Ladies Day with many ladies competing throughout the week.
Of course the social side of Cowes is almost as important as the sailing itself, and the J/109 crews made a concerted effort to meet one another and mix. Wellies were required at Sunday’s rum and beer fuelled dock party, as the pontoon was submerged by the weight of participants. The regulars, who have recently developed a reputation for hitting it hard during regattas, were put to shame by the younger generation who appear to function well on 4 hours sleep and who took getting to know the other crews to a new level.
On Tuesday there was serious business to deal with at the class Extraordinary General Meeting. Your correspondent was elected Class Chairman and a decision was taken to align the one design sail plan to that used by boats competing in IRC, making it easier to compete in both disciplines by dropping the overlapping Genoas from the one design specification. There’s a 2 year transition period through 2019 and 2020, during which boats can elect to sail under either the old or the new rules, and more details will follow.
Tragedy in the Elite fleet on the final day had us leaving in a more somber mood and our thoughts are with those affected.
The Committee have great plans for 2019 and especially for Lendy Cowes Week, when we hope to introduce some new ideas and recognise the needs of those participating in the Fastnet.
So line up your crew, book some accommodation and plan on joining the rest of us in Cowes next year.
There are loads of photos of the fleet on the Cowes Week website, visit this page and search for J/109.