Events, News

Tight racing in J/109s at the RORC Vice Admirals Cup

This weekend RORC hosted the Vice Admirals Cup in Cowes. The J/109 fleet had their own one design class and six of the top solent boats competed in unexpectedly spectacular conditions. It was a great weekend – it’s a long report…

The Vice Admirals Cup is one of the best events on the J/109 one design calendar. It’s a very well run event hosted by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in Cowes, focused on inshore racing around predominantly windward/leeward courses.

J/109 entries were a little down on last year with six boats competing, but the quality of the fleet ensured a weekend of fantastic class racing. Last year’s winner, Jiraffe was back to defend her title and challenging hard were the Navy, in Jolly Jack Tar, past national champion Dave Richards in Jumping Jellyfish, Mike and Susie Yates in Jago, John Smart’s Jukebox and the always competitive Jubilee owned by Chris and Victoria Preston.

Light winds on the first day resulted in a couple of hours postponement before a start in the vicinity of Hill Head in 7 to 10 kts of wind from the SW. Jiraffe came off the favoured port end of the line fast and ahead with Jubilee in hot pursuit. Jukebox had a mediocre start at the wrong end of the line, sailed low and slow through the melee of J/111s, put in two tacks to clear their air and crossed well behind all of the fleet barring Jumping Jellyfish. But as Jiraffe and Jubilee sparred with each other up the first beat, Jukebox quietly dug into the left hand side of the beat, finding favourable tide. Jellyfish followed them out and on the approach to the windward mark, it looked like it was going to be Jukebox and Jellyfish leading the fleet. But without the starboard tack advantage, Jukebox was forced to duck Jiraffe, who then tacked on her, then again under the lee bow of Jubilee, leaving Jukebox buried. Jellyfish, on a later port tack approach then had the same issue with Jukebox, now on Starboard, and the two ended up 4th and 5th into the run – victims to the peril of the port tack lay line.

Jukebox on approach to the first windward mark

Jubilee came out of the windward mark first, hoisted and executed a quick gybe onto port while the rest of the fleet continued on starboard. Coming into the bottom gate, Jiraffe and Jubilee were equal, with Jolly Jack Tar a few yards behind. With the right hand gate mark favoured, Jiraffe was in the right position and came around the mark first, pulling out a long neck on Jubilee. But Jiraffe failed to cover when Jubilee tracked over to the right, the latter pointing higher in 10kts of wind using a non-overlapping jib sheeted via in-haulers vs. Jiraffe’s overlapping Genoa. As they came together Jiraffe had lost all their advantage, only just managing to hold the lead, tacking close under Jubilee’s lee bow to round the winward mark first, then hold their position down the run to take the first race.

With trackers fitted to all the boats this weekend for a trial, you can replay the action in all the races here courtesy of SailRacer.

After the late start, time and wind ran out and the fleet returned to Cowes Yacht Haven where the cooler bin was filled with ice and water in preparation for the first class dock party of the season. Here there was much comparison of VMG and distance travelled as we got to grips with the new universe of data made available to us via the TackTracker app now installed on everybody’s phone. 

J/109 Class Dock Party, ©Simon Perry

With decent wind forecast for Saturday, but the threat of nothing on Sunday, Stuart Childerley, from the Race management team announced an early start and a 4 race schedule for the next day, but this did little to moderate the mood of the dock party and subsequent revelry which eventually fizzled out much later on Friday night in the Pier View. 

With sore heads, we woke up to a more solid wind which settled to 10 to 12 knots, this time from the NW.  The first race went to Jubilee with the higher wind clearly demonstrating the advantage of the non-overlapping jib and inhaulers over the traditional Genoa. Take a look at the relative tracks of Jubilee and Jiraffe upwind in the extract from the tracker below, showing Jubilee pointing 5 degrees higher than Jiraffe in these conditions. Jago and Jumping Jellyfish followed Jubilee and Jiraffe into the finish following an evenly matched tussle down the last run. 

In the second race of the day, it was Jago’s turn to chase Jubilee hard around the course, challenging down the run. But ultimately they could not break through and Jubilee added another victory to the day’s tally. With Jiraffe beaten into third the regatta, which they won last year, looked to be slipping away from them. 

The third race saw Jukebox take the lead courtesy of an excellent start and great speed up the first beat. Jubilee and Jiraffe were well back, but a better route into the windward mark saved them and they squeezed into 2nd and 3rd behind Jukebox down the run. At the bottom of the run the swing in the wind favoured the left hand gate any many only spotted this at the last minute. Jukebox was already committed to the right hand gate and this cost them the lead as they headed upwind. The next two legs offered the closest racing seen over the weekend with Jukebox, Jumping Jellyfish, Jiraffe and Jubilee all in contention down the run. An early gybe from Jiraffe enabled them to sail the shorter distance to the mark and just sneak the win from Jubilee, with Jukebox claiming 3rd. 

With the wind dying but with the race Officer determined to get the fourth race away Stuart elected to send us on a curious affair around the cans involving a reaching start and a zig zag up and down the north shore of the Solent trying to stay in the only patch of wind visible. Reaching starts look great when enacted by Fast 40s, but didn’t do a lot for the J/109 fleet with everybody arriving at the mark in a bunch, led by Jolly Jack Tar; except for Jukebox who, in an attempt to liven things up, launched their reaching kite at the start. That didn’t end well for them.

Up and down the North Shore the fleet were subjected to widely divergent wind directions, favouring those inshore over those that stayed further out. This turned the order at the first mark inside out. Then a squall of over 25 knots and rain came and went. When things settled, normal order had been resumed with a tussle between Jubilee and Jiraffe at the front of the fleet. After a short run and uneventful beat, Jubilee was the first to round to starboard into a beam reach along Lee on Solent seafront. With no kites showing in the fleet ahead, Jubilee plugged on under two sails, but with a race to win and an otherwise unassailable defecit, Jiraffe hoisted. They quickly caught Jubilee and as the latter dipped to hoist their own kite, Jiraffe got through to weather. But as the mark approached, Jiraffe opted for a conservative early drop. As they ducked to aid the windward drop Jubilee, still with kite, headed above looking for the inside advantage. Jiraffe luffed hard, but not nearly hard enough, allowing Jubilee to gain the inside overlap. They executed a very clean drop and rounded ahead, sailing on port in towards the shore with Jiraffe almost pinned outside. But, suspecting Jubilee had overstood, Jiraffe tacked in the little water that separated them and got inside, onto the layline to claim back the lead. Watch the action in the clip below.

The J/109s rounded the last mark onto a kite reach in freshening wind as the VAC fleets converged sailing south into other races finishing fleets beating north and the Solent was momentarily a confusion of Fast 40’s, Classic 8 meters, Performance 40’s and various J boats all trying to find their own finish lines. Jiraffe took first from Jubilee then Jago, putting Jiraffe one point ahead of Jubilee going into the last day.

The great thing about dock parties is there is always beer left over, so the cooler bin made a second appearance upon return to shore.

Jolly Jack Tar heading home ©️Simon Perry

Then off to RORC for the Carbonautica Wheel Draw. This generous prize was offered to the class by Carbonautica in order to encourage participation in the Warsash Spring Series and Vice Admirals Cup. For every race sailed, entrants received one ticket into the draw, so the more you sailed, the better your chance of winning.

It’s important to encourage participation in order to preserve one design class racing. Most clubs will withdraw our class starts if we cannot regularly deliver 6 to 8 boats to the start line. We’ve suffered this fate first at the winter series and now at the spring series where we are now condemned to sail under IRC in class 2. So we’re really grateful to Craig at Carbonautica for his generous gift and also for his offer of 20% discount to J/109 Class Association members ordering new wheels this season.

We were very honoured to have John Corby officiate the draw to ensure no foul play and we’re thrilled to announce that the winner is Jybe Talkin’ owned by Class Treasurer Chris Burleigh. Jybe Talkin’ is one of the most regular participants in south coat events and Chris continues to do fantastic work for the class, so is a fitting winner. He also has a wheel trough, so the wheel should fit too.

Simon Perry accepts the wheel on behalf of Craig Burleigh ©️Jo Bowden

As mentioned previously, Sunday’s weather forecast did not hold much promise of racing, but after several postponements we were sent out to race in what turned out to be spectacular sailing conditions of 8 to 12 kts from the East and bright sunshine.

Given their overnight lead, Jiraffe would perhaps have liked racing to be abandoned, but once in the grove, they managed to win the critical first race. Jubilee lead through two beats and a tough tacking duel but could not shake Jiraffe off their tail. Even a spinnaker jammed in the rigging couldn’t get rid of them and on the final run, more dog fighting between the two boats ultimately allowed Jiraffe through to take a critical win.

Jammed spinnaker on Jiraffe ©Rick Tomlinson

The final race may have been academic, but at the top of the run disaster struck Jiraffe, or so thought the anxious spouses watching together from home on the live tracker before walking the dogs. Fortunately this was a virtual world disaster as Jiraffe’s tracker died. Back in the real world, they were ploughing on, trying to break through Jubilee. Ultimately Jiraffe could not this time break through, settling for second , just ahead of Jolly Jack Tar, but it was enough to win the series by one point in an incredibly competitive regatta.

Chris Preston of Jubilee commented afterwards “I’ve never before sailed a regatta where a scorline of 3 firsts and four seconds didn’t give you a place on top of the podium” but this time was different and Jubilee had to settle for second to Jiraffe after a gladiatorial fight to the finish.

Final Results for the 2019 Vice Admirals Cup, Cowes

But the score line does not reflect the tightness of competitions across all 6 boats racing. Jago had a second, each of Jago, Jolly Jack Tar and Jukebox had at least one third. One point separated first from second and one point separated each of the subsequent results. Ultimately, it was the consistency of Jumping Jellyfish that won them third place overall.

The real winner of the weekend was One Design Sailing itself. Yes – as we transition from overlapping to non-overlapping sails, there are certainly performance differences between the two configurations, but not enough to influence results. And we’ll soon be through the transition and have the whole fleet on non-overlapping sails. We think the boat and the class will be better for it.

Thank you to RORC for continuing to allow the class to participate in one of the most professionally run yachting events on the South Coast. It was a fantastic weekend.

And thank you to SailRacer for letting us trial the trackers. It’s an excellent service. But it’s not a substitute for reality and the tracks can be intermittent, so I think it’s right for the data to be inadmissible in the protest room for the time being.

Jiraffe Crew ©️Jo Bowden

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