Worth waiting for! – Hitchhiker’s report on the J24 Worlds……

Posted 14 September 2015

J24 Worlds 2015
Our event report duties for finishing as 3rd placed British entry in the J24 Worlds 2015 in Boltenhagen is rather in keeping with Hitchhikers’ event preparation and results; tardy and vicissitudinal.
Congratulations to Messrs Southworth, McLelland, McLaughlin, Howlett and Jools Scott aboard Il Riccio who after 10 years of concerted effort finally climbed to the pinnacle of J24 racing, imperiously winning the 2015 Worlds.
Having been close to them for a few brief moments over the week we were in awe of their straight line speed and situational awareness. Coupled with their ability to be in the front wave of boats out of the blocks on almost every start, a particularly impressive feat where many of us failed, they were able to get out to that first shift in the leading boats or, if they hadn’t won the shift lottery on their side, they were able to consolidate and collect themselves to make the right choices in the next legs and move through the fleet. Il Riccio’s display was simply astounding, achieving four 1st places in challenging conditions demonstrating they were by some way the form boat of the series. Mike Ingham with an international all star ensemble and our neighbour for the event Travis Odenbach on a chartered boat representing the U.S were quick but both found themselves unable to match Il Riccio’s consistent good form.
The event conditions were extremely tricky. Our German friends had warned us over a beer at the Euros that Boltenhagen would be tough with lake-like sailing conditions and that certainly bore true. The varying wind shifts and pressure lanes when it came off the land had us guessing most of the time. Unless you made it to the first shift near the pace setters with room to manoeuver it was extremely difficult to then find a lane to get up through the quality fleet, filled with previous World, European and National champions. Gaps closed and decision making deteriorated, borne out by Jolly Rogers’ experience in not quite crossing a competitor after a tack and managing to have her stern lifted in an elegant pirouette to face the oncoming traffic.
After racing each day watching the races back on Trac Trac can be a harrowing examination, seeing your inner chimp explosion with the resultant mid fleet bouncing, but occasionally it can show some good speed and confirms some decisions merit reward. I know that Jawbreaker certainly enjoyed their final day lunch viewing watching our own implosion and we raise a glass in salute to your well sailed event. Chocks away Ginger!
This time last year we had become a little disillusioned by J24 sailing as having young families and work pressure meant little time in the boat and inconsistent crew. Our results nationally were average at best. We were thinking there are other things in life; kids, better boats, better events with bigger fleets, less crew, less hassle, easier to sail etc etc. We’ve all heard the arguments for alternatives. After being in the fleet for 7 years maybe the itch had to be scratched?
But then an unfortunate racing incident while being raced in Plymouth by the Girls youth team left the boat with a 2 ft hole amidships and we were unable to consider selling.
Silver linings though. Off to the boat builders went the boat. Our many thanks to Chris Somner in Poole, who undertook the tricky bits of balsa core repair and painting, having kindly lent us his tools and experience to prepare the boat for a total repaint to the hull and deck.
After doing both the Euros and the Worlds this year and being almost exactly average in both with a 17th / 32 at the Euros and a 24th / 51 I can say honestly that we have had a great year. We’ve had so much fun and we have found again what drew us to the class in the first place; the competitive close racing and camaraderie with our crew and competitors who all sail the boat to challenge their skills against great sailors in a tough boat.
Having now abandoned our boat sitting on a borrowed trailer in Cruxhaven (thank you to Manfred, Jan Marc, Peter and Frithjof for helping us get the boat to the event after our trailer debacle – we drove over 1000 km in 16 hours to retrieve a replacement trailer from Hamburg from Manfred, then back to Duisburg and then all the way back up to Boltenhagen…….whoever said Plymouth was a few hours too far to travel to sail hasn’t driven across Germany and back in a day….) we are looking forward with renewed enthusiasm and planning to attend an early event for 2016 in Germany and then to Kiel Week before coming back to the UK for the Europeans at Plymouth. Il Riccio and Madeleine are also intending to travel to Kiel and while it’s a fair old drive I’m sure some other UK teams could find a suitable volunteer to deliver their boats and then fly over for the event? The UK class don’t have any involvement in larger regattas and perhaps this is something we should consider as an advertisement for our class’ challenging racing? The German fleet are very welcoming, enthusiastic and supportive. Jim had a fantastic week with an all German crew who had kindly volunteered to crew for him at the last minute and even managed to find time to undertake well needed repairs and maintenance.
With the UK seeking more youth participation in our fleet to sustain its future we should be looking to imitate the German fleet. Clubs providing financial support and good quality boats for youth teams to compete at international events with like-minded others fills them with the enthusiasm to sail the boats and ultimately brings in more of their friends. It was great to see so many youth and all girl teams competing and fraternizing in Boltenhagen. The UK Girls team in particular with a new line up on a borrowed boat (they had their ride pimped by the Hedgehoggers, who took their opportunity to get downstairs in their previously owned boat and tinker with butt positions), showed they have the ability to compete with more established crews. We hope they continue to foster UK international relations and manage to get to Florida to compete there too next year.
With the UK boasting the current reigning World Champions, European Champions, along with some new boats into the fleet and competitive teams returning, we would hope that many of the European teams can make the voyage to compete in the best one design racing in the world class sailing venue of Plymouth for the 2016 J24 Europeans.
And finally, because I put them in some tough spots with few options and then expected them to fix it, thank you to Robbie, Dad, Stringer (Co-Owner) and Jack for sailing with me, the Mrs who supports us and lets me go and the kids who unknowingly let me spend their education on sails.

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