Healy surfs into the lead

Day two of qualifying at the J/70 Worlds

Thursday September 11th 2014, Author: Jan Harley, Location: United Kingdom

After two days of qualifying, the 2014 J/70 World Championship presented by Helly Hansen today saw the first races of the Championship Series that will decide the winner of this inaugural world championship. Based on their performance during the first two days of the regatta, the 86 teams are now racing in either the gold or silver fleet, with the championship crown going to the eventual victor in the gold fleet.

After being postponed ashore this morning until a thunderstorm threat had lifted, the competitors were once again sent out to do battle on Rhode Island Sound. Under partly cloudy skies, with breeze ranging from 12-18 knots out of the southwest, competitors were tested by another day of swells and seaweed that did little to help their results.

Tied on points to start the day were Joel Ronning of Minneapolis, Minn., on Catapult, and Rhode Island’s own Tim Healy on Helly Hansen, with the tie-break going in Ronning’s favor two days in a row. The story looked to be on replay when Ronning finished 1-2 to Healy’s 2-1 in the first two races. But Healy went on to win the third race of the day while Ronning earned and used his drop race on a 14th-place finish. Healy’s Helly Hansen is now the overall standings leader with 11 points, while Ronning sits second overall with 18 points.

“The New York Yacht Club Race Committee was watching a line of thunderstorms that dissipated as they got closer and actually passed to the north of us, so they just were on the safe side,” said Healy of the morning’s postponement. “With the breeze expected to be good in the afternoon they didn’t have a problem with waiting a little bit and we ended up getting three really good races in, so it worked out. It probably maxed out around 15-16, so it was in the range of 12-16 knots from the SSW.”

With the sea state factoring in again, Healy agreed that the swells were giving the fleet more of a workout than they might have anticipated. “Upwind it was really choppy. The boats are only 22-23 feet, so the key is to keep the momentum up and keep powering through the waves. If you can do that and keep the boat moving then you can extend a little bit and have good speed. The problem is you really can’t escape hitting bad waves. You’re going to pound a wave whether you like it or not every once in a while and then getting the boat back up to speed as fast as possible is a big deal. There also was a lot of seaweed out there and steering around the clumps of seaweed and making sure to keep your keel and rudder clear of it was also a big deal. Downwind it was perfect surfing conditions so working hard and getting the whole team to work together to catch waves really made a big difference too. Not only catching a wave but staying on it helps downwind and made a big difference in speed.”

Healy acknowledged that there is no one way to prepare for the constant pounding that Rhode Island Sound has served up two out of the three race days thus far, but those sailors whose general conditioning is good will fare better. “The first day it [the breeze] was easterly and that was rough also. Downwind you have to work the boat, pump the sheets, stay in good shape that way. Your back, your core, everything has to be ready for that.”

Maintaining third, behind Healy and Ronning, in the standings is 2013 Bacardi Miami Sailing Week class champion Brian Keane at the helm of Savasana. Keane has 40 points and an 11-point cushion over Martin Kullman on New Wave.

The big move of the day was made by 2013 J/70 North American Champion Heather Gregg-Earl on MUSE. Finishes of 5-4-3 today propelled her from 24th into fifth overall, which also makes MUSE the top Corinthian team thus far in the series.

In the silver fleet, two California teams, Craig Tallman on Jaya, and Scott Deardorff on Cake, are tied on points (88). Mexico’s Marco Teixidor, on Cachondo, is third overall with 99 points. All three teams are Corinthian, i.e. they do not have any professional sailors aboard.

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