May 2, 2016

J70 Racing at SD Yachting Cup - Family - Fun - Kelp - First!

Three months ago, Bruce Cooper and Shawn Bennett bought Dave Ullman's J70 USA-32 as partners to race in SoCal and NorCal and get the opportunity to race with their sons as crew. They last sailed together on the Cooper Family Capo 30 "Instinct" over 28 years ago.
The 2016 San Diego Yachting Cup was the debut and first opportunity to race together with the new/old boat and the boys. Morgan Cooper is 16 and fairly new to racing, crewing mostly on a J105 and other PHRF keel boats, whereas Conner (age 12) is the Opti sailor getting loads of small boat sailing and coaching. They both bring experience and young muscles to help race the boat with their dads!
Shawn and Bruce jumped on the boat Saturday morning with the "newbie" crew and headed for the race course in the mist/rain with a southerly wind blowing down the channel hoping for a smooth day of sailing.
Well, light to moderate wind with a huge chop made for a not smooth day of sailing and learning how to sail the J70 extra tough. The J70 fleet is very keen on rig tuning and sailing technique to keep the boats powered up. Watching Jeff Janov's Minor Threat and Chris Raab's Sugoi followed by Dave Vieregg's Soggy Dollar take off in race one showed that the rig settings being on the soft side for the extra choppy water conditions and tactics for staying in the wind lanes was key to keeping the foot on the accelerator. USA-32 was right behind these boats at the weather mark, but with only one practice hoist before the race, the spinnaker hoisted in a knot and needed to be lowered down to the deck to be sorted out. With the spinnaker freed up and re-hoisted USA-32 missed the gybe on the top of the course and sailed the majority of the 1st run in lower wind pressure and missed a big shift. Oooops.
By the end of the two lap race, USA-32 had speed to get back to 5th place, Minor Threat led wire to wire, very impressive.
Minor Threat is owned and skippered by Jeff Janov who has his two young sons Grant and Jordan crewing along side long time shipmate Doug McLean and J70 guru Victor Diaz. Jeff and his program are really what the J70 is about, friends and family sailing together.

The wind continued to build to 9-11 knots for the next two races which gave the skipper and crew some more ammunition to punch through the heavy chop and confused seas. A major part of racing in San Diego besides wind and water tactical considerations is kelp and sea grass management. It is a known fact that you will get kelp and grass on the keel and rudder. A huge part of your performance for speed, pointing, acceleration and holding a lane is not sail trim, rig tension, steering or is if you have a small (or large) piece of kelp or grass on the foils! USA-32 felt having the kelp cutter in use once per tack and once per gybe on the down wind leg kept us confident that we were clear of the large pieces. The secret weapon on USA-32 was 65# Conner who could go to the back of the boat and wipe the rudder with the kelp stick and not disturb the boat too much!
The wind dropped again for race#4 and the rig settings back to under base was key to making the boat groove in the chop and light winds. Minor Threat showed the fleet again around the course putting another 1st place on the score sheet as a bookend to their 1-4-2-1 day. Sugoi was very consistent with 2-3-3-2 and USA-32 showed 4-2-1-4 to end the day with a win in Race#3 and get some good quality time in the boat with the boys learning their jobs on the boat.

Sunday's racing was looking like a more traditional San Diego day of racing with flatter seas and more south to south-west wind, but still plenty of kelp and grass! The wind started to move to the right and the cloud cover was burning off fast, so it was looking like a fast course where speed and tactics would prevail.
USA-32 came out of the start blocks with a mishap during the first tack Shawn stepped on the main sheet and it rolled under his foot landing him face down in the cockpit still holding the tiller and main sheet! Shawn thought he chipped a tooth and was seeing starts, but came away with only a cut and scrape on his right cheek. Not the best way to start the day as you try to climb into the leaders points!
Sugoi and Minor Threat came out battling each other for the 1-2 spot with Soggy Dollar showing in 3rd and Huckleberry skippered by Jim Murrell coming up to 4th place in race#5.

The next two races (#6 & #7) had a steady shift to the right and a little more pressure. Race#6 USA-32 started with a delayed start at the RC boat and tacked right towards Pt Loma to get the shift and a little more pressure on the right. At the weather mark, the young crew on USA-32 were getting the system down for hoisting the spin and furling the jib, the spinnaker went up and filled perfectly, job well done boys. Approaching the leeward mark (no gate), Sugoi sailed in close to USA-32 to make a tight mark rounding, but no overlap could be established, so USA-32 rounded first and took off to the right side again. Sugoi made a clearing tack to the left and searched out for some more pressure, but the right kept looking stronger for shift and more pressure. The J105 fleet started 6 minutes ahead of the J70's, so USA-32 could use them as a barometer for where and how much wind was blowing. The J105's were leaning over good on the right side of the course, so that's the spot to be. USA-32 led the fleet back to the finish followed by Steve Wyman's Nunuhunu and Raab's Sugoi. Minor Threat got caught up in traffic and finished 6th, having Sugoi ahead by 2 points going into the final race. The boys on USA-32 were very happy to have another win and be a little closer to the top of the leader board.
Chris Raab's crew is a good combo of his daughter Kayla and Long Beach speed racer Keith Ives and pro sailor and local San Diego hero Jake LaDow. The crew work on Sugoi is very consistent and their finishes show them at the top of the leader board every regatta. Sugoi finished 1st Corinthian at the 2015 J70 NA's in these same waters last fall.
Race#7 was setting up to be very much like Race#6. Boats bunched up at the committee boat to get the early jump to the right. In the final two minutes up to the start, USA-32 skipper Shawn Bennett said it seems like the wind is in right phase, so starting down the line to avoid the crunch at the RC boat end was a good idea. USA-32 started closer to the pin and stayed on Starboard tack till the first sign of a left shift came through about 4-5 minutes after the start and tacked in a left puff and shift and sailed with speed straight across the middle of the course. At this point the group of boats that tacked towards Pt Loma immediately after the start were coming out of the right side against the left shift which put USA-32 in the lift-lift phase half way up the beat and a 15 boat lead. Sugoi and Minor Threat were busy tacking and boat on boat battling to try to finish 1-2 for the regatta, definitely preoccupied with the race within the race.
USA-32 led by a large margin all the way the 4 laps W-L-W-F to take another 1st place while Soggy Dollar showed strong with a 2nd place followed by Sugoi and Minor Threat.

After a discard, the strong 1-1 finish to end the regatta on USA-32 was enough to net 13 points to take 1st Place with Minor Threat and Sugoi at 14 points with Minor Threat winning the tie breaker and placing 2nd and 3rd respectively. Soggy Dollar finished in 4th place with 17 points and 5th was Nunuhunu.

Shawn and Bruce were real proud of their young crew with their first time in the J70. The boys were a major part of the success this weekend. The extra speed as the wind picked up was nice which led to easier tactics and race course management.At the end of the day, the J70's that sailed at Yachting Cup all had a good mix of friends and family, the boat lends itself to fun and competitive racing. A good kelp pole for the rudder is a must in SoCal racing, especially San Diego, good job Conner keeping the rudder clean of kelp and grass!
USA-32 will be racing more in SoCal and NorCal with Cal Race Week, U/S Long Beach Race Week, West Coast Champs and Summer Keel, Rolex BBS and J70 Worlds onthe schedule.

-2016 Yachting Cup Results-
-Ullman Sails J70 info-