J/24 anniversary racing

Sean McNeill reports from the race course off Newport, Rhode Island

Friday July 18th 2003, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United States
Thursday is J/24 day in Newport, RI. For more than 20 years, members of the local fleet have taken to Narragansett Bay for an evening of racing around the cans.

Today, Thursday night racing was postponed in lieu of the J/24 Silver Anniversary Regatta, celebrating the birthday of one of the most famous keelboat one-design classes ever created.

The two class leaders - Chris and Vicki Field in the Regatta Fleet and Brad Read and Tim Healy in the Silver Fleet - opened up a little breathing room on their competition after three races were completed in idyllic summer conditions.

With a southwesterly wind blowing between 8 and 12 knots, Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio fired off three short races. The first windward mark was 1.25 miles from the start, and the four-leg races took about 75 minutes to complete.

The Fields, old school J/24 sailors from Noank, CT, who remember when Rod Johnstone launched the first J/24 in 1976, had a stellar day of 1-6-1 with Maybe. Coupled with their Race 1 first, they lead the Regattta Fleet, for crews who haven't weighed in, with the low score of 9 points.

"We had a great last race, a great start and stayed in front throughout," said Vicki Field, who splits bow duties with Frank Murphy while her husband drives. "Downwind it was hard to cover because everyone would split to different sides. We chose to go the same direction as the waves. That way we could pump the spinnaker more and get a little surfing action going. It all clicked in the last race."

Bob Kraemer's Xingu is second with 14 points and Harry Lane's (Jamestown, RI) Fast Lane is third, also with 13 points. Although tied in points, Kraemer holds the upper hand on Lane by winning Race 3.

The Anniversary Fleet has two boats competing and they sail one race each day. By splitting first and second in the first two races, Rich Haaku (Seawaren, NJ) and Robert Iriye (Middletown, RI) both have 3 points. Haaku's Peddler won the second race while Iriye's Tenacious claimed the first. If the two finished tied at the end of the series, the winner will be the one that won the last race.

The action in the Silver Fleet, for boats conforming to class measurements and who met crew weight restrictions, today's action was hotter than the 80-degree temperatures. Seven protests were filed for various infractions. Some have been decided by arbitration, avoiding the protest room altogether, but a few wound up in the room, creating a late night for the jury.

On the water, Read and Healy were hard to beat in US Watercraft. They had a disastrous first race, placing 13th after having to perform a 720-degree penalty turn for a start line infraction.

Read, the two-time world champion, and Healy, who will skipper the U.S. entry in the J/24 Class at the Pan Am Games next month, won the next two races.

"This is helping us for the games," said Healy, a three-time All American sailor at the University of Rhode Island (1993-'95). "Three of the crew are going with me to the games, so we're psyched to get more time on the water." Joining Healy will be Dave Crocker, Gordon Borges and Nick Judson.

Scott Milnes (Newport, RI) also had a good day. Milnes sailed Sugar Plum into second place on the strength of 7-3-5 finishes. Coupled with his Race 1 fifth, Milnes and crew have 20 points.

One boat involved in a protest is Thomas Barbeau's Navtech.ca, the winner of Race 1. Barbeau and his crew from Quebec City, Canada, were provisionally placed third with 28 points after finishing 10-13-4, but were still sweating out being protested for a leeward mark incident in the day's second race.

"From our perspective we sailed well today," said Barbeau, the 26-year-old skipper. "We're happy with ourselves. If we finish in the top 10, we'll be happy."

The three classes are scheduled to sail a race around Conanicut Island tomorrow, after a harbor parade in the morning. The course around the island that features Jamestown totals around 20 miles. The first start is scheduled for 1205. Two races are scheduled for Saturday, the final day of competition.

At the final awards presentation on Saturday evening, a raffle will be held for a new J/24. Tickets for the raffle cost $100, and less than 50 of the 650 tickets remain. The contest is worth an estimated $40,000 and the ready-to-sail J/24 is being donated by US Watercraft, the current manufacturer of the boat.

The J/24 Silver Anniversary Regatta is being hosted by Sail Newport, Rhode Island's largest public sailing facility. Organizers include Sail Newport, J/Boats and US Watercraft. Waterline Systems/USWATERCRAFT will present a special
Sportsmanship Trophy to be voted on by the Regatta Committee. It will be
presented to the team that best exemplifies sportsmanship.

The J/24 Silver Anniversary Regatta is a commemoration of the competitiveness and camaraderie of the J/24 Class through 25 years. The events of the J/24 Silver Anniversary Regatta will celebrate and support the future of the J/24 Class.

J/24 Silver Anniversary Regatta Provisional Standings (after 4 races, subject to change due to protests)

Anniversary Fleet (2 boats)
1. Peddler, Rich Haaku (Seawaren, NJ) 2-1 -- 3 points
2. Tenacious, Robert Iriye (Middletown, RI) 1-2 -- 3

Regatta Fleet (19 boats)
1. Maybe, Chris & Vicki Field (Noank, CT), 1-1-6-1 -- 9 points
2. Xingu, Bob Kraemer (Athol, MA) 7-3-1-3 -- 14
3. Fast Lane, Harry Lane (Jamestown, RI), 2-5-5-2 -- 14

Silver Fleet (52 boats)
1. US Watercraft, Brad Read (Middletown, RI) & Tim Healy (Newport, RI),
2-13-1-1 -- 17 points
2. Sugar Plum, Scott Milnes (Newport, RI), 5-7-3-5 -- 20
3. Navtech.ca, Thomas Barbeau (Quebec City, Canada), 1-10-13-4 -- 28

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