Hanuman © George Bekris

After winning Tuesday’s 20 nautical miles opening race, Hanuman paired an initial fourth place to victory in the second of the two windward-leeward races today. They open up their leading margin at the J Class World Championship in Newport RI to three points ahead of the consistent Lionheart which has scored now three third places.

Although Hanuman lead across the finish line at the conclusion of a thrillingly tight first windward-leeward of the day, so closely were the chasing pack snapping at their heels that they dropped to fourth on corrected time. Topaz won their first race ever when they held off Velsheda by just seven seconds, while Lionheart’s margin for third over Hanuman was just two seconds.

There was not as much doubt in the second contest. After breaking clear of Velsheda which were overlapped with them at the first windward mark they gradually eked out their lead to finish one minute and 17 seconds ahead of the championship’s sole ‘original’ J Class.

The SW breeze came in on cue at between nine and 14kts, the second race starting at 1535hrs was the windier of the two. There were more than enough shifts in wind direction and pressure to keep the contests tight and even. Topaz battled back from sixth at the top mark in the first race to make a wholesale gain on the right, west side of the second upwind leg, tailgating Hanuman around the final turn, a gain orchestrated by local Newport ace Tony Rey in concert with tactician Ross McDonald.

While Hanuman carried on to the right after a conventional bear away, a nicely executed gybe set cashed in Topaz’s gain against a frustrating small error by Hanuman. But the hugely experienced Hanuman team, lead by skipper-helm Kenny Read, sailed smart and clean for their victory in the second race.

“There was a moment I think in the second race after the top mark where Jim and Kirsty Clark and myself all caught each others’ eyes and all three of us at the same time exhaled loudly at the same time, like, ‘Phew this is close!’ Such great sailboat racing.” Said Read on dock at the Newport Shipyard.

The opening upwind legs were gripping, no one side or the other paying an obvious dividend. Hanuman won out from the game of patience played between the four boats on the middle left of the first beat in the first race. But after having had to tack away to the right from a slowed, understandably cautious start at the signal boat, it was Velsheda which lead Hanuman around the first mark but then lost out to Hanuman and to Lionheart at the bottom of the run. Topaz’s comeback on the second beat was the foundation of their win, but it was the kite set which made the difference.

“The real key move was our hoist at the top mark which prevented Hanuman from gybing. To get the first win for the boat at these world championship is great for the while team and for the owner.” Peter Holmberg, helmsman of Topaz, said. Since being launched in 2015, Topaz has only raced at the Saint Barth’s Bucket regatta in the Caribbean twice, in 2016 and this year, before competing at both the Bermuda J Class events in June.

In fact Topaz lead the world championship after Race 2 but blotted their copybook when they had to take an expensive penalty on the first beat of the next race for tacking in front of Lionheart, going on to finish sixth, “One of my plans for this regatta was to avoid the stupid things, the big results. I don’t get to look much because these boats are so hard to steer I am just driving, so I did not really see what was happening until it was too late.”

Hanuman’s crew work was slick, pushing their sail handling technology to the maximum. Hanuman in particular successfully run with a furling headsail and with a dousing sock on their massive spinnakers.

Read comments: “The sock has bailed us out of a couple of tight spots. There is a fine line between the helmsman getting a little too greedy and reality. Listen it is give or take with a few metres at some marks between whether you are first or fourth. It all helps. A lot of the boats that are successful in this class have had their same crew for years and these guys do such a great job. We put them in ridiculously bad spots sometimes and they pull it off time and again. That is on the crew.”

He concludes, “This full on. Whoever would have thought that boats like these would be going like this at these speeds. You have to put a lot of trust in everybody. We have 25 crew and every person has a very specific job and if one person does not do their job this thing can fall apart in two seconds.”

In this fleet Hanuman’s three point lead is nothing, winners of the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta and the America’s Cup J Class Regatta Lionheart are poised in second and Velsheda lie third, having been second and first at the first turn of today’s races.

For Thursday, the third racing day of the first ever J Class World Championship, the forecast is for lighter airs before the breezes are set to strengthen once more for Friday and Saturday.

RESULTS

Also on the dock at the Newport Shipyard is JH2 Rainbow

The International Maxi Association (IMA)
The International Maxi Association (IMA) represents the owners of Maxi yachts from all over the world. Recognised in 2010 as the World Sailing international class of Maxi yachts, the IMA is uniquely entitled to organise official sanctioned World championships for Maxi yachts. The IMA now has 70 members from all over the world, and more than a dozen honorary members including Gianfranco Alberini, who for more than 30 years was Secretary General of the Association up until his death in June 2013. The current President of the IMA is Thomas Bscher, owner of the Wally 107 Open Season, while Secretary General is Andrew McIrvine, also Admiral of the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

The IMA is registered in Geneva, has a base in Porto Cervo and an office in the UK, for rating and technical matters. With two affiliated classes (Maxi 72s, and, since 2017, the J Class) and one associated class (Wally Class), the IMA intends to “guide and structure maxi yacht racing. The IMA rule defines and categorises maxi yachts: it aims to embrace all maxi yachts and as such follows, instigates and encourages developments that are deemed to have a positive effect on the construction and racing of maxi-sized boats.” (www.internationalmaxiassociation.com)

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Hanuman Day 1 Winner (Photo © George Bekris)

 

Hanuman, skippered and steered by local ace Ken Read with his brother Brad among the afterguard, stole the show on a spectacular opening day of the first ever J Class World Championship on the waters of Newport, Rhode Island where J Class yachts made their America’s Cup debut way back in 1930 and where the Reads cut their teeth in competitive sailing.

Hanuman lead from the first mark around a 20 nautical miles ‘Navigators Course’. When challenged by the newest J Class yacht in the fleet Svea, which is guided by wily America’s Cup Stars & Stripes veterans Peter Isler and Tom Whidden, Hanuman fought back downwind with smooth, well executed manoeuvres. When they took their well earned winning gun, Hanuman were extending into the mist, stepping clear of a spirited scrap over places second to sixth,

“That was one of the very coolest sailboat races I have ever been in my entire life.” Newport born and bred Ken Read enthused, “Honestly, it had everything. Home town. Gybing and tacking around all the little nooks and crannies, such a great crowd of boats out there watching. That is what we always hoped this regatta would show, how special this can be. And I am sure it did just that.”

“It was fun and special having my brother Brad on board. This whole team has been working for this for years and also to see the smile on Jim and Kristy’s faces today. It was just great.”

The opening race of the inaugural J Class World Championship delivered it all, spectacle, majesty, close competition over a decent length course and just enough drama. The New York Yacht Club race team took full advantage of the forecast for a building, pre frontal breezes to sail a spectacular, tight coastal course up and back under the Newport-Jamestown bridge, checking off in turn historical local landmarks made famous over the dozen editions of the America’s Cup raced here, entrancing the huge spectator fleet and treating the viewers who crowded the headlands and car parks that fringed the course to the close, spectacular competition they turned out for.

The fleet of six J Class yachts revelled in the perfect flat water and brisk 14-18kt SW’ly breezes. Places were traded back and forth throughout the fleet from first mark to the last. The sun split through the hazy cloud cover at key moments. Ranger shut out Velsheda at the windward end of the start line and with nowhere to go Velsheda clipped the signal boat. Harrying Hanuman around the first top mark Svea – in just their fifth ever J Class race – split their kite on a botched hoist, forcing them to make their first ever in line spinnaker peel. Double winners in Bermuda Lionheart came from behind on the beat to the finish, holding west of Gould Island, enjoying a huge starboard tack lift which got them back up to a useful third. There were even a pod of dolphins out to play around the bows of Ranger and Topaz early on the first 3.5 nautical miles beat.

The 20 nautical miles course was essentially a short upwind to a laid mark followed by a long run north against the ebb, funnelled spectacularly under the centre span of the bridge. Their choice of the Castle Hill, right side of the run looking downwind, prompted in part by their kite problems, yielded a useful dividend in tidal relief for Svea and they were all but leading as they passed Fort Adams, until Hanuman again eased away at the next gybe.

“The boat was going well.” Read confirmed, “We got out a bit of a jam off the start line. Being able to hang off Lionheart was key to start. Lionheart has been a very high pointing boat for a while. Being able to hang there until almost to layline was critical for us. And then once we got clear air we let the boat do its thing. It is a bit like a horse race, you let the horse do its thing. We picked the right jib, on the number two, a couple of the boats had bigger jibs and I think that the trimmers did a spectacular job, the communication was good. It was just fun.”

Asked if there was any local knowledge contributing to their win, Read said,
“Actually no, we nearly lost out to Svea on the right of the run. But actually we talked about it, Brad said ‘if we were by ourselves that is what we’d do, but we were not. But it is the first race of the world championship and everybody gybed away and so ‘don’t be an idiot’ we stayed with the pack. Svea made a six boat length gain but we picked the right kite (symmetrical), we gained a length or so on every gybe against the asymmetrics and on the last beat we just sailed smart.”

For the Svea team which only put their rig back in the boat just over a week ago after having their Bermuda J Class America’s Cup halted by a forestay problem after just two races, second place today was a welcome reward. The newest, biggest J ever shows great speed but they are still early on the learning curve when it comes to smooth, effective manoeuvres compared to the teams polished by more than five years of J Class racing.

Svea’s tactician and project manager Charlie Ogletree commented, “We are happy to get a second and start the series with a good result, a ‘keeper’ and we learned a lot today. That was our first spinnaker peel in anger after tearing our kite on the set. We took so long to get the peel done we were committed, we had discussed it but the boat handling pushed us in that direction.”

“There was less current down that side, staying close to Castle Rock, we had good local knowledge, some good navigating from Peter Isler. We changed our tactics towards the end to consolidate against Lionheart. Downwind we are quick and upwind we are still learning our modes.”

After being bounced around downwind Lionheart made the most of their recovery up the beat and were pressing Svea hard to the line losing out by just five seconds on corrected time. Tactician Bouwe Bekking, who has two of his Team Brunel Volvo crew on board Lionheart – and one from rivals MAPFRE – recalled, “It was a good day. We had a good start and squeezed off Hanuman and were in a good position when the breeze went too far to the left, the guys underneath us laid and we overstood and that is expensive in these boats. You crack the sheets and only go one or two tenths of a knot quicker.”

J Class World Championship
Race 1
1 Hanuman 2h 8m 13s
2 Svea 2h 10m 15s
3 Lionheart 2h 10m 20s
4 Topaz 2h 11m 37s
5 Ranger 2h 12m 4s
6 Velsheda 2h 10m 17s

 

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