The J/24 National Championships, sponsored by the CCS Group, served up a tough but spectacular day of close racing in the Great Sound, with the final result going down to the wire and only being decided in the final race.
Some people like to undress in public; others tend to avoid it at all costs. The big event in the preparation for the J24 National Championships is generally the weigh-in on the Friday night before racing, often involving crews stripping down to their underwear in order to come in under the 400kg limit. This year most of the crews successfully managed to make the weight without disrobing, and only one crew had to have a secondary weigh-on race day.
Race day saw sunlight peeking through some ominous cloud skies, with what seemed to be little breeze in Hamilton Harbour. The 11 J24s made their way out to the Great Sound to find some more breeze and the Easterly 12-18 knot wind causing a great deal of chop. The Race Committee (RC) boat Monkeyshines had anchored and was setting out the course, and the Sailing Instructions showed that we were to expect that to be varied as the day went on. We were not to be disappointed.
Race 1 was a 2 lap affair, with the short start line causing some early consternation, with several boats having to tack to get some clear air. Centipede got off to a great start, and led the charge on the first upwind up the left hand side of the course. They made it to the windward mark in first place, only to hit it. The downwind saw Erin and New Wave closing in, and Sadiiqi making up a great deal of ground after a poor start. The next upwind and downwind saw Sadiiqi playing the shifts better than the rest to eke out a win.
Race 2 saw a traffic jam on the start line. Several boats made a break and the fleet split into left-hand and right-hand groups, which converged at the first mark. Some of the fleet had switched to blade jibs as the breeze increased. At the end, Erin, Sadiiqi and New Wave came out in front.
Race 3 saw a switch in course with and upwind finish. Several boats stalled on the start line, and several more missed the “W” marker on the committee boat before the start, meaning that they failed to prepare for another upwind leg on the final downwind. Solaise, who were sailing well and had been in pole position coming down to the final mark ahead of New Wave, had an equipment malfunction and gave up 7 positions attempting to recover. This gave Sadiiqi their second win of the day after making great inroads at mark roundings.
Race 4 was a 3 lap affair. Many crews were already bruised and battered with the strong breeze, continuous tacking in the shifts and the close-quarters sailing. Some boats had changed up to genoa in what seemed to be a lessening breeze, only to find that it picked up again as the race went on. Cyclone had a great start at the pin and were in the reckoning early on. Solaise and New Wave were duking it out at the front, and pulled away slightly from the rest of the fleet. In one of the best moves of the day, Trevor Boyce on New Wave held out Simon Boden on Solaise at the final upwind mark to make it around the mark in first, only to have issues hoisting the spinnaker and let Solaise past. The final downwind saw Jezebel take a right hand shift all the way to the finish to get a third place.
Race 5 – the final race of the day – saw another upwind finish. It was nail-biting stuff at this stage, with Sadiiqi and New Wave separated by one point. New Wave needed to finish two boats ahead of Sadiiqi to win the day. Sadiiqi made it their task to cover New Wave, but some over-anxious luffing manoeuvres saw them broach and let New Wave and another two boats pass ahead. At this stage, Solaise were having another flyer and looked to be heading for their second bullet of the day. Fortunately for Sadiiqi, the addition of the upwind leg to finish gave them a chance to recover, and on the final leg they clawed back into the race behind Solaise, New Wave and Jezebel, and then crossed Jezebel close to the finish to get third for the race.
This meant that the Sadiiqi crew of Shelagh Tasker, Becky Davies, Colleen Forestell, Walter Smith and Pete Ramsdale win the J24 Nationals for 2005, with New Wave finishing second overall with Solaise taking an admirable third. The trophy was presented by Rob Loxton, CEO of the CCS Group, at the prize giving ceremony at the RHADC.
Pete Ramsdale, the winning skipper, announced that the Bermuda J24 Class Association would be using a financial contribution from the CCS Group to purchase an Optimist Dinghy for the Mid Atlantic Sailing Association, in a move to further assist junior sailing in Bermuda.