CYC Boats Take 4 of Top 6 Places; Mark Bradner’s Return Wins Fourth Championship. In addition to Return’s first place, other CYC boats that did well at the 2019 SJ 24 North Americans are Grauer Geist (staff commodore Ken Johnson) in third, Fancy (Jeff Kendall) in fourth and Manhattan Transfer (Mike Irish) in sixth.
As crews from Seattle to Bellingham gathered in Oak Harbor on June 28 for the 2019 San Juan 24 North American Class Association Championships there was great pleasure in greeting friends from previous championship regattas and concern about the light wind weekend forecasts.
As Byron Skubi, the experienced PRO running the racing, said the Friday night wind forecast for the weekend was “terrible.” A variety of wind forecasting sites showed winds on Saturday ranging from 2-3 knots perhaps getting to 4-5 knots late in the afternoon and only marginally better for Sunday. And there would be a building flood tide both days. The gathering fleet was reminded that only one race was needed to name a 2019 champion although the deed of gift for the Class Association trophy required 3 races.
So as boats motored out Saturday morning on the 40-minute trip from Oak Harbor to Penn Cove, the light winds on Saratoga Passage and the flat glass on Penn Cove were not promising. But as boats headed west from the entrance of Penn Cove there was a dark line observed on the far west end of the Cove which slowly moved eastward and finally reached and then passed the Race Committee boat located just off of Coupeville.
Not to worry – the wind filled in with 5-6 knots westerly and Byron sounded the first warning signal on time promptly at 11:00. The wind was fairly consistent building to close to 10-11 knots in the afternoon before settling back to 6-7 knots. A northerly shift mid-day created a small delay as the windward mark had to be dragged north. Byron ran eight, count them, eight great races on Saturday – windward-leeward courses, some long, some short, with both windward and downwind finishes. David Steckman of Oak Harbor, the Regatta organizer, got the racing off to a great start by dominating the first race on his renamed Juan Solo, followed by Mike Klep’s Bruce from Bellingham and Mike Irish’s Manhattan Transfer from Seattle. Pre-race favorite Return was over early at the favored pin end and its delayed restart after ducking most of the fleet resulted in a 7th place finish.
But Return bounced back handily, winning the next 3 races to regain the lead, with Juan Solo and Ken Johnson’s Grauer Geist keeping close with top 4 finishes in each race. Racing got closer as Return had another over-early call and finished 5th in the fifth race and got trapped on the far left side of the course in the 6th race resulting in a 4th place finish before grabbing a 1st and 2nd place result in the last two races of the day. Meanwhile Grauer rebounded with two firsts and a second, and Juan Solo kept close with its consistent top 4 finishes.
At the end of Saturday, after 8 races (one throw-out permitted with 6 races completed), Return had a 2 point lead over Grauer Geist with Juan Solo just one point further back. Jeff Kendal’s Fancy lurked in 4th place while Bruce, after two second places in the first two races, had fallen to 5th overall as it suffered both a OCS in the third race and a DSQ in race 7.
Proving the forecasts wrong again, a nice wind came in again on Sunday, and Return quickly took advantage to clinch its Championship win with two firsts and one second in the first three of four races held that day, followed by a safe second in the last race. Meanwhile Juan Solo and Grauer Geist were battling it out for second place – after winning the third race Grauer just had to finish just one boat behind Juan Solo in the last race to match her second place finish in the 2018 regatta. However, she lost track of Juan Solo at the start and had to go left while Juan Solo and Return headed to the right hand favorable Penn Cove current on the north side – at the windward mark, Juan Solo had a boat length lead on Return with Grauer another length back. The first two boats headed to the southern shore, where there is supposed to be a favorable eastward current. Grauer followed about half-way to the shore and, believing it had a favorable downwind angle to the long leeward mark, was the first to gybe. Nothing like being in the middle, and forced to watch boats on the south shore sail by and, at the same time, boats further behind at the windward mark that gybed toward the northern shore also found stronger wind and sailed by! Juan Solo held on to win the last race and second place as Grauer sailed to its worst finish, which became its Regatta throw-out.
The racing was close and competitive. Of the 12 boats in the regatta, 4 had at least one first place, and 7 boats had at least one top-three finish. A single mistake on the course pushed all the boats back in the fleet. Even the top three boats had 6th and 7th place finishes.
At the awards ceremony Mark Bradner noted that he had been sailing with the same crew for 15 years, and that crew consistency was instrumental in Return’s win: Gary Reifel on foredeck, David Valentine on main and David Fukuhara on sheets. Return previously won the SJ 24 NACA championship in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Boats had to be conscious of building tide both days (the low was about an hour or so before racing started). It was easy (too easy for some of us) to get pushed to the starting line early, causing many loud calls to “Stay Up, Stay Up” as boats tried to jockey to keep from crossing the starting line early. The Race Committee called boats over-early in most races, but in only the third race did it signal a General Recall (of course many skippers said they had had great starts and it was other boats that were over early). The Race Committee wasted no time in hosting the black flag and a conservative restart followed.
With many boats lumped close together after the start, the wind just lifts over all the boats. Boats that did well got to clear air quickly, even if it meant ducking boats, irrespective of where on the Cove they sailed. And skippers also had to balance the wind and the current. As the current built, the counter-clockwise Penn Cove current is said to favor the northern side (the right-hand side going upwind in the westerly) and the south side of the Cove going downwind – but until the current really set in going up the left hand side or the middle, wherever there was clear air, paid off. And going too far to the north side commonly resulted in boats overstanding the weather mark, letting boats coming in on port sail a shorter distance and tack underneath them.
All in all, and despite having just 12 boats participating, the 2019 regatta was great fun with challenging competition and racing, proving again that when all the boats sail about the same speed it doesn’t really matter how fast they are going. The pleasure of one-design racing!
On Friday night the Class elected its 2020 officers: Dave Steckman of Oak Harbor as Commodore, Mark Bradner of Seattle as Vice Commodore and Jeff Kendall of Seattle as Fleet Measurer. The Class also decided to hold the 2020 North Americans on Shillshole bay in Seattle and to have a small group review the class specifications to see if any should be modified (most have been in effect since the mid-1970s).
The excellent Oak Harbor Yacht Club hosted the regatta. Thanks to Club Manager Joe Catanio for the excellent food and drink each night and OHYC Commodore Ferd Johns for welcoming all of us.
Dennis and Marjie Wade Clark joined us for dinner Saturday night, and Dennis gave an engaging talk about the origins and history of the San Juan 24, followed by questions regarding the boat’s design. Marjie was the winning skipper of the first SJ 24 North American regatta, sailed on Bellingham Bay with over 50 boats participating! To date she is the only female skipper to win the regatta; her father designed and built the wire sculpture of the boat that graces the SJ 24 NACA trophy. Chuck Skewes of Ullman Sails noted that he got his start in the sailing industry working for Dennis as an apprentice sailmaker in the mid-1980s. Chuck also described his “year as a professional skipper” and commented on sail trim issues he observed from the Race Committee boat.
Ullman Sails was the principal sponsor of the Regatta and contributed money, prizes and support. Other main sponsors: Oak Harbor YC and Indigo Slate (t-shirt design and cash), followed by Jan’s Marine Photography, Samson Ropes, Swinomish Casino & Lodge and Oak Harbor Marina.
Wayne Balsiger of Seattle chaired the protest committee, aided by Bill Weinsheimer and Chad Holcomb, both from Oak Harbor. In addition to PRO Byron Skubi, others on the Race Committee were Chuck Skewes from Ullman Sails, Larry Munns, Jane Mays and Avis Berney. Many thanks to them and the volunteers on the mark boats – without them a regatta is not possible!
Regatta photos available at: https://janpix.smugmug.com/Events/San-Juan-24-National-Championships/
2019 SJ 24 North American Championship Results
Boat Skipper Fleet Points
1. Return Mark Bradner Seattle 21
2. Juan Solo David Steckman Oak Harbor 27
3. Grauer Geist Kenneth Johnson Seattle 29
4. Fancy Jeff Kendall Seattle 46
5. Bruce Mike Kleps Bellingham 52
6. Manhattan Transfer Mike Irish Seattle 69
7. Toto Allan Wilson Oak Harbor 77
8. Sweet Jesus Sean Busby Seattle 79
9. Obi Juan Steve Hucke Oak Harbor 88
10. Snappy Tom Gil Lund Seattle 88
11. Swift Bill Brown Oak Harbor 121
12. Miss Mayhem Melissa Davies Seattle 125