Written by: Paul-Jon Patin
I’m proud to say I’ve been a part of this Class now for over 20 years and many of the same reasons I joined still remain intact.
The JY15 fits into a unique niche evolved from the days of JY Sailboats inc. and Stonnington CT being the center of the JY universe. The simple family-oriented “regatta friendly group” has attracted great competition to it’s North Americans including numerous Olympic and World Class sailors. That type of competition, brilliantly engineered by David Eck in the early days, was the hook that enticed Felicity and I to start sailing JYs. However what has kept us coming back is the openness to discussion afterwards, the humility of the crowd around “the keg” or perhaps best described by a subtle but underlying class commitment “to learn and become better sailors.”
We are very fortunate our new builder “Nickels Boat Works;” (and in particular Ryan Flack who was instrumental in supporting the fleet in an epic gear tester) makes for a perfect fit to the JY15 way.
That’s said, this year’s NAs brought challenges from which we all learned.
It seemed as though we might have more than we bargained for as the breeze (already 15+ gusting 25) was predicted to be increasing and shifting from West to Southwest over the course of the weekend. On the first day we sailed up in the lee of the land to the West of the Stamford harbor and often felt overpowered until we got close to the windward mark where it was extremely shifty. We were able to win the first race but in the next two Elaine Parshall and crew Mark Webber had some crafty moves in store near the windward mark and sailed very well off the breeze to capture races 2 and 3. I’m sure it is no surprise to some but one of the most interesting things Felicity and I learned was that the further we moved forward in the boat the faster we went upwind when hiking. We actually confirmed this belief when practicing for the regatta down on Great South Bay using a velocitek. We noticed a difference of close to a ¼ knot when our crew weight was balanced and forward upwind.
The second day of the NAs was a handful. PRO Gino Botino was expecting (and was dead on, although sooner than anyone expected) that the breeze was going to shift and pick up sharply. From 15-18 kts on the first beat we started to see in the 20s which made for a fantastic ride on the run. Most memorably when Seth and Joan Barrows surfed a 6+ foot swell in a gust that took them from 10 boat lengths behind to 10 ahead of us on the run right through our lee! But it was the second race after the we rounded the windward mark that things really got wild. The breeze built into the 30’s. Felicity and I worked hard to keep the boat going downhill (never allowing it to stall) as fast as we could while maintaining control. I had the main in approx. 6” from the shroud with the vang on “enough” (Boom approx. level with the water on the offset leg) to keep the helm stable. It was the jib however that became critical to keep the boat in control. Felicity had the jib “fully sheeted” either to windward if we were running or by the lee or fully sheeted to leeward when we had to reach up to surf to stay headed down a wave. If the pressure of the jib was released for more than a moment the helm would load in the opposite direction and we’d have likely capsized. We were one of only a handful that were fortunate to stay upright.
A few lessons learned in heavy downwind boat handling:
1) Keep the boat going fast – if we stalled or let the boat become unbalanced – severe helm and broaching would occur
2) Use the jib for balance to offset the main but with extreme tension (if nec.) for control. As long as the boat was going downhill, over trimming the main helped maintain control.
3) Stay attached as tight as possible to the rail, straps, or sheet and use crew weight to assist steering.
4) Gybe only when going down a wave. Proper timing and jib trim makes a huge difference as well as the crew weight forward to flatten on the new gybe.
After we finished the race and sailed into the harbor still full out planing there was an eerie sense as we turned around and saw no other boats. Quickly we were at the dock and spoke with the staff who were monitoring the situation as we still saw no boats in the harbor. Inevitably the majority of boats had dropped one or both sails, several eventually sailing in under jib. The regatta and Stamford YC staff did a fine job managing a surreal train of events as it was almost as if a clear squall had come through in a most unexpected manner (different from a line squall involving dark clouds or indicators which may have served as a fair warning). All crews were safely retrieved but unfortunately two boats whose rudder/steering were compromised ended up on the jetty rocks.
The third day the wind was more manageable at 10-20 knots and we ended up sailing in the area to the West and under the shelter of land. We battled with Elaine and Mark in the shifty land interference. The Nightingale’s were ever strong and Joe Healy and Mandy Merritt had their moments in a day that encompassed 6 exciting races. Class President, Mark Allen also came on strong Sunday and closed out the awards with promise of a great regatta next year in Michigan August 22-24, 2014. Felicity and I hope to see you there!!