J/121 Owners are Winning Silverware . . . Everywhere!
(Newport, RI) - The 2019 offshore racing season continues to see J/121 teams developing their knowledge and maximizing their offshore speed potential in a variety of conditions across the Pacific Ocean, the Bass Strait/Tasman Sea, the Great Lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean. That knowledge has been leading many J/121 owners to several amazing trophy-winning performances across the world.
Scott Grealish and team aboard BLUE FLASH win class in the 50th Transpac Race
Just last week, Scott Grealish’s of Portland, Oregon sailed BLUE FLASH with a total crew of 6 to 1st in
Division 6 in the 50th Transpac Race and earned the prestigious Navigator’s Trophy. BLUE FLASH took off in the first flight of starters from Los Angeles, California to Honolulu, Hawaii and won their class outright by over 2 1/2 hours corrected time, racing under the ORR handicap system. Winds ranged from 10 to 20 kts from the NE to ESE under the Pacific High as they raced across the 2,225 mile race track at speeds up to 22.5 kts! Scott reported the boat had plenty of “grip” and felt in full control flying down the huge Pacific swells.
In addition to the Transpac Race, Grealish’s BLUE FLASH sailed both the Ensenada Race and the Cabo San Lucas Race. Their inaugural race was the 800 mile Cabo Race- going from Newport Beach, CA to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (the tip of the Baja Peninsula). That was quite a “shake-down cruise”, certainly not for the faint of heart. Sail-testing and boatspeed analysis was the order of the day. After two days, they were dueling with the J/125 for the class and overall lead. However, the wind went flat, disappeared, and BLUE FLASH was too far outside, dropping to 5th ORR 3 Class in the end. For the 125 mile Ensenada Race- from Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico- BLUE FLASH sailed in light 0-10.0 kts TWS and all Code Zero/ A1 spinnaker sailing conditions for the entire race, ultimately taking 2nd in ULDB B Class- a great test of the J/121’s light air performance.
J/121 DARKWOOD Wins RORC’s Channel Race
77 boats competed in the 2019 Royal Ocean Racing Club Channel Race. The international fleet experienced a variety of conditions and wind angles, testing boat handling and tactical skills. Perhaps the surprise overall winner, from a fleet including professional racing teams, was J/121 Darkwood owned by Irishman Michael O'Donnell. David Collins' British Botin IRC 52 Tala was runner up, and Dominique Tian's French Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen was third.
Michael O'Donnell last competed in the Channel Race in the 1983 Admiral's Cup, as a 15-year old. His J/121 Darkwood was only launched this year, and four of the crew including Michael, race in the classic Solent-based XOD Class. Darkwood is very much a team of friends and family and will be competing in next month's Rolex Fastnet Race.
“I was basically a rope-puller on big boats such as Mike Slade's Leopard but I have learnt a huge amount in the XOD Class, especially from Steve Lawrence and Alistair Shaw who are part of the Darkwood team, ”commented Michael O'Donnell. “We are pretty good at getting off the start line, but I have not done any offshore racing since 2013. I am glad that the RORC make us do the qualifying races before the Fastnet; you learn so much about the boat and how to sail together as a team. We made a lot of sail- changes especially during the night, which was hard work with just five on board. Rosie (O'Donnell) did a great job in the pit, and Jamie (Holmes) impressed on the bow. We are thrilled to have won the race, but we have a long way to go, I am sure that the wily teams in the Fastnet are not quaking in their boots just yet!”
J/121 LOKI Splashes just in time to medal at both Mac Races
In much flatter, choppier waters on the Great Lakes, the newly launched J/121 LOKI from Charlevoix, Michigan sailed both “Mac Races”- the famous Chicago-Mackinac and the Bayview-Mackinac- and collected a gold and bronze medal for their efforts. The two races could not have been any more different; Chicago was 85% 0-10 kts (upwind & downwind) and 15% 15-25 kts (reaching), while Bayview was the converse with 80% 15-25 kts (upwind) and 20% 6-12 kts (reaching/ downwind).
In the Chicago-Mackinac Race, LOKI had set a furious pace in the constantly changing winds from their start on Saturday afternoon until Sunday midday. The winds started SW, shifted NE, then NW, back to SE and dying. 24 hours into the race, LOKI was leading class and overall until around noon Sunday. At that point, LOKI “parked” for nearly five hours, going just a few miles. Behind them, mid-fleeters and tailenders did an “end around.” The most extreme examples saw smaller J’s leading the much faster, more powerful J/121 LOKI into the Manitous by midnight Sunday (165 miles into the race. But in the end, LOKI scrambled their way back for a well-deserved 3 rd in class and 6th in fleet.
Segue to the Bayview Mac one weekend later. On the redemption path, LOKI was determined to bury their top competitors, including the Chicago-Mackinac Overall winner- the 1D35 Turbo Chico 2. That movie did not take long to unfold. Fresh off their start, LOKI simply took off on port tack headed for the first mark off Cove Island; reaching the turning point over 5.0nm in front of their class. Not soon after heading for the Mac finish line, the front rolled in from the WNW and LOKI proceeded to tack on the Fastnet; you learn so much about the boat and how to sail together as a team. We made a lot of sailchanges especially during the night, which was hard work with just five on board. Rosie (O'Donnell) did a great job in the pit, and Jamie (Holmes) impressed on the bow. We are thrilled to have won the race, but we have a long way to go, I am sure that the wily teams in the Fastnet are not quaking in their boots just yet!” shifts in 20-25 kts TWS, steadily opening up their lead. By the finish, LOKI opened up a 12.0nm lead on Chico 2 and the rest of the fleet, winning class comfortably with a 2-hour margin over the next boat.
J/121 RIVA wins Oregon Offshore Race and is 2nd in Van Isle 360 Race
Scott Campbell’s J/121 RIVA raced two huge offshore events in the Pacific Northwest and collected silverware in both. Sailing conditions ranged from drifting to 40 kts plus. RIVA won the 193 mile Oregon Offshore Race from Astoria, OR (opening of the notoriously dangerous Columbia River) to Victoria, BC, Canada. Then, RIVA sailed the 487 mile Van Isle 360 Race- a 10-day, nine-leg, event that circumnavigates the spectacular Vancouver Island in some of the most treacherous waters in the world - that effort earned them the silver medal.
In February, a J/121 sailed her inaugural event in the Geelong Festival of Sails, off Geelong/ Melbourne, Australia. Mark Nicholson’s J/121 JAVELIN sailed in the offshore AMS Cruising Division. Three races and over 100 miles of sailing later, JAVELIN won her first major offshore event in winds ranging from 6 to 20 kts. Earlier, JAVELIN won the 2018 Offshore Winter Series hosted by the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria, Australia. The ORCV Winter Series is a series of 5 passage races of varying distances, from medium distance races around fixed marks at the top end of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne to several longer distance passage races to popular destinations- such as Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron (BYS), Royal Geelong Yacht Club (RGYC), and Hobson’s Bay Yacht Club (HBYC).
2018 FLASHBACK – Don Nicholson’s J/121 APOLLO wins division in Newport-Bermuda Race
Don Nicholson’s J/121 APOLLO first major ocean race was the famous 635 mile Newport to Bermuda Race. Blessed with good fortune, solid navigation and well-executed strategy, they managed to win their Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division class and finish 6th overall. An amazing performance considering the magnitude of variables and weather decisions necessary to stand atop the podium in the professional Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division. The first two days of the race were light, drifting conditions. Then, for the last 24 hours, APOLLO set their Code Zero and J4 jib as a staysail and sailed away from their competition to lock down the first position.
Looking ahead to 2020, several J/121’s plan to make their way to the Caribbean for some epic winter sailing, followed by the annual J/121 Tune-Up in Newport, RI in preparation for the 2020 Newport to Bermuda Race!