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J/70 class at Key West Race Week 2013
Team McLube


The Publisher

Feb 1, 2013, 9:30 AM

Post #1 of 6 (56354 views)
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When nearly a third of the boats at Quantum Key West (Jan 21-25) are competing in one class, and when that class is a one-design boat that has yet to celebrate its first birthday, that class - the J/70 - quickly becomes the talk of the town. Working with the fleet was George Szabo of Quantum Sails who shares his experience:
I had the opportunity to provide coaching for the J/70 class at Quantum Key West Race Week 2013, and the entire experience was a bit out of the ordinary. To start, walking through the boat yard before the event I didn't feel that pervasive nervousness that you would expect to find. Instead, it was an atmosphere of teams with new toys figuring out how to put them together.

There was the comparison of rigging ideas, looking to see what the guy next to you was doing, lots of spinnaker bags and other covers being installed. When I asked people how much they had practiced, the most often heard response was "three days - it is pretty cold up north right now." The other common response was "I just received the boat, and I'm still taking off the plastic wrap from the factory."

My favorite rigging question before the event came from one new boat owner who walked up to another boat owner, and said "I've rigged my entire boat, and I have this one piece left over. What is it for?" I took a lot of photos of the different rigging ideas and have posted them on the Quantum Sails one design site for others to see.

I ran a clinic on the day before the regatta and noted a collective energy on the water. Teams were learning how to tack, jibe and douse efficiently. As that got sorted out, we began to work on boatspeed, tuning, and helping sailors get their rigs, travelers and jib leads in the right position. From there, tuning was the next thing up to improve, and the race was on to find the good rake number. Being a J boat, and the history of J boats having lee helm, the question was how long you could make your forestay and still go fast. The tuning guide was written, but the numbers were certain to change before the week was out. Got to love new fleet evolution.

Upwind wasn't the only education that teams were receiving. It was the same downwind. On the second day of racing, the fleet was planing off the wind. In race one, four guys on the rail was the fastest. By race three, a faster technique developed, that had three guys on the rail and one guy in the middle. By the next day with stronger wind, it was back to four guys on the rail being fastest. It was pure entertainment to watch that progression.

Being in a coach boat was invaluable. I could see the daily changes in the way the fleet was sailing and take photos of the changes while on the water. In the evening, I was able to share these photos with customers and offer suggestions for the following day, plus I was able to e-mail a daily debrief of the general trends and how they had changed from the previous day. It was time well spent and worth every moment.

The Publisher

Feb 3, 2013, 7:33 AM

Post #2 of 6 (56333 views)
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David Ullman, Ullman Sails, 5th overall...
"I learned the same lessons as always. Do not show up for a major regatta without proper preparation. We sailed at 570 lbs. which was near the class maximum, but the class max was removed before the regatta and it was good to sail at 700 lbs. plus. This meant sailing 4-up instead of 3-up. We learned the wind speed to plane or not plane downwind was 12 knots. Planning is jib out and higher angles, but when the winds were lighter than 12 knots, we would sail lower displacement angles with the jib rolled. Rig tuning is a work in progress but we got closer as the regatta wore on. Seems like you can sail with the leeward shroud always under tension."

The Publisher

Feb 3, 2013, 7:35 AM

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Jud Smith, Doyle Sails, 4th overall...
"One of the talking points after the regatta would be crew weight, and it was. We added a fourth to our crew on Sunday once we saw the forecast for the week was going to freshen after Monday. We were the heaviest team at 780 lbs and we were too heavy, for sure, and would not sail that heavy again. In retrospect, we think the right weight is in a range for 660 to 700 lbs with a crew of four for the boat handling. The 3-up teams are at a disadvantage in fresher conditions. Top 3-up team was Dave Ullman (5th) and next 3-up team was not in the top 15 overall. We added the fourth so as not to be disadvantaged upwind but we added too much weight that hurt us downwind.

"There are teams that believe that lighter is better for the downwind advantage but I didn't see that the lighter crews were as fast upwind. The top 4 teams, and 14 of the top 15 teams were sailing 4-up. There is talk of a max weight rule of 300 kilos which maybe the best compromise for all the J70 sailors that will maintain a mix of crew sizes without discriminating against small or big people and will be a fairer mix of big and small crews sailing together.

"J70 KWRW Corinthian champion David Franzel shares my feeling that the boat will decide what is the best crew weight. It appears that too heavy is slow downwind and in light air and being too light is slow upwind in breeze. Plus the class needs to be careful not to discriminate against light or heavy individuals that would keep them from participating at all because they are either too heavy or too light to be part of most teams. It would be a mistake for the class to pick too light a max weight which would essentially keep most bigger guys out of the class. The 3-up teams are at a disadvantage in breeze anyhow and it would be better if the bigger sailors could match with a smaller sailor on a 4 up team and still be able to be part of a 4-up team. Franzel makes a good argument to not rush to judgment on even having a maximum crew weight when the boat doesn't seem to need more that 700 lbs and Tim Healy won with less crew weight than that.

"Tim did the best job of getting the 4th person's weight in the best place to help with righting moment in the breeze. Upwind the 4th was sitting facing forward in front of the other two crew that were feet out. The two aft crew with feet out in the breezy races were back hard against the stanchion allowing the 4th to be closer to the widest part of the boat. They used the weight they had more effectively upwind than most of the other 4 up teams from what I could see.

"I could see at a lighter venue that 3-up teams will be very competitive. You can make an argument that the 4 -up teams 615-660 is a competitive weight range in all conditions. There were some heavier teams than that were going well but the extra weight seems to hurt downwind."

More on Doyle Sails website:

The Publisher

Feb 3, 2013, 7:38 AM

Post #4 of 6 (56329 views)
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Tim Healy, North Sails, 1st overall...
"Like most regattas, the successful teams come in well-prepared and improve during the course of the event. However, this regatta was unique in that nobody had much time in the boat beforehand. Our team trained for a couple days before the regatta, but the winds were mostly light. For us, we found using the time before each race day was when we learned the most.

"One of the issues in developing boat speed is the difference between tuning speed and racing speed. Being fast when tuning with a couple boats is not the same as being fast when racing in a 39-boat fleet. Fortunately the work developing the tuning guide got the numbers really close, though we did find an advantage by taking a step up to tighten the rig. This information will be incorporated into the tuning guide.

"Determining crew size was a ripe subject, and I am glad we went with four people. We sailed at 690 pounds, and I would guess the range for KW to be 660-700 pounds. While the boat can easily be sailed with three, I was pleased that it was not too crowded with four people. We thought a lot about crew placement too, and moved fore and aft a lot through the wind range. Tracking the bow knuckle location, particularly keeping it down in light winds, proved to be important.

"It's notable that the class rules state that not more than two crew may have their legs outboard of the sheerline. Since the boats like weight forward, the forward crew would sit up by the cabin house sideways. This got the weight forward and his weight as far to weather as possible.

"Understanding the downwind angles was a work in progress, particularly since we did not have any speed electronics. The decision to soak low or reach up was fully dependent on how well the wind and wave conditions translated to boat speed. The feedback from boats with Velociteks was that boat speeds of 10+ knots of made the high road the better road.

"I was initially concerned about our plan to dry sail in Key West using the launch ramp. Our trailer lacked any customization, but it proved to be painless. The deck stepped mast is convenient and limits the overhangs when trailering. I am really excited for the future of the class. The boat is quick, modern, and really easy to manage. Both my partner and I have young families and we are looking forward to sailing with our wives and kids this summer."

The Publisher

Feb 3, 2013, 7:41 AM

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Robert Hughes, 6th overall...
We were looking for some Key West fun and decided to charter a boat a J/70 because of the big fleet. Having never sailed it, I found it to be a very balanced boat, good upwind and down. Everyone will be sailing and setting these boats up much different a year from now. Biggest variables now are headstay length (short is a mistake), mast rake and jib car position in the chop. With the current unlimited crew weight limit there are different ways to sail the boat. I think the 4 person team makes the most sense, with light mainsail trimmer playing the sheet (only two crew can have legs out) and driver plays traveler. Downwind this boat can be sailed deeper than the typical sport boat and the soaking mode is powerful. It will be interesting to see the sails evolve for these boats as the sailmakers work their craft.

The Publisher

Feb 3, 2013, 7:42 AM

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Will Welles, North Sails, 11th overall...
The boat sails quite nicely upwind in the breeze and is quite stable downwind. The rig seems to like a lot of lower tension; we used the lowers to fine tune the head stay tension. We in-hauled the jib 1.5 inches when the wind was in the teens and brought right to the cabin house when the wind was lighter. The class and the owners are a great group so look for the class to continue to build at a fast rate! My hunch is that there will be a fine tuned weigh limit coming shortly and it will be interesting to see where it lands.

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