You will know from my comments in the last magazine that to retain our position as the most successful keelboat class with a cabin of all time, we needed to evolve and initiate change where it was clearly needed. I am very happy to report that this process is well and truly underway and we really are now capitalising on the great deal of work done last year to rationalise our Constitution, By Laws and Class Rules. It is also very heartening to note that at the World Council Meeting (WCM), so well organised by the Italian JCA in Riva del Garda, your delegates, rather than being drawn into detailed administration, were able to devote their energies to the issues which are pivotal to the future of our Class. Please take the time to read those WCM Minutes, and you will see the developing themes. I would like to highlight some.
Our stable global membership has resulted in a stable financial position. Importantly, more of your money is being spent on Marketing and Promotion and if this is successful you will all reap the benefit. Peter Weigandt, who ran the stunningly brilliant World Championships in Vallarta Mexico, has developed a Marketing Plan, complete with tailored support packages. It is very professional but of course still needs your help to get the best return on the investment. Therefore, if you have any business contacts or friends in Global Brands, then let Peter know.
Two of our three boat builders were present at the WCM and their input was highly valued. By the time you read this article, I hope we will have been able to implement some changes to the interior of the cabin of the J24, and the deck detail, so we can make the boat more modern looking and user friendly with absolutely no impact on the performance of the boat, fundamental in preserving our rigid One Design. Your Executive Committee (EC) has also been tasked to approach the Designer and Copyright Holder with the aim of transferring the responsibility of managing the Class and it’s Building Specifications in a more effective way.
In terms of actual Rule Changes, this year has seen very few. However, a potential change of deep interest, initiated by the Harden brothers from Texas, is the proposal to allow more freedom in forestay length, to achieve a better helm balance for all, particularly in lighter wind strengths. This idea is being evaluated very carefully through a formal ISAF trial process and is certainly the subject of a great deal of interest.
In turning to Events and Regattas, there are several ideas now gaining momentum. We have enabled NJCAs to enter one Youth Team (under 25) and one all-Ladies team in the World Championships, these being additional to the normal qualifying criteria. Furthermore, the Brazilian NJCA, by the initiative of the current World Champion Mauricio Santa Cruz, is investigating adding the J24 to the ISAF World Youth Championships in Brazil in 2009. You will all know of the great success of the Womens’ Open Championships held in the USA in 2006. This will be repeated in 2008, hosted again by the Beverly YC and this time is expected to attract entries from around the World. Here is the opportunity for the long term establishment of a top level addition to our racing calendar, lady sailors, over to you!! Another excellent initiative from Australia is the creation of an Asian Continental Championships. I see this as a vital step in bringing our sailors from the Asian region together, building on the existing expertise from Australia and Japan. There is huge potential for the J24 Class in Singapore, South Korea, India and China just to name a few of the Nations now taking an active interest in our sport. We are a global class, supporting and encouraging J24 fleets worldwide is a clear priority.
I make no apology for asking you again to look at the list of Officials and Representatives who put in the long hours on your behalf. Remember they are volunteers, whenever you have the chance, support them and thank them, it is very motivating.
I would like to draw together my thoughts for this year. Refine the boat layout, get the marketing and sponsorship right, create memorable events which are also more inclusive for the ladies and the young, and look towards the wider world as well. Put that lot together and we can have a marvellous 30th Anniversary Year. Looking further ahead, be ready to read our first Strategic Plan which I trust will map out the next 15 years in the life of our phenomenal boat.
Finally, let us congratulate Ed Baird, one of our past World Champions, for both winning the Americas Cup and being elected Rolex Sailor of the Year. He has once more illustrated that an apprenticeship in the J24 can lead to becoming the best of the best.