“No Snow but Some Sporty Conditions”
Thanks to Josh Kerst for this report: The Port Clinton Yacht Club once again did an amazing job hosting the J/24 District 12 Championships October 1-2, and the event was held in conjunction with the 76th annual running of the Snow Flurries Regatta. The entry list included several past winners of the event including three-time defending D12 champion Ryan Lashaway, past D12 champ Michael Palmer and many teams that had recently competed in the J/24 Great Lakes. As teams gathered for the opening skippers meeting the focus was on the remnants of Hurricane Ian and the impact on the open waters of Lake Erie. A strong northeasterly breeze (15- 20 knots) was already present, and the weekend forecast called for both wind and waves to gradually increase. The plan from Race PRO Duane Burgoyne was to get in as many races as possible before conditions deteriorated. Teams headed out and proceeded East to a course that was tucked under the leeside of Marblehead Peninsula with the hope of a little wave relief. Race 1 started off with a two-lap leeward/windward course and at the first mark it was Team Booyah!! (Michael Palmer) that led showing great speed and smart tactics favoring the right side of the course. Four boats were hot on their heels as Instant Karma (Kerst), Rumming on Empty (Ryan Lashaway), Menace (Drew Blackburn) and Passing J (Thomas McRitchie) followed closely. Instant Karma tactician Nick Turney made the move of the race as he called for a quick gybe right after the offset mark. This gybe help get Team Karma’s bow nosed out and a combination of nice downwind pressure and fluid boat handling put them first at the leeward mark. Karma extended their lead upwind while the rest of the boats traded places in the building conditions. After Race 1 it was Instant Karma (Kerst), Rumming on Empty (Lashaway), followed by Passing J (Thomas McRitchie), Booyah!! (Palmer), Menace (Blackburn) and the Hoy Boys (Hoy). Race 2 saw the breeze and waves gradually increase which put a premium on keeping your boat flat, minimizing speed loss during tacks and communication. A close start and tight racing ensued on the windward leg as the top three boats crossed tacks multiple times trying to get to the favored right side. The right side of the course offered some marginal chop relief and occasional starboard tack lifts, but teams had to pick the right spots to gain any advantage. At the top mark it was Karma, Rumming on Empty, and Passing J and those positions held fairly constant during the rest of the race as they finished 1-2-3. After the race, the PRO noticed that several boats had retired with breakdowns or teams had decided to withdraw which left only a handful to spar for Race 3, which turned out to be the final race. Race 3 saw both the breeze and sea state increase again with top end puffs in the 20’s. All boats now donned small jibs and once again the tight racing and trading of positions upwind followed. Positions 1-2-3 were similar to Race 2 at the top mark and some really good downwind puffs led to some competitors recording hull speeds in the 10 to 12 knot range which isn’t too shabby for a J/24. Racing concluded for the day and after a 3pm onshore competitor meeting it was decided the event was complete as winds and waves were forecast to significantly build Saturday night and thru Sunday. PCYC volunteers provided an awesome chicken dinner to the tired and sore crews who shared many tales of hairy spinnaker sets, flagpole spinnaker trimming, broken vangs, and “yard sale” leeward mark takedowns. Top 5 results showed Team Karma (Kerst) , Rumming on Empty (Lashaway), Passing J’s (McRitchie), Booyah (Palmer) and Menace (Blackburn). It takes the whole team to succeed! Thanks to my awesome North Cape Yacht Club Instant Karma teammates Nick Turney who coached us up, tuned the boat for speed and kept us positive every step of the way, my long-time crew Chris “Wookie” Shaffer who pulled us around the track, bowman extraordinaire Tate Shaffer for his seamless work in tough conditions, and our big man in the middle Mike Sell who communicated waves, puffs and shifts. A huge shout out to Thomas McRitchie, D12 rep Drew Blackburn, Park McRitchie and the whole PCYC team for hosting the event. In addition, special thanks go to Jeff and Maggie O’Connell for housing our Karma team at their wonderful Lake House. Finally, the Snow Flurries event also made the classy move to recognize fellow North Cape Yacht Club sailor Jim Davis for his lifetime of sailing achievements and appointed him to G.O.A.T. status. This presentation and award were made extra special as fellow G.O.A.T. and NCYC member John Greiner helped Park McRitchie present the honor. Port Clinton is a wonderful venue to sail, the club is newly renovated, and the folks there have a long tradition of hospitality, keen competition and great sportsmanship. Hope to see you all at another J/24 event soon and we will back again in Port Clinton for sure!