By Quantum Sails’ Adrien de Belloy
It’s been great to have a racing schedule with different classes hosting their events on different weekends. I just returned from the Tuscany Challenge, the first Club Swan event, and competed at the J/70 Italian Championship in Punta Ala the week before. I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the J/70 event as well.
The J/70 event started off with an early drive from Monaco through challenging Italian roads, especially in Tuscany and Genoa. After a full winter in Monaco, I was looking forward to sail on flatter water. I was also hoping for a more stable breeze, but that would have to wait!
Once we arrived in Punta Ala, we got on the water for practice. I can’t stress enough how important this time is. J/70 shrouds are quite stretchy, so it’s important to break them in during training. Practice time gives the shrouds a chance to stretch initially and then settle in for more consistent tension. The crew also needed a good shakedown to dial in their trim settings and get their minds into race mode. We started off practice by working on maneuvers and team communication.
We typically reserve day two of practice for boat-on-boat lineup tuning, along with practice starts and more maneuvers. The breeze in Punta Ala was quite unstable, which made lineups complicated, but it allowed us to work on transitions and see who handled different conditions better. These lineups are critical for refining trim, speed, and angle.
We also used our practice time to diagnose specific issues our team was having. We felt confident in light breeze, but we have struggled this season in heavier conditions. We were trying to problem-solve how to keep enough headstay tension without heeling over too much or breaking the mainsail. More unexpected turns on the D1s helped, as it put more backstay tension on without losing the main, but that made the balance between main traveler and mainsheet tension trickier to find. We depowered to keep the boat at target heel angle (not more than 21 degrees to avoid going sideways) with enough leech tension to keep it balanced between jib and main. With our trimmer Philippe, we’ve been busy finding a good compromise between jib windward sheet trim and mainsail profile. We felt we improved, but we’ll need more time in windy conditions to get to final conclusions.
Friday was the first race day with a fleet of 43 J/70s from all over Europe. The breeze was light and the water was flat. In such light wind, starting clear of traffic is key to getting off the line and setting yourself up to stay in whatever wind is available and take advantage of shifts. Our team managed to stay out of trouble and score ninth on the first race. Not too bad, but there was room for improvement. The wind continued to shift around, and, as a result, a race was abandoned. Too bad, since we were doing really well in that race!
As the breeze settled, we were able to get two more races in, and we finished fifth and second. We were consistent where other teams had a UFD or DSQ, which put us in the lead after the first day. Consistency and minimizing mistakes are always key to placing well in large fleets. One thing that worked well for our team was sharing the tactician role with our bowman Mathis. It’s a handful for the main trimmer, who is often also the tactician, to focus on speed, close-quarter situations with the fleet, and tracking wind and shifts. Mathis kept a lookout, fed the team his observations, and then we developed a plan together. His help gave the mainsail trimmer a better opportunity to manage the fleet and find clean lanes. It also helped us to have an ongoing discussion to keep our heads clear in such a dense fleet. Our strategy seemed to be paying off!
The next day, the forecast called for 23 knots gusting up to 30 knots of wind, which put us into the heavy air range that our team struggles with. A bad start left us struggling to get to the left side of the course, which was heavily favored. We rounded around 25th at the first upwind mark. Downwind speed was important in this competitive fleet. We gybed early to stay clear and to give us some leverage, then we ripped along. The downwind legs were fun, and we finally got to do some blow-through gybes. We fought all the way back to 17th by the leeward gate rounding. We picked up two more boats on the second upwind and then did a bear away set at the windward mark. As we rounded, big pressure filled in, and we saw an opportunity to pass a pack of boats that gybed early ahead. We finished the last race in 10th, which is our best result in heavy wind so far.
The wind continued to increase and was too strong to start more races Saturday or Sunday. After four consistent finishes, we placed first overall for the regatta, earning our first win on the J/70 circuit. A fifth race would have allowed other teams to discard a UFD or a DSQ, which would have probably bumped us down to third place, but the weather decided otherwise. It was great to practice with the Leontec team, the Viva Team, and see other Quantum boats getting better on the racecourse.
The biggest takeaways from the event for our team were to be sure to get on the water for some practice time, minimize mistakes during racing, stay consistent, and don’t be afraid to adjust team communication or roles on the boat to play to each other’s strengths.
Get in touch with Quantum J/70 experts Adrien de Belloy and Travis Odenbach to dial in your rig tune, refine your skills, or learn about new sail options. Check out our full list of resources on the Quantum J/70 OD page.