Q&A With J/70 Skipper Doug Newhouse

Norwalk, Connecticut’s Doug Newhouse races both in the IC-37 out of New York Yacht Club, as well as in the J/70 class on his boat, Yonder. At 2022 Charleston Race Week, Yonder finished second overall in the 45-boat class. Working with Travis Odenbach and the team out of the Quantum Rochester Loft, Newhouse and his crew, including Jeremey Wilmot, Tedd Hackney, and Sam Fitzgerald, tested some new Quantum sails both at practice as well as during the regatta. 

“It's pretty remarkable for Quantum to give sails to me, someone who’s not been on the podium before, and then we came in second,” said the skipper. “I don't know if we would have done it without Quantum.” A few weeks after the regatta ended, we checked in with Newhouse to chat about his program and his experience at Charleston Race Week.

Quantum Sails (QS):  Why did you choose to race in the J/70 class? 
Doug Newhouse (DN): I’ve sailed in a lot of different classes, and the J/70 is the best class, in my opinion, with the depth of competition and value as far as money invested into racing. Plus, the sheer number of competitors is impressive. The J/70 is a goldilocks boat — not too big and not too small, and not too expensive. It’s a global class, too; you can race anywhere in the world. 

QS: What was the biggest challenge Team Yonder has faced, and how did you overcome it? 
DN: We took a break from racing starting in December of 2021, and Charleston 2022 was the first sailing event we came back to. We now have a full schedule through October, so this was our first event. We came to Charleston four days ahead of racing and practiced all four days — in my mind, that was massively helpful. The first two days, we didn’t see another J/70 on the water. It’s a huge regatta, and so to get two full days to get everything dialed in again gave us a leg up. We wanted to get back into it in a stress-free fashion. 

QS: What is your most ambitious goal? 
DN:  For the J/70, we want to qualify for Worlds in 2023. The next qualifying event on our schedule is the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Marblehead at the end of July. 

I also race in the IC-37 class, and my goal there is to be the overall best boat in the fleet. It doesn't mean winning every regatta, but there’s a season-long tally of performance, and, to me, that’s the best test of sailing — throughout the entire series of regattas, where do you rank? 

QS: How has Quantum helped you meet your challenges and work towards those goals?
DN: I have to give a big shoutout to Quantum, we had never been on a podium in a J/70 regatta until we started using Quantum sails in Charleston. Quantum came to us with developmental sails they had designed for the J/70 and asked us to try them during practice. We sailed with them for two days and came to the conclusion that we liked how they were performing and decided to go ahead and use them in the regatta. 

The consensus on our team was that they performed really well. We felt we could point as high if not higher than the best boats and we were as fast as anyone on the track. We may have just been sailing well, but I give Quantum a lot of credit. There were 45 boats on the line, so in that situation, you can’t come in second unless you’re doing everything correctly. The level of competition is so intense and the sailors are so good that you can’t really afford to make mistakes. 

QS: What are you most proud of in regards to Team Yonder?
DN: The fact that we’ve been together consistently as a team, and all of us understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and what we have to do as a group to perform. It’s a little bit like dancing when you’re racing; everyone has to be coordinated. When tactician Jeremy Wilmot calls for us to do a jibe set at the last second, we can do it, and it always works. Whatever Jeremy wants us to do at that moment in time, we can do instantaneously and usually reasonably well. I think that comes from having a lot of practice together as a team and having sailed together for a long time. That kind of knowledge doesn’t happen overnight. 

QS: What's the story behind the name Yonder?
DN: The first boat that I bought as an adult was a J/80 named Yonder when we came to Newport 15 years ago. I thought I was going to do day sailing, and the name Yonder was a reflection of that mindset. But a friend of mine had a son who was a young professional sailor who thought Yonder would be great to enter a regatta. I had never been in a regatta before, and we went up to the Buzzards Bay Regatta. I immediately realized I had very little interest in day sailing and all I wanted to do was race the boat. For the most part, I gave up on day sailing and have been racing for the last 10 years, and the Yonder name has stuck into this new class. It’s an Old English word that means in the distance, or over there, and I do like to think if they ask where they are, we’re over yonder — as in, ahead of everyone else! 

QS: What advice would you give a team new in the class or to other teams trying to succeed?
DN: I’m relatively new to the J/70 class. For the first two years, I didn’t know whether I could compete with these great sailors, and I entered the class with some trepidation because it is so competitive. But it really is a welcoming class, it's easy to enter. It can be intimidating because there are so many boats on the starting line, and having that chaos on the line and on the racecourse takes some getting used to. You’re probably not going to do great the first few regattas, but if you stay with it you’ll see steady improvement. That’s been our experience. 

One of the reasons I went into this class was to become accustomed to sailing in a crowded environment. It sharpens your skills quite a bit — you have constant boat-on-boat action, and you learn to tack or jibe or lee bow or duck all the time. You’re in very tight scenarios. 

QS: What makes your team, and this sport, special?
DN: I think there are very few sports where all ages can compete with each other, and I get a great deal of enjoyment out of that. I could never play golf against Tiger Woods, but I can sail against America’s Cup sailors — and beat them at times. There are not many sports that offer the combination of cerebral and physical challenges that sailing offers. It surprised me that, at my age (65), how much my competitive desire to win is really the same as when I was younger. I originally thought I was going to sail with my contemporaries but quickly came to the conclusion that I couldn’t win with guys my age, and very quickly started bringing aboard 20-something college racers. I’ve had a lot of guys who have sailed with me who have gone pro. I’ve had the great experience of having super talented young guys and being able to learn from them. 

When I’m racing in a regatta, there’s nothing else in the world I think about other than what I’m doing at that moment in time — not business, stress, family— it’s a total block. It takes 100 percent of my focus. You can’t really get that anywhere else. 

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