5 Top J/105 Skippers on How They Crushed the 2015 North Americans

Quantum sails swept five of the top six positions in the 2015 J/105 North Americans at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. We checked in with the top skippers to find out what it took to win.

Five of the top six boats in this year’s J/105 North Americans, held in San Francisco simultaneously with the 51st annual Rolex Big Boat Series at the St. Francis Yacht Club, had complete or partial Quantum inventories. BBS is known for its long-format Bay tour races — of 68 possible courses, several of them were well over 20 miles.

While there was a lot of great racing in a number of classes and divisions, the J/105 North Americans caught our attention. The courses included reaching legs, gates, and a couple of trips under the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as short-tacking duels up the City Front and the tactical decisions about whether or not to seek current relief in the cone of Alcatraz. All of this made for a rather unusual North American Championships format, but a welcome one, certainly for the Bay Area boats with local knowledge.

We checked in with five of the top six J/105 skippers on the format, the competition, and what it took to win.

Phillip Laby, Godot, 6th Place — On Getting Good Starts

There were a lot of good sailors in the fleet, so I expected it to be tougher competition than usual. I figured we’d go out and do as best as we can. Our goal was the top three. We ended up sixth, partially because there is more talent out there and partially because we didn’t execute our starts. We didn’t get good starts on the first day, so we were playing catch-up for the rest of the race, but we kept ourselves in the game.

The key to doing well in this regatta was getting good starts that set you up for going in the right direction on the first leg, and knowing where you were going. They’re all bay tours. It’s a big picture thing. In the beginning, my idea was that it was more important to get a start that sent you in the right direction. I changed my philosophy after a while and looked for a good spot on the start line focusing on an open lane rather than being closer to the side that I wanted to go.

Ryan Simmons, Blackhawk, 5th Place — On Preparation

The goal going in was to win. We thought we had a really good opportunity — a fast boat, a great crew, new sails — and we totally thought we could win the regatta. It didn’t work out that way, but that was the goal.

We put a lot of time and pride into our preparation going into the race. We’ve been sailing together for two years, working on different maneuvers and different settings for the boat, so that when we got into these situations with variable conditions and long legs, we could adjust to them, but once you’re out on the water sailboat racing is sailboat racing.

The finish of the first race was without a doubt the apex of the regatta for us. We crossed the line overlapped with Donkey Jack — it couldn’t have been more than five feet. To win that race was pretty exciting.

Jason Woodley, Risk, 3rd Place — On Consistency

A top-five finish was what we were trying to accomplish. We felt with the level of competition, there were 10 boats that could have won. There were a couple boats that are respected in their own fleets. In San Francisco, we have a little bit of an advantage being local.

We wanted to take it one race at a time, try and get into the top five for each race. That was our focus. We knew it was going to be a light year, and we’re actually a heavy-wind boat. We like to have bigger air, so we really tried to keep the sails powered up. That was our real focus with our Quantum sails.

Jeff Littfin, Mojo, 2nd Place — On Climbing Back

The plan was to sail conservative. We felt like we had the boat speed as long as we minimized mistakes. We actually had poor starts and were able to dig back through the fleet. That was probably the most impressive thing of the regatta—to be in a deep position and end up with a top-five finish. We put ourselves in tough spots off the line and were able to dig back.

It was disappointing that we missed two races. Once the wind came in, it was a pretty awesome Big Boat Series. It wasn’t too windy. It was probably one of the best weather-wise. The tides played a part, but they weren’t mammoth tides. It was spectacular. It was probably best Big Boat Series I’ve been to, conditions-wise.

Shawn Bennett, Jose Cuervo, 2015 J/105 North American Champion — On the Challenge

What’s nice about Big Boat Series is that there’s a different course every time for a new challenge, but for a North Americans, that’s a little different because you’re used to having your own racecourse. We found it enjoyable, actually, with all the different features, colliding with the other fleets, but it certainly adds a layer of difficulty—free and clear and ahead doesn’t mean some other fleet isn’t going to come along and pin you out, force you in another direction, or even cut in on your air or roll you. You’re not only managing your own fleet, in terms of covering them if you’re ahead, you’re also trying to manage the lay line and traffic management.

There were a couple sheer terror moments, like when we were going upwind on starboard and we were doing a back-and-forth trying to get around Kialoa III, the 78-foot maxi. We thought, if that thing hits us, we’re done.


Congrats to all of the teams. You can view the full results of the 2015 J/105 North Americans and the Rolex Big Boat Series here.

Posted in Offshore Racing, One Design Racing, Racing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Long Do Sails Last?

One of the most often asked question to any sailmaker is "how long will the sails last?" While there are many factors, our cruising expert Dave Flynn dives into what causes a sail to fail and what you can do to ensure you get every hour out of you sail!

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This is a loaded question! The answer every cruising sailor wants to hear, of course, is ‘forever’ (or at least, ‘a very long time’). In reality, the answer is more complicated, but there are two key factors in the life of your sail: structure and sail shape.


The first thing to consider is the structural integrity of your sails. Structurally, sails gradually lose their integrity as the materials and stitching fail under the influence of the sun and use. UV causes woven polyester materials (Dacron®) to gradually lose tear strength. If you can take an existing tear and easily extend it by pulling with moderate pressure, it’s over. You can fix the tear with a patch, but it will just keep on tearing in other places, often at the edge of any repair.

Likewise, if you can run your fingernail across the stitching and pick it off easily, the sail needs re-stitching. It is normal for the stitching to rot before the material in the sail; that’s why it's important to examine sail stitching periodically and re-stitch areas as needed.

The life of your sail's structure depends on sunlight exposure and how strong the UV is. Other factors include the breeze your sails are used in and how much flogging, chafe, and other abuse they receive.

A better way to think of the structural life of your sails is in terms of hours of use. A reasonably well-treated woven polyester sail that is maintained regularly will last 3500-4000 hours.


A typical weekend cruising sailor using his boat two weekends a month, plus two weeks of cruising, over a five-month season will accumulate roughly 240 hours per year – those sails will last for 16 years! At the other extreme, a person living aboard their boat and cruising the Caribbean extensively will use their sails as much as 12 hours per day, 12 days per month, all year round, for a rough average of 1,728 hours a year. This sailor will be replacing sails every 2.5 years. 


The second thing to consider is shape-life. This is more difficult to assess since sail shape deteriorates gradually with every hour of use. The effect of this is harder to judge than the condition of the cloth. Sails that stretch too much become too full and can't retain airfoil shape (having a distinct rounded entry and flat, straight exit). This loss costs you in subtle ways.

Full, stretchy sails rob power in light air, but more critically, they create heel and weather helm just when we want control. At some point, we have to sail upwind –  usually at the least convenient times. If sails don't have proper shape and the materials and structures are not designed well enough to resist stretch, the boat will not be able to go upwind effectively.

Unfortunately, shape-life degrades more rapidly than structural life. Sails will be triangles long after they cease resembling anything like a critical airfoil. Shape-life is very dependent on harshness of use, but even when treated well, sails can only be expected to retain good shape for only half to two-thirds of the structural life of a sail – that’s roughly 1,700 to 2,700 hours of use. Periodic recutting helps. As long as the material is in decent condition, excess shape can be removed and an effective airfoil shape restored.

Relative to much of the gear on your boat, sails do last a long time, but – unfortunately – not forever.

When you do decide to replace your sails, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Your boat will come alive as dramatically as if you had put a new engine in your car. There will be spring in her step. When the wind is up there will be a greater sense of control, and going to weather might be fun again (at least for short periods of time).

To help protect your sail investment, here are some suggestions:

  • Protect your sails from unnecessary exposure to sunlight and heat.
  • Avoid prolonged luffing and flogging.
  • Motor with your sails down unless they can be filled.
  • Never back a genoa against the spreaders when tacking.
  • Use the correct halyard tension. Halyard tension changes as a function of apparent wind velocity. Add just enough tension to remove horizontal wrinkles as the apparent wind increases. Ease when the apparent wind velocity drops.
  • Protect from chafe. Make sure spreader and chafe patches are on and in the right place.
  • Take sails off the boat when not in use or out of the water for any extended time period.
  • Periodically rinse with fresh water. Annual professional servicing and washing is recommended.
  • Store sails dry.
  • Be sure roller furling sails are well secured when leaving the boat.


David Flynn
Quantum Atlantic
Annapolis, MD

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Lessons Learned From the 2015 J/24 World & North American Championships: Chartering a Boat and Remembering to Relax

By Travis Odenbach

In the last three weeks, I’ve traveled from the J/24 World Championship to the J/24 North American Championship. In my travels, I learned a few things about logistics and what it takes to compete at a high level at major events. Here are some of my take-aways from Worlds and North Americans.

When Chartering a Boat

Lesson One: Do Your Research

For the 2015 Worlds in Boltenhagen, Germany, we arranged to charter a boat in Germany – the measurement certificate and results were exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately, after looking at the boat when we got there, we realized it was nothing like we were told.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have your regular boat with you, make sure you do your research so you’re not surprised.

Lesson Two: Arrive Early

We arrived six days ahead of time, but it wasn’t enough. We spent four days practically rebuilding the boat – we re-faired the keel and rudder then painted them. We also had to replace the rigging. It was frustrating to deal with, but I had the right team for it.

When you’re using an unfamiliar boat, give yourself a week before measurement to get the boat up to par so that you can get some in practice before the event.

Lesson Three: Sail With a Team You Trust

I have a team of about 10 people I use for any given event. Some people can’t sail every weekend, so I need to have a rotation and it finally seems to be working!

Despite our bad luck in the beginning, we fixed the boat as well as we could and started to focus on sailing. The team did an amazing job, and I am forever grateful to have them on my boat.

With shifty race conditions, we managed to finish third at J/24 Worlds – a great accomplishment considering how the event started! Thanks to all our friends in Germany who helped us make the most of the event, and thank you to my crew – Rossi Milev, Jim Barnash, Josh Putnam, and Ian Coleman.

Relax and Have Fun

Less than two days after Worlds, I headed to Portland, Maine for the J/24 North Americans. I was relieved to know that I would be using my own boat. Although I had a team that was completely different from Worlds, it was a team I’ve sailed with a lot.

Wednesday, Sept. 9 we practiced all day. Dave Vancleaf, our tactician, brought a new level of intensity with him. While practicing inside the bay, he taught me something about sailing in a new area! Dave took us to every corner of the bay so we knew how deep it was in each spot and what the current was doing at each point in the bay. There were plenty of lobster pots out there to check current, and the current was drastically different in certain spots. It was a great practice, and I was glad to have Dave on board!

Racing was great. We had superb pro Hank Stewart running races and were able to sail nine races in shifty conditions. We finished our first race in 28th place – that was a scary feeling, and arguably the only race that was iffy the whole week. After that, we sailed as a team and were calm and smart the rest of the week. My team of Billy Farmer, Dave Vancleaf, Collin Kirby, and Wilson Stout did an amazing job staying focused, and it paid off in the end with a second place finish.

At Worlds, we worked so hard and tried so hard to win that nothing fell our way. At the North Americans, I was tired and just tried to relax and have a good time because I knew that it may not swing my way. Staying calm and relaxed is key. My team was relaxed but confident, and it definitely paid off!

After three weeks of working hard, I’m finally back in the office, but I’m already gearing up for the next event. If you’d like help preparing for your next regatta, give me a call to find out how I can help!


Congratulations to our Quantum customers who finished in the top ten at J/24 North Americans!

Travis Odenbach, Honey Badger – 2nd
Bob Kinsman, Dogfish – 8th
Aiden Glackin, Mental Floss – 9th
Evan Petley-Jones, Lifted – 10th

Click here for full results.


Travis Odenbach, One Design/Sail Consultant
Quantum Sails Rochester
1461 Hudson Ave.
Rochester, NY 14621
M 585-943-8652
O 585-342-5200

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