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J70 Midwinter Championship day 3 © Christopher Howell
J70 Midwinter Championship day 3 © Christopher Howell

J Fest 2018 at St. Petersburg

The inaugural J/Fest St Pete 2018 will be sailed on Tampa Bay from January 19th to 21st and is being hosted by the historic and famous St Petersburg YC in St Petersburg, Florida. Three fleets are participating, J/70s, J/88s, and J/111s. For the J/88s, it represents their 2018 Midwinter Championship.

Without a Key West Race Week, it was readily apparent the active J/111 owners were looking for another outlet to escape the crazy winter weather in the north and enjoy a nice sunny, warm break in sunny southern Florida. An excellent contingent of a half-dozen boats is participating from across the Northeast, the Midwest, and California- all are championship-caliber crews.

The current J/111 World Champion, Peter Wagner and his crew on Skeleton Key from St Francis YC in San Francisco, CA will be hoping to continue their good performances in this highly competitive fleet. Past J/111 Midwinter Champion and Key West Race Week winner, Rob Ruhlman and his team on Spaceman Spiff from Lakeside YC in Cleveland, OH are anticipating they will be in the hunt and giving Wagner’s crew a run-for-the-money. Chesapeake Bay Champion, Chicago NOOD Champion and perennial contender in the North Americans, Marty Roesch on Velocity, is hoping his Annapolis YC crew will enjoy the Tampa Bay conditions, a body of water quite similar to their home base- the Chesapeake Bay. Other well-sailed Midwest teams include Jeff Davis’ Shamrock from the Cleveland Yachting Club in Ohio and Brad Faber’s UTAH from Macatawa Bay YC in Michigan. From New England is Doug Curtiss’ crew on the famous Wicked 2.0, a boat as famous for its cool paint job as for being the New England Champion, Block Island Race Week Champion, Buzzards Bay Regatta Champion and Martha’s Vineyard Round Island winner. The 111’s should enjoy very tight racing all weekend.

The J/88’s are looking forward to compete for the title of “Midwinter Champion” on the choppy waters of the bay. Two past Key West Race Week and J/88 Midwinter Champions will be in attendance, J/88 Class President Iris Vogel and her crew on Deviation from Huguenot YC in New York and Mike Bruno’s Wings team from American YC in Rye, New York. Top Chicago boat Exile, sailed by Andy Graff from Chicago Corinthian YC in Chicago, Illinois, will be getting another taste of high-level competition. And, Al Minella’s Albondigas crew from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is anticipating improving their performance after lessons learned at the 88 NA’s in Youngstown, New York last summer.

Finally, the J/70s have a half-dozen boats that will promise a wide-open race-track and plenty of opportunities to have passing lanes upwind and downwind. As a result, it makes for a dangerous race course, no matter who is leading the race. Watch out for one of Italy’s top international sailors sailing the event as a warm-up for the J/70 Midwinters and Bacardi Cup J/70 Regatta later in March- Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino team are a formidable bunch, having won World Championships in Farr 40s, M32s, the Rolex Middle Sea Race and recognized as YC Monaco’s Yachtsman of the Year in 2016.

Click here for more J/Fest St Pete sailing information.

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