by Janet Laffitte
How do you keep the fans engaged in racing when professional sailors dominate not only the rankings but also the fleet itself? The J70 Class, which is approaching 2,000 ships, is feeling that strain.
In the US, there were five 34-boat Corinthian teams in the Bacardi Cup in Miami; the Midwinters had 10 of 50. At our local level in the Pacific Northwest, we’re experiencing an explosion of jackpots, thanks to the amazing generosity of professional coach Ron Rosenberg. (See the June 2023 issue of North 48 for more on that story.)
Still, there are a handful of boats in our fleet that enjoy traveling and mingling with other sailors. We would not like to see the fleet become extinct due to the excessive inclusion of professional sailors. I don’t mind sailing against professionals, but other amateurs can get tired of always finishing deep.
What just happened in Riva del Garda, Italy started as a spark and is now a wildfire. An idea for the Italian J/70 Class to host the 2023 Corinth J/70 World Cup from June 1-4 sold out in 90 minutes, initially capped at 80 boats and later expanded to 90 boats.
Ultimately there were 75 teams from 20 countries that traveled to Riva del Garda to participate in the experiment. The event was organized by Fragila Vela Riva appointed by the Organizing Authority Federazione della Vela together with the International J/70 Class and the Italian J/70 Class. The sailors received many gifts to celebrate the inaugural event. Everyone who worked on the event was friendly, helpful, courteous, and tireless.
All sailors had to be registered as World Sailing Group 1 (amateur). On arrival, the Race Committee (RC) checked the names against the passports, while a World Sailing representative prepared a list of crew list names for further interview. This led to a few crew changes before the races as the RC was serious about amateur status and some were sent home.
Measurement was based on the honor system, but the RC randomly called three boats at the end of each racing day for a full inspection. In addition, three boats were randomly called after each race for water checklist inspection.
The first two days of racing were brilliant with 12 to 17 knots. The race was close, the competition tough, with the umpires on the field having their hands full at roundoffs. Strong winds from Ora and Pelèr, for which Lake Garda is known, have been absent for the past two days and the races have been canceled due to lack of wind.
But the canceled races didn’t matter: the atmosphere was very different. In the spirit of camaraderie, some used the downtime on the water to play their favorite tunes or request an espresso break over the VHF.
At the race track, we all worked hard but the stress of perfection was not there; competitors were accessible and willing to share their knowledge. The Organizing Authority, RC, the judges and the technical committee were always available to answer questions or just have a chat.
The event was won by the Italian team Black Hawk skippered by Gianfranco Noe with an impressive three points from six races. While we were all at the docks disarming, the OA went to their country flag ship and announced to all the sailors that Black Hawk was the winner. Everyone stopped and clapped and three cheers for the OA/RC.
This was something I hadn’t witnessed in big events for many years (just business as usual) but it really exemplified the purpose and meaning of this regatta – we are together to cheer each other on and just enjoy sailing and racing again. This is how amateur navigation is saved. See you at the Corinth 2024 World Cup in Denmark!