On the heels of hosting what is arguably the most important dinghy sailing event of the year, the Laser Radial World Championship, the California Yacht Club hosted yet another major sailing event this past week with the J105 North American Championship Monday through Sunday, August 21st to 27th.
The J105 is one of the most popular one-design fleets in the country and the club was excited at the prospect of hosting such a prestigious event.
“The J105 class is very strong in Southern California and we like to support the growing one-design fleets,” said co-chairman Marylyn Hoenemeyer.
The competition for the four-day regatta was on the highest level, with 31 sailors from all over the country working the 35-foot racers for every ounce of horsepower possible in the finicky and often light winds that the Santa Monica Bay is notorious for.
But it was a San Francisco team from the land of big wind, sailing Masquerade, that came out on top.
“We’ve raced here before and we’re pretty comfortable here,” said winning skipper Tom Coates out of the St. Francis Yacht Club. “It’s a great race venue.”
Coates, who has been racing for a relatively short time, was humble and deferential regarding the championship victory — deflecting compliments and accolades towards his five-man team.
“In terms of accomplishments, it’s really all about the crew,” Coates said modestly during a post race interview. “I get a lot of input from the crew and they keep me in the winner’s circle.”
It was only 11 years ago that Coates took up sailboat racing and he was reluctant to take part in racing, thinking that he wasn’t skilled enough.
“After I bought my boat, my friends suggested I start racing and I said, ‘I don’t know how to race,'” Coates recounts, smiling. “They replied, ‘That won’t be a problem until you think you do.'”
While some sailors take many more years to reach such a substantial goal and still others never achieve it at all, Coates seemed shocked at the success he’s experienced both in this past week and over the course of the year.
This year, he has won top honors at Key West Race Week, the Annapolis NOOD (National Offshore One-Design) Regatta, New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport (for the second time) and now the North American Championships.
“I’ve been racing J105s for 11 years and we’ve never had a year like this,” said Coates. “Winning the North Americans was something that was not even a dream several years ago and we’re just thrilled to be here.”
Although the San Francisco skipper won it in the end, it wasn’t a cakewalk by any stretch. Dennis and Sharon Case from the San Diego Yacht Club had an impressive outing on day three sailing Wings, which positioned them favorably for the final day of races, dropping Masquerade’s lead from 18 points down to six.
Coates and crew had to make sure that they didn’t let the gains they had made over the course of the week slip away in the final dance.
“The real story was, ‘How to lose a regatta if you’re not paying attention.'” Coates said. “There were so many things that could have potentially happened.”
In the final analysis Coates surmised. “I get a huge amount of help from the crew,” recognizing teammates Chris Perkins, Mark Chandler, Tim Scherer, Will Sharron and Steve Marsh. “In the back of the boat we have so much confidence that things are going to happen — go up and go down — the way they’re supposed to — we really have a competitive edge.
“Everyone’s doing their job and it’s as close to flawless as I’ve seen on a sailboat.”