The weather was the story over the first days of the four-day J/88 North American Championship hosted by Larchmont Yacht Club September 28-October 1. With the opening day getting in four races in high teen/low 20s wind conditions, with the 4-6-foot sea state compounded by multiple days of easterly winds, Andy Graff (Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club) came ashore with his chilly and damp crew with a hold on the leader board he would not relinquish. Graff’s day-one scoreline (1-1-1-2) gave him a seven-point lead on the fleet that continued to increase throughout the Championship. After that, the competition was for second and third as other boats continued to be separated by only a few points.
Sailing on the second day had to be postponed as lower Westchester got hit by a storm that created high winds, large seas on the Long Island Sound, and flooding conditions in and around Larchmont Yacht Club. That said, however, four races were sailed on Saturday’s third day followed by three on the Sunday finale.
In the end, it was Graf winning by 13 points with nothing lower than a third being counted. The remainder of the podium positions weren’t finalized until the very last race as the next three boats’ scores were so close. Past J/88 Class President Iris Vogel finished second just one point ahead from fellow Huguenot Yacht Club (New Rochelle, NY) members Justin Scagnelli. Vogel, Scagnelli, and fourth place finisher Andrew Weiss from the host Club, who was in the mix throughout, served as the event Committee, too.
The top Corinthian boat was Chicago Yacht Club’s Michael and Grace Gillian finishing in fifth overall.
Graff commented that, “Our team sailed together well making consistent gear changes as the conditions were constantly shifting. We also focused on maintaining good boat speed. There were some big shifts and we played them well. When we did best when we were focused on gear changing well, actively trimming both main and jib as necessary. A lot of the shifts would tempt you to follow them with the helm only, but they would only last a brief period. We’d have to work the sails in the shifts, too, because if you tried to do it all on the helm you’d be oversteering the short-lived shifts. By the time you turned down you’d be luffing again.” Graff continued, “We had a lot of close races this regatta. Chicago has a deep J/88 fleet and that has been good training for us coming into this Championship.”
This Championship would not have been possible without the support of McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers, UK Sailmakers Northeast, Quantum Sailmakers, Switlick, and the VOCO Fiorella and Franklin Hotels.
Next year’s J/88 North American Championship will be held at Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Holland, MI September 25-28, 2024.