Jens HOOKANSON, Middletown, RI (USA) maintained his lead on a wild and windy day on Long Island Sound on Day Three of the 2004 Citibank J/24 World Championships.
Gale force warnings, crazy winds that were high one moment only to shift to low gear the next, and huge swells on Long Island Sound were the order of the day. Jeffrey JOHNSTONE, Portsmouth, RI (USA), on Ragtime, the namesake of the very first J/24, is in second place, followed by Brad READ, Middletown, RI (USA), and Andy HORTON, Shelburne, VT (USA). Dave CURTIS, Marblehead, MA (USA), is in eleventh place. Sometimes it takes conditions like these to see a change in the leader board and that seems to be what happened today. After six races, Johnstone, who was eleventh yesterday moved up to second overall, followed by Brad Read, J/24 World Champion in 2002 and 2002, who moved from 15 into third place, pushing Andy HORTON into forth overall.
You couldn't get a more exciting day than Day Three. Thanks to Hurricane Jeanne, who roared into our region as a Tropical Storm, the teams started the day with 3-6 foot swells on the Sound, and wind that would have one thinking "broaches". Not to happen with this group of experts! The sailing was fast and furious, and those who predicted the wind shifts and adjusted accordingly were justly rewarded. The first race of the day, race four, was a resail of the abandoned race from Tuesday. John MOLLICONE, Newport, RI (USA) lead at the first mark, but Mike INGHAM (USA), 2003 J/24 North American Champion, came on strong and took a 15 boat-length lead. All indicators had Ingham winning this one, but he had to dispense with one more obstacle before he can claim victory. Hookanson tacked from port to challenge Ingham, but Ingham persevered in a true photo finish. According to Ingham, "We were going very fast, had a good start and got ahead pretty quickly. We were able to catch the first shift and lead the whole way after that. The wind was really weird - wind totally overpowered then stood up. It was crazy."
Third place went to Brad READ.
The winds slowed a little by the start race five, with smoother water on the left and at the top of the course. Chris SNOW (USA), who was OCS in the first race, took a 100 yard lead up the right side of the course. Snow must have been thrilled to see 74 of the best J/24 sailors in the world trailing behind him! Rossi MILEV (CAN), who won the 2004 Knickerbocker Cup earlier this month, came on strong, but had to be content with second place, followed by Jeffrey JOHNSTONE in third.
For most of the regatta the left side has been favored, but in the sixth and last race on Wednesday, the right side looked better. And that was where three boats from South American headed right after the star, and got out in front quickly. Figueroa Juan DIEGO (Argentina) was in the lead, with Santiago SILVEIRA (Uruguay) and Rafael Neumann (Peru) right behind. It didn't take long for Silveira to pass Diego, and the race was on! In a very tight race, the three South Americans were so busy fending off their competitors they didn't notice that Jeffrey JOHNSTONE was playing the wind shifts expertly on the left side of the course. Silveira was still in first place on the right, with just 200 meters to go to capture top billing, but Johnstone, haven taken Ragtime around the outside for clear air, raced to the finish and beat a very surprise Silveira. After the race, Silveira commented, "You battle out for all the race, then on the last leg the wind shifts 35°. The wind just played havoc with us."
That was not the only havoc. The day would not be complete without some excitement at one of the marks. Talk about a traffic jam. When teams dropped their kites as they approached the leeward mark, they virtually skidded to a stop. Hoping to defy the laws of physics, skippers did everything in their arsenal of tricks to avoid collisions, but there was just nowhere to go. Again, Mother Nature showed who was boss.
Day Three couldn't have been more exciting. And the question of the day is whether or not Jens HOSANNAS will prevail tomorrow. Light wind is predicted, but based on past performance, that shouldn't bother this team. But with Jeffrey JOHNSTONE, Brad READ, and Andy HORTON biting at his heels, Hookanson will need to pull out all stops maintain his lead on Day Four.
Preliminary Standing after 6 Races
1. Jens Hookanson (USA) 38 pts
2. Jeffrey Johnstone (USA) 39 pts
3. Brad Read (USA) 41 pts
4. Andy Horton (USA) 54 pts
5. Satoshi Kume (JPN) 61 pts
6. Alejo Rigoni (ARG) 68 pts
7. Skelley/Crocket (USA) 72 pts
8. Zaleski/Zaleski (USA) 74 pts
9. Al Constants (USA) 75 pts
10. Joaquin Doval (ARG) 84 pts