Congratulations to team J.A.T. who finished second overall at the recent J/80 French Nationals. Skippered by Kevin Sproul, with co-owner Phil Taylor and crew Chris Taylor, Jessica Slater and Helen Yates. The team headed to Pornic, France to go to battle on the other side of the channel. The event is always held on the Brittany coastline over the first full weekend in November and this year it was held in the fantastic sailing venue of Pornic, just south of Nantes.
The French Nationals is historically the best attended National J/80 championship and although the overall numbers were down slightly on previous years with 45 entries, the competition was as tough as ever with several previous winners racing as well as the boats that finished 2nd and 3rd at the recent World Championship. Team J.A.T. Sailed a consistent series and were the only boat in the fleet to score all their results in the top 10 to finish a comfortable second overall. But what made the difference and what lessons were taken away?
The J/80 class has recently increased the crew weight limit, up from 338kg to 350kg and sailing as near the weight limit as possible has always been important. The weight increase was a tipping point which allowed J.A.T. to race with a crew of five for the first time and be close to the weight limit. The event was sailed in relatively light winds, maxing out at 14 knots on the last day. So, although in theory being close to the weight limit was not that critical the surprise was how much difference the extra crew member made during manoeuvres. Every part of boat handling improved and helped the team to reach max VMG all the way round the race course.
J.A.T. has always been a test bed for the latest Ultimate Sails designs. The J80 sails have won seven UK National championships in the past 10 years and have provided consistent performance when others are constantly tweaking their designs.
There is always an argument between making change for the sake of change or one that actually improves performance. The J80 sail designs have not changed much over the years however we felt that the crew weight increase might allow a more powerful Jib so a new design was used at the French Nationals. This has a little more shape in the luff and the foot which made it easier to trim and less sensitive to sheet tension (as we have all been known to over sheet our headsails!). There was a definite improvement in all round performance allowing J.A.T to consistently race at the front of the fleet.
Team J.A.T. will now look forward to returning to France for Spi Ouest regatta next Easter then onto the Worlds in Bilboa, Spain. The UK class association has just announced the Nationals are returning once again to the Royal Lymington, where there are 20 J/80’s which makes the town home of biggest and most active fleet in the country.
Full French National Results: Event Website Here