After a day and a half of beautiful weather, shifty winds and great sailing, the crew of ‘Jabal’ were crowned Saint Lucia J24 National Champions at the Yacht Club on Sunday afternoon. The experienced racing team of skipper Nic Forsberg, Franck Chevrier and son Luc, aged 14, Sean Compton and Didier Lagauzere competed fiercely in eight races on the water off Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay, but it was by no means a straighforward sail to victory as the small fleet of five J24s fought hard to take the Frank Capers Memorial Trophy for 2013.
In a dramatic reminder that competitive sailing can be an unpredictable sport, the crew of ‘Buffalo Soldier’ (formerly known as ‘Claudio Vogel’) had an unfortunate equipment failure which brought down the mast and forced them to retire from the regatta in the second race. From there it was ‘Sugar Beach Attitude’ skippered by Fredric Sweeney, ‘JCB’ skippered by Mike Green and ‘Grayling’ skippered by Stephanie Devaux-Lovell who went against ‘Jabal’ and each other, and the first day saw a number of very close finishes with only ‘Grayling’ failing to win a first. By the end of Day 1, there was a one point difference between the top three, ‘Jabal’ sponsored by Kia Motors, ‘JCB’ sponsored by JCB and ‘Sugar Beach Attitude’ with the youth sailors of ‘Grayling’ trailing in fourth.
With three races to sail and a blue, blustery morning ahead, the four J24s jostled for position off the start line on Sunday for Day 2 of the Championships, and there was renewed focus from all the crews as ‘Sugar Beach Attitude’ took the first win of the day. Although the youngsters continued to snap at their bows, and ‘Grayling’ in particular showed a big improvement on their first day in the water, ‘JCB’ and ‘Jabal’ kept the competition aggressive. After race 7, the top three boats were absolutely neck and neck on points, so it was literally down to the last race to determine the championship.
The atmosphere on the committee boat with its handful of dedicated supporters was tense but excited as the start sequence for the final race commenced. With seconds to go until the horn, three out of the four J24s crossed the line early, and the race was restarted after a general recall. Olympian ‘Silver Fox’ Mike Green took ‘JCB’ across the line in first place, but early in the race
there wasn’t much in it, and at one point underdogs ‘Grayling’ went way ahead of the fleet, only to suffer a twisted spinnaker and lose a considerable lead.
As the four crews raced around the final mark, it was ‘Jabal’ that took advantage of the wind and found their way to first place with 12 points, ahead of ‘JCB’ (13pts), ‘Sugar Beach Attitude’ (14pts) and ‘Grayling’ (28pts), which indeed was the final result of the National Championships. It was encouraging to watch the two youth teams fight hard against the more experienced crews, and observers agreed that the high level of competition augers well for the 2013 Mango Bowl Regatta on November 29 and December 1.
At the Prize-giving Ceremony, Saint Lucia 2013 National Champions ‘Jabal’ were awarded the Frank Capers Memorial Trophy, a beautiful, wooden hand-painted plaque showing the profile of a J24, presented by Mrs. Ginny Capers.
Frank was an avid sailor who built and sailed his own yachts with Ginny and daughter Carri: the family made Saint Lucia their home 25 years ago, and it was Frank who brought the first J24 onto the island. He was a staunch supporter of youth sailing and active member of the Yacht Club until sadly he passed away in January this year. The Memorial Trophy was founded by his wife and friends to commemorate and continue Frank Capers’ contribution to competitive J24 sailing in Saint Lucia.
Saint Lucia Yacht Club Sailing Captain Fredric Sweeney was happy with the renewed interest in the J24 Nationals, and applauded the level of effort by all the crews. With Mango Bowl 2013 just round the corner and an extensive training schedule planned, it looks like Saint Lucia will dominate the competition in the J24 class this year.