Jud Smith and his crew aboard Africa (Ed Wright, Alec Anderson and Victor Diaz de Leon) took 3rd overall at the 2016 Alcatel J/70
World Championships in San Francisco. Jud and Team Africa won four of the twelve races and spent most of the regatta in the front of the fleet. Joel Ronning and Team Catapult including tactician John Kostecki took the overall win, with the defending World Champion Julian Fernandez and Team Flojito Y Cooperando from Mexico in second.
In the 23-boat Corinthian class, Shawn Bennett (USA 32) took top honors, finishing 15th overall.
Classic San Francisco Bay conditions greeted the 68-boat fleet with breeze about 18 knots and strong currents most of the days. Throughout the event, San Francisco Bay tested the heavy-air skills of the 68 skippers and teams, so it was a bit of an anomaly
when the wind was light on the final day of racing at this world-class event. A flood tide and 5 knots of breeze allowed for a spinnaker ride from host-club St. Francis Yacht Club to the Berkeley Circle, where all racing had been conducted this week. There, racers were greeted a short postponement as the race committee waited for the breeze to gather.
Fortunately, the wait was contained to a half-hour, giving racers time to sort out their light-air modes and get their heads into the final two races. Prior to the sound of the day’s first warning signal, Catapult was topping the leaderboard, followed by Flojito Y Cooperando and Calvi Network. However, the light-air would ultimately see a leaderboard change as Jud Smith and his Africa teammates and Calvi Network charged hard on the day that mattered most.
Once reliable pressure filled in, the race committee launched the fleet on a 1.6-nautical-mile beat in 6-8 knots of breeze. Africa slowly began sliding ahead and to weather of her competition, allowing Smith to enjoy a private windward-mark rounding as the pursuing fleet battled for clear air.
Smith held his lead for the entire race, strutting into the leeward gate rounding and the final run to the finishing line in a wing-on-wing configuration that was replicated by the other contenders. Brian Keane’s Savasana (USA 96) and Neckelmann’s Flojito Y Cooperando followed Africa across the finishing line. “I consider us [to be] more of a light-air team,” said Smith, who clearly liked Race 11. “The guys did a great job getting us off the line, and we [went] the right way.”
There was a final race 12 on Friday as well where the breeze filled in enough for planing downwind. All top 5 boats going into final heat were in top ten around weather mark and finished in the top 5 positions in that race.
The 2017 Alcatel J/70 World Championships will be held in Porto Cervo, Italy at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda from September 12-16.