J/44s Tighter than Ever
By Chris Museler
A rhumbline race will produce a tight race in any class but no one could have predicted five J/44s exiting the Gulf Stream virtually within sight. Though the race didn’t end up exactly that way, even the crews who were nipped by minutes at the end were still ecstatic.
“We were within a few tenths of a mile from each other,” said Phil Gutin, who drove his 44 Beagle to first place. “These boats were really designed to race this race and all the teams were great this year.” Gutin decided to stay just west of the rhumbline to capture the most of the positive current of the Stream. In 2010 where he finished fourth, they had the same plan but watched, gutted, as the fleet sailed by to the east.
Phil Gutin, Beagle, relaxes in front of RBYC after a hard earned victory in the J/44 class
This year, the bet paid off for Gutin and his crew and they avoided some of the holes the rest of the fleet had to negotiate. “We thought the low was moving and headed east after we exited the Stream,” said Jamie Ewing, the navigator aboard Stampede who added that they were within 200 yards of Runaway at one point. “That really motivated us. The last night the guys were trimming the kite so much I couldn’t even sleep in the quarter berth.”
The J/44 fleet, a one design though they are racing under IRC, is known for close racing. With their long cockpit benches, and comfortable wood-veneered interior, it seems as though they would be hard boats to push, but Gutin said this doesn’t stop the teams from pushing hard. “We have relentless trimmers,” he said. “And our navigator only gave us bits of information so it would not have a psychological effect on us.”
With Jim Bishop’s Gold Digger and Lenny Sitar’s Vamp always nipping at his heels, Beagle finally legged out to a 14-mile win. The rest of the fleet finished within hours and sometimes minutes of each other Monday afternoon. “In 2010 we had a respectable fourth,” said Gutin. “This was really respectable.”