Annapolis, MD (September 12, 2018) – There are eight foreign entries in the 2018 J/22 World Championship, underway on the Chesapeake Bay.
None has a more interesting backstory than RSZV-RWG, skippered by Auke Holtrop.
Holtrop is leading a youth entry from the Netherlands that is representing the Rotterdam Student Sailing Association. The official name of the organization in Dutch is Rotterdamse Studenten Zeil Vereniging, hence the RSZV in the boat name.
Holtrop is the helmsman while Anique Noordam is trimming the main and calling tactics. Sipke de Man is the headsail trimmer and strategist while Lotte Brasser is on the foredeck and assisting with tactics. Holtrop, Noordam and Brasser are all 22 years old while de Man is 23.
Those four team members were selected to campaign a J/22 owned by the Rotterdam Student Sailing Association for one year and have competed in regattas throughout the Netherlands, performing well and posting impressive results. Holtrop was so encouraged by the showing in national events he entered the youth team in the J/22 European Championship, held in Brest, France. The young sailors from Holland stunned a talent-laden fleet by placing second overall.
That result led the youngsters to consider a bid for the worlds. It was not going to be easy to travel all the way to Annapolis, but several notable members of the J/22 class made that dream a reality.
Veteran North Sails professional Mike Marshall finished behind the Dutch team at the European Championships and came away impressed. Marshall reached out to current U.S. Class president Matt Dunbar, who had purchased a used J/22 for the express purpose of providing a platform for youth participation in major class events.
Dunbar bought the boat at auction after US Watercraft, which had entered receivership in August 2017. This particular hull had been rehabilitated after being used by the College of Charleston sailing team. Previous U.S. Class president Mark Stuhmiller had initiated a youth boat program and Dunbar wanted to keep that tradition going.
“We need to do whatever we can to grow the class and that starts with encouraging younger sailors to get involved,” said Dunbar, who is racing his boat, Wharf Rat, in the 2018 J/22 World Championship. “I wanted to do my part to pull younger members into the class to help keep it vibrant.”
Needless to say, Dunbar was totally on board when told by Marshall about the talented group of youth sailors from the Netherlands who were looking for a ride for worlds.
“Having a team from Holland show up and use my boat to enter worlds is a real bonus. It is very valuable and a huge boost for the event,” said Dunbar, whose intention is to eventually donate this particular J/22 to a Rhode Island-based sailing foundation with the caveat it be made available to youth teams for participation in major class events.
Holtrop and crew arrived in the United States early this month and spent a week in Newport getting the boat sorted. Marshall, a resident of Jamestown, RI, helped with the process of tuning the rig and setting up the sail package.
“I went out on the water with the team and answered a lot of questions about tuning and sail shape,” said Marshall, who welcomed the four Dutch sailors into his home.
Marshall also played an instrumental role in getting some sponsorship help from Harken (deck hardware), Vela Sailing Supplies (standing rigging, ropes) and North (sails).
“We are grateful to all the companies that came aboard and helped with the boat. It has turned into quite a nice overall boat package,” he said. “Auke and his crew are very adept at fixing things themselves. They have worked really hard to get this boat prepared for worlds.”
Dunbar lent the Dutch team his own vehicle to trailer the restored J/22 to Annapolis, borrowing a friend’s truck to get his own boat here. More assistance for the Netherlands’ program has been provided by Canadian sailor Michele Cimon, who is housing the young sailors here in Annapolis.
“Michele Cimon; Matt Dunbar and Mike Marshall have been super important to making this happen and we cannot thank them enough,” Holtrop said. “It’s unbelievable that this is possible, and we are going to be racing in the world championship.”
Holtrop feels good about the boat setup, which is quite different from the J/22 his team sails in the Netherlands. “We had a lovely week of training in Newport and put a lot of effort into rigging the boat and optimizing everything the way we wanted,” he said. Holtrop is certain the competition at the 2018 J/22 World Championship will be the toughest the Dutch crew has faced to date.
“We know the level of J/22 sailing in the United States is a lot higher than in Europe, so this will be a great learning experience,” he said. “Our goal is to finish Top 15 or somewhere around there. I think the most important thing is that we have a lot of fun and we definitely plan to do that. We are already having a wonderful experience over here.”
There are six Canadian boats entered in J/22 Worlds with most coming from the Quebec province. Ron Harris, who served as president of the Canadian J/22 Class Association for six years, is competing in his fifth world championship and has a top finish of 11th in New Orleans in 2011.
“This is one of the best turnouts of Canadian boats at worlds in a while, so we are pleased with that,” said Harris, who is currently chairman of the technical committee for the International J/22 Class Association.
Harris said the six Canadian boats here in Annapolis all come from Lac dex Deux Montagnes, “Lake of Two Mountains” in English. Several of the owners are members of the Hudson Yacht Club, including Harris and current Canadian class president Trevor Collins (Alternative Girlfriend). “We have really pushed the class in the greater Montreal area,” said Harris, who bought his first J/22 in 2005.
Canada has hosted one J/22 World Championship – the 2016 edition that was held as part of the legendary Canadian Olympic Regatta at Kingston (CORK). It was a tremendous success and has the Canadian Class Association, which includes approximately 20 members, to bid for future North American and World championships.
“Kingston is the best location for fresh water sailing in Canada and I think all the teams that came to the world championship we hosted enjoyed the venue,” Harris said. Harris has an extremely experienced crew aboard Broomstick and is quite familiar with Annapolis, having sailed several North American and East Coast championships here.
“Annapolis is quite different from what we are accustomed to in Canada. When we sailed here in the past, the tidal currents were a major issue,” he said. Rounding out the list of international entries is Solstice, which will be representing South Africa. Skipper David Waiting and his wife Natalie both grew up sailing on Table Bay in Cape Town – he an avid Laser racer and she aboard various sport boats.
Waiting was introduced to the J/22 while in college, crewing for Buddy Phillips when the world championships one of the four times the world championship was held in South Africa.
Natalie Burls is a professor at George Mason University and the couple joined Severn Sailing Association shortly after moving to Fairfax, VA. Waiting is the current J/22 fleet captain at SSA but is also a member of the South African Class Association and chose to race this year’s worlds under the banner of his home country.
“I’m very proud that we were able to put together a fully South African crew,” said Waiting, who will have his wife doing foredeck and longtime friend Neil Mackeller – a Cape Town resident – in the middle.
“We have no expectations of doing well in the regatta. We’d be happy to finish in the middle of the fleet,” Waiting said. “We are still learning the J/22 so this opportunity to sail in a big fleet is invaluable. We’re the only blue boat in the regatta so we’ll be extremely conspicuous on the starting line.”