With eyes on the dispute for the overall victory between the two 52 footers in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, you may have missed the victory in the inaugural Two-Handed category by Jules Hall and Jan Scholten on J/99 “Disko Trooper-Contender Sailcloth“, for all three handicap systems IRC, ORCi and PHS.
Beyond the exceptional sporting prowess, preparation and determination achieved by Jules and Jan during one of the most difficult editions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, this victory perfectly exemplifies the performance envisaged with the design of the J/99.
Following their win, Jules spoke with Di Pearson: “We run a very structured program. We had a goal, and the goal was to win this race. We broke down the jobs. How we need to sail, how we need to navigate, how we needed to resource the boat. Then came the nutrition and psychology.
“We wanted to win the Sydney Hobart, so [it was about] what did we need to do to sail our best race?
The interesting point, unique to each two-handed boat, is that some boats have navigation skills, some have boat building skills, some have steering skills etc. But at the same time, you have to be able to fix the boat, manage it and branch out from your comfort zone.“
And Jan spoke with Bow Caddy Media– “A good all-round nice boat, you can sail it fully crewed, you can sail it two-handed with the deck layout. Regarding Contender Sailcloth for the sails: “For short-handed sailing there is an opportunity for us with panel sails. For this size boat panel sails are well and truly proving itself now and in the past, its cost effective it can be made in Australia so it’s a perfect test bed to show all that”
The J/99 was designed by Alan Johnstone from J/Boats, engineered and built in France by J/Composites. During its design, the motivation of the shipyard teams has always been to make a versatile sailboat, easy to handle and perform, but also to build a very stable and solid unit.
What better proof than to find the two J/99’s being the two smallest boats in the fleet to finish ahead of many fully crewed and much larger yachts on the water, and in a race with 43% retirement (including 59% in the Two-Handed division) due to the tough conditions on the first night. These conditions clearly required a stiff and solid boat but additionally serious skills from the crew to adapt the watch between skipper and co skipper and always keep a focus on performance while having a conservative attitude to maintain all the equipment and their bodies in good shape for the rest of the race.
The second J/99 ‘Rum Rebellion’ had only been launched a few weeks before the event so the crew Shane Connelly and Graeme Dunlop had minimal time to prepare and practice. It is this performance that gives the Rum Rebellion duo the great satisfaction of being at the finish line. Speaking with Shane after the race he commented: “Full credit to Jules and Jan on Disko Trooper-Contender Sailcloth for their tenacity and courage to stay out at sea on the first night. The conditions out there with the strong winds over current were appalling which was evidenced by the majority of retirements from yachts which stayed east.”
Rum Rebellion opted to head inshore to conserve themselves and the boat, but with dogged determination and great team effort managed to get back to 3rd place by Iron Pot lighthouse on the approach to Hobart. Their final test was the last 40nm leg into Hobart when the breeze completely died taking 15hours to finish this leg. Unfortunately, they tore their large kite early on so were disadvantaged for the light air sections of the race plus the boats behind sailed in pressure so filled the gap quickly.
Shane commented: “The strength of the J/99 is that it is a great boat on all quarters – some boats are good upwind, down or reaching, but the J/99 strength is how it sails on all points of sail in all conditions. For our budget, the J/99 offers really great design, rig, boom, sail size – everything is just right. She’s an easy boat to sail, and easy to sail at 95% potential and hold it there – just a great fun boat.”
Frederic Bouvier, Commercial Manager at J/Composites commented:
“The J/99 winning the Two-Handed trophy in all types of handicap illustrates the design choices made for the J/99. The objective has never been to seek the best rating in a specific system or the best performance under very specific conditions. The aim has been above all to deliver a sailboat that can achieve good performance for an amateur owner, in all conditions and all rating systems.
The Two-Handed category could not compete for victory overall for reasons difficult to understand, but by making some comparisons the J/99 Two-Handed would have also gained an overall victory in ORCi and would have finished 4th in IRC overall behind 2x 52 footers and a 47 footer. All this while being the only one of these four to have entered the final leg into Hobart at night and into dying breeze putting the nerves and stamina of the crew to the test to finish the last 9 miles in 4 hours and 30 minutes at an average speed of 2 knots, finishing the 628nm at 3am.
The final point of satisfaction is also the ability to demonstrate that with a contained budget, it is possible to win a great classic. The J/99’s Disko Trooper-Contender Sailcloth and Rum Rebellion are standard J/99’s with bulb keel, single rudder as well as aluminium mast and boom. A little over a year ago we were in contact with Jules Hall to validate the relevance of this specification and thus their hope to perform in the Sydney Hobart; we can only thank them for their trust.
Disko Troopers choice for the sails also fell on a technology adapted to boats of this size, they only used Contender Sailcloth panel sails insisting on their vision of obtaining the best level of performance with the most contained budget. All this together made it possible to create a completely coherent platform in terms of performance with a limited budget. Plus, the J/99 offers the versatility for a family cruise around Hobart waters before sailing back home.”
Congratulations to Jules, Jan, Shane and Graeme for their phenomenal achievement in one of the most difficult and testing Rolex Sydney to Hobart races for many years, and above all racing just two-handed and the two smallest boats to finish the race – outstanding!