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J/121 Class & Open Course Racing

J/121 Open Course racing combines the best of distance and buoy racing and packs it into a half-day time-slot to better fit people’s time-crunched schedules.  Sailors are trending towards events that offer more variety and adventure, and not just 4-leg, windward-leeward W-4 courses.  Open Course doesn’t eliminate windward/leeward sailing, it simply expands it to include other points of sail on a stretched-out track that rewards navigation, weather routing and strategy as much as it does boat-handling, racing rules and tactics.

Three Bridge Fiasco course on San Francisco BayThe Open Course format and scoring can be applied over any length course, including overnight races. For distance day-racing, the idea is to sail within sight and access to the shoreline including, where possible, courses around islands and other interesting coastal features.  The starting line is set to suit the course and NOT always upwind.  One could start on a beam-reach sprint leg with Code 0’s flying like the America’s Cup.  An example at right is the famous Three-Bridge Fiasco course on San Francisco Bay- an event that regularly attracts 300+ boats.

In a shift from traditional scoring, every race is 5-6 races in one, with incentives built in for great performances during the race.  The overall race has its normal placings (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), but each leg has its own elapsed time trial, providing an opportunity for any team to pick up bonus points for having won a leg, even if they happen to be deep in the fleet at the time.  One leg of each race is additionally designated as the SPEED RECORD leg where the boat with the top recorded speed (as documented in the satellite GPS race tracker) is rewarded.  The idea is to acknowledge and reward highlights teams have during a race - highlights that might not otherwise show up on a normal score.  This incentive-based scoring system can easily be expanded in a fun way to encourage the development of other offshore skills in preparation for an upcoming signature offshore event.

Open Course racing is inspired by and tailor-made for the J/121, the newest J/Boats design that’s optimized for half the normal number of crew, and with the hull form, stability and sail plan perfectly suited for all-points, open style sailing.

The idea is to expand the typical W/L closed course racing into distance day racing with more course variety, less athletic boat-handling, and built-in scoring incentives for winning individual legs. The Open Course concept is growing and we’re currently engaging with event organizers to help introduce this format for future regattas.

J/121 Class Rules apply the best practices from years of one-design management and condensed them into an easy-to-read document that underlines the design mandate of the J/121 –a 40’ speedster that can be day raced or distance sailed by a short- handed crew.

A few highlights:
- Five sail inventory– one main, two jibs, and two spinnakers. The two jibs and Code 0 on furlers.
- Corinthian crew with limit of one Group 3 sailor.
- A target crew weight max of 1,050lbs (same as the J/105 Class) to encourage crews of 5-6 sailors.
- In races over 25 miles, multiple crew can drive.

J/121 Event Schedule:

Jun 15        Newport to Bermuda Race (Newport RI)
Jul 12-15    Rolex New York Yacht Club Race Week (Newport RI)  
July 27        New England Solo/Twin Championship (Newport, RI)
Aug 17        Ida Lewis Distance Race (Newport, RI)
Aug 31        Stamford-Vineyard Race (Stamford, CT)
Sep 2          Around the Island Race (Jamestown, RI)
Sep 29        Sail for Hope Regatta (Newport, RI)    
Sep 30        Bud Humphrey Race (Barrington, RI)

Feb 18        Rolex Caribbean 600 (Antigua)
Feb 28        Heineken Regatta (St. Maarten)
Mar 22        St. Thomas International Regatta (St. Thomas, USVI)
Mar 25        BVI Spring Regatta (Tortola, BVI)
Apr 14         Les Voiles de St. Barths
May 24        Storm Trysail Block Island Race (Stamford, CT)
Jun 17         Storm Trysail Block Island Race Week

Sailing photo credits- Paul Todd/ Outside Images and Billy Black