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Gipsy Moth IV: A Legend Sails Again by Paul Gelder
Gipsy Moth IV: A Legend Sails Again by Paul Gelder

Ian Southworth reviews his unique J24 World Championship win

by Ian Southworth 7 Sep 2015 17:47 BST 31 August - 4 September 2015
Ian Southworth's team on J/24 Worlds day 2 at Boltenhagen, Germany © Pepe Hartmann / J/24 worlds

Five boats, ten years, six European Championship titles, a core crew of three, a Genius and a Unicorn. Quite a combination, but that's what it took for a British boat to finally win the J24 Worlds.

I first sailed the J24 in the late eighties, through the nineties, having great fun, winning Nationals and even a Europeans. But I have to say, looking back, we had no idea what it took to win in the Worlds' most successful One- Design boat.

In 2003, we came across a derelict abandoned boat in a Hamble boat yard. She was the legendary "Hedgehog", a Rogers-built 1986 boat. We rebuilt her not once, but twice, bought two rigs, then replaced her with a brand-new hull for the 2005 Worlds, which we then had to sell to pay the bills.

At times the costs and disappointments nearly sunk us, but we kept going through to the 2008 Worlds, where were third yet again. We rebuilt another boat for the 2009 Euros and to qualify for the Annapolis Worlds. At the end if the year we found our current boat in Belfast, an Italian-built for Chris Larsen in 1987.

We called her Il Riccio - Italian for Hedgehog. She is minimum weight and beautifully prepared.

Since 2010, Riccio has won the UK Nationals; the Irish Nationals; the Europeans twice and clocked 2nd, 4th and now 1st in the Worlds.

But real secret ingredient of our campaign are the people. And I would like to note their contributions.

Starting in the Cockpit with Andy McLelland:

Andy is a past Swan Class National and European champion and gifted J24 helmsman. He is the cockpit powerhouse, rig supremo and highly motivated physical driver.

He has been with us from the start. Andy has been my partner on many "wine testing" and "one and in" regatta evenings. And he is always ready for the toughest days and still trims up and down wind. He can take great pleasure that the gym hours, the mental stress and the disruption to home life have finally paid off.

As tactician we have a Genius.

The man behind Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy's Olympic campaigns, is now the head coach for the German Olympic programme. They are lucky to have him.

Talked onto our programme in 2009 in Crete by Chris - who first met him at the Tallinn Pre- Olympics in 1977 - David "Sid" Howlett has transformed our approach.

Minute approach to detail. Unfailing focus around the race course. Real passion for the sport and a true Olympian. He also introduced afternoon Tea and Cake de-briefings, instead if a pint of beer or two and insists on dinner at 7pm - but we have forgiven him!

At mast is the "Chief Cat Herder", Chris McLaughlin. A former International 14 sailor, I first sailed with him in a Fireball in 1983 and then in an Olympic 470 campaign.

Chris drives the decade-long campaign, sourcing boats, equipment, booking flights, sails, entries, ferries and hotels. At different times, he has been bowman, tactician but never boat builder. He is not allowed to touch knives, or screwdrivers!

Which brings us to the Unicorn. Julia "Jools" Scott has been on the bow since 2010.

Another Olympic Class Sailor, she brings clear calm thinking, wonderful humour and pure skill to the bow. She is also our "Unicorn" and those who have viewed the "hot/crazy" matrix on YouTube will know what we mean.

Our thanks also go to John and Raewyn Bennett at Sparloft New Zealand; to Vince Brun and Chris Snow, who helped at a critical point in 2010; to David Heritage yachts, who restored Riccio; to Petticrow Boats and their recent work and to North Sails UK.

Special mention and thanks go to US sailor, Max Skelly, a member of the crew from 2006 to 2009, who taught us how to really set-up a J24.

Thanks also to Nigel Smith, Mark Hayman, Mike Kite and Ashley Bower for their championship winning efforts during the last decade.

This has been a real "people programme" and that is at the heart of sailing.

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