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An interview with Spencer May on the 2023 Jamin J/22 International Regatta

by David Schmidt 21 Nov 2023 16:00 GMT November 28, 2023
33rd Annual Jamin J/22 Regatta © 33rd Annual Jamin J/22 Regatta

For most of North America, at least the northern stretches, early December isn't usually celebrated as a great time to go keelboat racing. Fortunately for J/22 sailors, Jamaica is situated where it's warm, sunny, and often blessed with trade wind conditions. It's also home to the Montego Bay Yacht Club, which is hosting their 34th annual Jamin J/22 International Regatta from November 30 to December 3.

The regatta places a high emphasis on fun, all competitors charter local boats, which is included with registration. But, being a competitive One Design event, many visitors arrive with new sets of sails in their checked luggage.

While the Jamin J/22 Regatta can be won with older air foils (see below), all participants are encouraged to arrive at this year's "holiday"-themed regatta with festive attire (see below) and accompanying attitudes.

I checked in with Spencer May, regatta chair and commodore of the hosting Montego Bay Yacht Club, to learn more about this exciting J/22 regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Jamin' J/22 Regatta, its history, and its culture? When did the event begin, and what kinds of sailors does it tend to attract?

The regatta first started in 1989 as the Jam-Am Invitational when there were close ties with the U.S. J/22 sailing fraternity, after Tony Hart brought down the J/22 fleet that we are still racing today. The regatta was designed as an open invitation to the USA and designed with the emphasis on fun.

The regatta evolved into an international invitational open to entries from all around the world. Jamin' is held at the beginning of December every year for any sailors who are willing to come and risk the warm tropical trade winds, sun and the blue waters of the Caribbean- tough duty, we know.

The whole event revolves around having fun on and off the water.

The winner of the event by extension is a "J/22 Global Champion" and obviously a "Living Legend" as every year the entire world is invited to come and play!

We have attracted sailors from the J/22 Worlds podiums to former collegiate sailors who are looking forward to getting back on the water. Everyone who comes to Jamin' has the right attitude and makes sure the event is run with safety and fun at the forefront.

Can you please walk us through what the logistics typically look like for a visiting team to get a boat on the starting line? Are we talking about loaned boats, charters, or are people shipping their own boats to the regatta?

The J/22s are loaned by local owners, free-of-charge, for the use of visitors, many of whom are returning competitors, ready to put a little love into their loaners to get them in prime condition for the starting line.

We have seen teams shipping boats in, especially from Cayman, and while it is absolutely doable, there needs to be a lot of coordination to get the boats off the wharf and to the starting line without issue.

Following up on that last question, I see that competitors are encouraged to bring their own set of Royalty Paid J/22 sails. Is this common practice? If so, do teams need to buy new sails if they want to do well at this regatta, or have teams been successful using older sails?

It is always recommended that competitors bring their own sails and possibly running rigging, as the local owners are usually pretty happy to take them off of visitors after the competition is over.

In 2019, the third-place team used a set of 2008 North Sails and there were 13 boats on that year's starting line, so it can be done.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing ahead of this year's event? How does this number stack up against previous recent editions?

Covid left a couple years of slightly lower entry, but this year's starting line is expected to have 8-10 boats, sailed by five to six local teams and the rest on loan to visitors.

Without shipping in boats, this is about 80-90% of the Jamaican fleet, which is a wonderful outcome.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Montego Bay in late November/early December? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Breeze will be blowing: last year was stronger than usual 18-plus knots. Competitors should expect 10-15 knots while racing and if it gets stronger than that, we have a beautiful lagoon that is just around the peninsula, which will be utilized to keep boats and competitors out of harm's way.

Worst-Case scenario is shorter than normal races due to light breeze.

Best-Case, and what we are anticipating, is north-easterly trade winds sitting consistently between 14-18 knots.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) sailors, what would it be?

The priority is safety and fun, so come to have a good time and cast your worries aside. If you want sailing advice, get out on the water for a practice session and learn how the hills and buildings of Montego Bay affect the windward mark roundings.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

This regatta is about as low impact as possible, no step and repeat banners for prize-giving backdrop, refillable water bottles are encouraged for each competitor, cooler with ice and water is provided.

We have also been working to secure some spectator vantage points on the land, along the course to reduce the number of spectators on motorboats.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about this year's Jammin' J/22 Regatta, for the record?

Absolutely! The theme of this year's Jamin' J/22 Regatta is "Holiday", so teams have been advised to dress up in their favorite holiday attire, whether local, regional, global, religious or drinking! We are looking forward to some great outfits from teams "celebrating" Oktoberfest, American Independence, Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas!

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