Brian Keane and team Savasana are the 2023 J/70 North American Champions after nine races over four days of sailing in Chicago.
The team catapulted to an early lead during the week, securing three bullets out of four races on day three, that provided a healthy cushion heading into the last day. Bruce Golison, who was in the running for the champion title after the first two days, pulled out of the event with his team Midlife Crisis on day three. Keane, who hails from Beverly Yacht Club, has dominated the J/70 fleet this season and credited strong teamwork with Thomas Barrows, Conner Harding and Ronald Weed.
Results Top 5 overall (9 races minus worst score):
- Savasana: 3-2-1-1-1-6-3-[46BFD]-29; 46
- 3 Ball JT: 19-11-2-3-2-2-2-6-; 47
- Rowdy: -8-9-15-13-4-1-11-6; 67
- Casting Couch: -1-3-2-12-21-5-14-15; 73
- Level 5: 7-10-7-8-7-16--16-5; 76
Savasana sailed a near perfect regatta for much of the week, marred by one Black flag start on the penultimate race. Despite the second-place team 3 Ball JT––helmed by Jack Franco, with a team of two-time J/70 NA Champions Jud Smith, Patrick Wilson and Bill Hardesty––closing in on Savasana in the final few races, Keane and company pulled off the win.
3 Ball JT engaged Savasana in the final race of the regatta with both boats rounding the first windward mark at the back of the pack. Savasana started race nine with an 11-point lead (17 points overall) over 3 Ball JT (28 points), and 41 points over the next place boat, Cate Muller-Terhune’s Casting Couch (58). Teams were scored minus their worst place finish, and with a Black flag as Savasana’s drop already counted, 3 Ball JT had much more leverage to play ball against Savasana only and come out on top overall if successful. In the end, Savasana managed to hold onto the win by one point.
“In the last race, Jack just went and attacked us hard,” Keane said. “He sat on us up the entire windward leg, and we kept trying to tack out of there and he just kept covering us. We were way back, probably the last boat. Downwind, we gybe set, and he followed. Then we went to wing and were able to pass them, which gave us freedom to go in the second windward leg. We were fighting like crazy. It was a lot of boats we had to pass.”
The win comes about a month before the World Championship, hosted by St. Petersburg Yacht Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, Oct. 30-Nov. 5.
“I think we’re confident,” Keane said on how he feels looking toward the World Championship. “We feel the boat is going well, the teamwork is excellent. I think we have a very strong ability to change modes in a variety of conditions––if it’s windy, light, wavy, flat, we know what we need to do. There’s a lot of good boats out there, so it’s going to be tough. This was excellent preparation for October.”
Savasana’s successes this year (Bacardi Cup, Midwinter Championship in Miami, Davis Island Winter Series and Verve Inshore) are all the more sweet for skipper Keane, who was treated for cancer this past spring and has inspired many on the racecourse with his perseverance.
“This year is special,” he said. “Earlier in the year, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve sought excellent treatment. I’m very optimistic about that, but it adds a sort of urgency. And I think that’s made all the difference. Everybody’s been supportive. I had chosen to go public with the cancer a while back, and I’m glad I did because more people should talk about it because millions of people have it. Everyone has been so supportive, it’s a great sailing community. And I’m very thankful for that.”
Another regatta winner was USA 1516, helmed by Lee Sackett and co-owned by Dave Kerr. The team was crowned the top Corinthian boat in the fleet after a successful nine races landed them 15th overall with 124 points. Rounding out the team was local Chicago sailor Erica Trejo and Michael Booker of St. Petersburg, Florida.
With only one entry in the Mixed+ division, Laura Sigmond’s Norboy took the honor, ending the regatta in 12th place overall with 97 points.
Hestia, helmed by Chicago Yacht Club member James Murray, was the top team in the One-Pro division, finishing 26th overall with 196 points.
Chicago Yacht Club hosted the 2023 J/70 North American Championship at Belmont Harbor. Conditions were light and lumpy in the first two days of racing and increased to moderate winds on days three and four with a choppy sea state on Lake Michigan.
“We’re so appreciative of everyone coming out for the event,” said Eileen O’Neill Gioielli, co-chair of the regatta. “I’m so glad we got some great racing in the end and Chicago delivered for the J/70 sailors.”
“It’s great to see several women competing at this high level,” said Claire O’Neill, co-chair of the regatta. “We’d love to see more in the future. All the competitors from around the world have been very friendly, and it’s a great community.”
Chicago Yacht Club would like to thank sponsors AA Dive Services, Acqua Panna, Boater’s Closet, Casa Azul, Crowley’s, Noble Oak, North Sails, Sail 22, Samuel Adams, San Pelligrino and Twisted Tea.
Report by Amy Baxter Felder