Willem Van Waay Wins J-24 Sailing World Championship In Miami’s Biscayne Bay - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

Willem Van Waay Wins J-24 Sailing World Championship In Miami’s Biscayne Bay

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Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019 12:27 pm | Updated: 12:30 pm, Mon Nov 4, 2019.

Willem Van Waay’s sailing expertise goes back several years and includes the six college championships he helped win at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Now Coronado resident Van Waay has achieved six world championships across several different classes of boats. His most recent championship came in Miami at the J 24 World Championships. A week-long event that ran from Oct. 19-26, the field included a total of 79 boats, representing 20 different countries. Five past J 24 world champions participated in the event.

Van Waay described the boat and crew. “There is a weight limit for the crew, and it’s either a five or six person boat. A Japanese or Women’s team might have a crew of six or seven, but most U.S. teams include five medium-sized guys. The boat is 24 feet long and there are 5,500 of the boats that have been built. It’s the most popular keel boat on the planet and they’re relatively inexpensive. Everybody in the competition had new sails and you can’t skimp on those. For the Worlds, they take strict measurements and all of the boats are identical in total weight, mast height, and the sails are measured. That makes it tougher to win.”

Van Waay’s boat is owned by Keith Whittemore and the rest of the crew is from Seattle. “I was helping with the tactics, serving as the main grinder and the speed guy. And we were very fast. I do most of the tactics at the start of the race and I keep my owner calm. I am the most experienced guy in the program and my job was to keep everyone focused and keep our stuff together.”

Leading up to the World Championships, Van Waay and the crew trained for six months, all the while living in a home in Coconut Grove, a fashionable area of Miami. Their training sessions included two-boat testing, and their training partner took fourth place in the Worlds. “We trained a little more than most teams and we had our own chef,” Van Waay explained. “Vicki Carlson, who used to work for Emerald City in Coronado, was our chef. She did a great job and she has a great personality. It can be stressful if you are winning a regatta and a crew member doesn’t fit in. It can be a disaster, but Vicki was fantastic.”

The World Championships consist of 10 races, over five days of competition, with two races daily. Each race is eight miles long. Van Waay’s boat, named ‘Furio’ (USA 5325) was tied for the lead with two other boats after the first day of competition and slowly expanded their lead each day. They finished with a flourish, winning two of the final three races. Van Waay said, “We entered the final day leading by 10 points and we had a very stressful, final day. In the final race, we tacked the fleet. We got into first place and we managed to cross the entire fleet of 79 boats. There was a big thunderstorm coming in for the last race with rain squalls, conditions that allow you to make big gains or big losses. We got ahead and we just had to stay between our competitors and the finish line. When we crossed the finish line, we all jumped in the water and all of the other boats passed us. I said, ‘It was a pleasure sailing with you guys, and winning a World Championship is the best experience of your life.’ It all kind of fell into place and we won the World Championship by 16 points.”

Van Waay’s career currently straddles the older school J 24 boats and the newer J 70’s. Van Waay returned home to Coronado after the J 24 World Championships, but he’ll soon be off to sail in the J 70 Chilean Nationals and the J 70 European Championships. “Then I go back to Coconut Grove in Miami for the Bacardi Series. I sail about 150 days a year in the J 70’s. Everybody wants to race in Miami during the winter and from December through March, there are a few different circuits which race there.”

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