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North Sails NEWS

Images © Chris Howell

A WEEK OF CLEAR AIR

Interview with Rossi Milev, 2017 J/24 World Champion

Rossi Milev sailed his first J/24 Worlds in 2000 in Newport. He didn’t win, but really enjoyed the class and the boat, so like a lot of J/24 sailors, he kept coming back for more. Seventeen years later, he finally sailed to victory at his home yacht club in Port Credit, Ontario. He set his sights on the Worlds, which happened in September of this year. Boats began to collect in the parking lot days before the event with sailors who were eager to get their boats measured in and race-ready. Port Credit Yacht Club was so “on-point” for the World Championship, they were able to get all 63 boats registered and measured one day ahead of time. From a racer’s perspective, this speedy inspection was ideal, as sailors wanted to start focusing on racing and put in some practice time. Given the conditions that happened this year, and keeping in mind that weather is unpredictable, Rossi worked hard to get this regatta to his home yacht club, as he knew they would do a great job running a World Championship for the J/24 Class. Once they won the bid for hosting the event, Rossi set his sights on taking home the trophy.

Before the first race came to an end, the fleet knew this was going to be a very tough regatta. Rossi’s team Clear Air came across the finish line not quite where they expected.

“Looking at our results from the first race, local knowledge did not pay off. The fog was thick. Halfway through the beat we had committed to the left, which was normal, but it didn’t pay off at all.” Team Clear Air was disappointed, but before the second race they put their heads together and shared a prediction. “Everybody can have a 46th place. This is the World’s. It’s going to come down the last leg of the last race.”

“We had pretty good starts, and some not so good ones. When we had bad ones we flipped on port and made the best of it. It was the perfect opportunity to crack off the sails and get the boat going as fast as we could. We would take some sterns, and even duck, which wasn’t necessarily bad. Boat speed was so important.”

All the teams found their own challenges during 8 light air races, including current. Rossi stated; “The current here was going east to west, it wasn’t really normal. We usually see [that] more in windier weather.” This unexpected adverse current became an obstacle when coming in on the starboard lay line and at mark roundings.

“Winning the J/24 Worlds is as hard as winning the Worlds in any other class. It may actually be harder, because the boats are all even. There are a lot of great sailors in the class who had deep results. Up until the last race it was still not determined who would win.”

Rossi’s team sailed the 2016 North Americans (minus 1 crew member) as well as many local races, so they knew each other; they just hadn’t been sailing the J/24 together leading up to the Worlds. Rossi only sailed one J/24 event a couple weeks before the Worlds at his home club, with a different team. “Everyone has families, work, growing businesses. We all kind of parted ways for a while.”

For the Worlds, he said, “Each day our communication got better.” He was very confident in his crew. Although they hadn’t been sailing much together, they were able to pick up where they left off. By the end of the week, they were right where they wanted to be. Rossi was also very familiar with his boat, which had won a previous J/24 Worlds. He claims she has unbelievable speed, especially in light air.

Rossi worked with Will Welles when he won the 2014 J/24 Worlds, and he says he learned a lot from his experiences sailing with and against Will about technique and boat setup during their tuning sessions. “I keep my rig just a bit looser than what the tuning guide says. I can feel the boat better, and I feel quicker and have more options and can settle into the groove.” He uses the tuning guide as a tool. He knows he is in a “safe” range, then goes by feel. He has a great feel for the boat and knows when changes need to be made for overall boat speed improvement. Rossi had trained on Lake Ontario in light air ahead of the Pan Am Games a few years ago. He said that contributed to his loose rig setting at this years’ Worlds; in the same conditions, he felt very confident in his settings.

“The steps I would move to on the rig were in increments, at a half-turn rate. Small adjustments are key in lighter air, and I never go the next full step unless the wind picks up more significantly. I have a great feel for the boat and helm, and can tell when changes need to be made.”

We asked Rossi what he thought about moving the mast butt. “I did move it a couple of times when I was training with Will and Tony Parker in the days prior to racing. I found a sweet spot that I liked and the boat felt great. I ended up leaving it there for the whole regatta, as it was the right balance between my sails, foils, and helm.” As for moving the mastbutt, he says, “just gives you a piece of mind.”

We asked Rossi what his number one tip would be to all J/24 sailors. He replied;

“Always look at your leeward shrouds. You want to see them dangle a bit. That’s how I decide how much I need to come on or off the rig.”

Rossi is focusing on work again, but he’d like to sail with other teams in 2018. He already has his sights set on the 2019 Worlds in Miami, and the upcoming winter circuit is of interest to him spending time sailing with good friends.

“Miami will be awesome. It will be another hard Worlds to win again. The stronger more prominent current, bigger breeze, and waves will have more effect on overall performance. It will be very different from this year.”

We asked Rossi what he likes about the J/24 Class and what keeps him coming back for more. He was humble as he replied;

“I like the J/24 Class because it is affordable and the sailors are very good. We wouldn’t have as many youth and women’s teams out there if it was expensive like a lot of other more high-performance classes. The J/24 is a great boat to learn from and race, and the events are a lot of fun. There is a reason why nothing has replaced it. How many young people have learned how to sail on a J/24? A lot of them. Because it is fun. It’s a good Class to be a part of.”

For the 2017 Worlds, Rossi’s inventory consisted of North Sails Fat Head Mainsail, DX-7TT Genoa, and FR-2 Spinnaker. Click here for more information on our products, or to speak with your local expert.

North Sails J/24 Tuning Guide