International sailing competition breezes into Sippican Harbor

By Matthew Bernat | Aug 25, 2014
Courtesy of: Chris Howell Answers weren't the only thing "Blowin' in the Wind" as a sail with Bob Dylan's image catches the breeze in the J/24 U.S. National Championship last weekend. The boat's captain Micheal Sudofsky of Marion earned 19th place in the regatta.

Marion — Hundreds of competitive sailors descended on Marion last weekend, some from as far away as Australia and Japan.

The U.S. National Championship for J/24 class boats, hosted by the Beverly Yacht Club for the first time since 1986, attracted a field of 45 teams – international entries and others who call Sippican Harbor home. All were vying for the top spot in the multi-heat regatta held over three days in Buzzards Bay

Many sought to use their performance to qualify for participation in the world championship J/24 regatta in September in Newport, Rhode Island. Others were just looking to see how they would fare in a world-class field.

"This is one of the, if not the most popular, class of sailboat in the world," said Mike Sudoskfy of Marion. "You'll find races featuring these boats in South America, Japan or anywhere else in the world on any given day."

Sudoskfy's J/24, dubbed "Bob Dylan," placed 19th in the race. If awards were given for style his boat most likely would have finished in the top five. Printed on one sail was a large, black and white image of the singer-songwriter.

The J/24 is a popular keelboat as defined by the International Sailing Federation. The boats are built to similar or identical specifications. According to the International J/24 Class Association, more than 50,000 people sail the boats worldwide.

A handful of boats and their crews began arriving at Island Wharf Wednesday for the first day of registration. On Thursday, the lawn in front of the bandstand quickly filled with boats and trailers. Outside, sailors scrubbed hulls and prepared masts while sails were spread out and measured inside the Music Hall.

There were ten heats spread out over the three-day regatta. Winners were decided using the International Sailing Association and Federation low point scoring system.

"This is a pretty significant race,” said Chris Howell, executive director of the J/24 International Class. “That’s why people are here from Australia, Japan and Canada. But many of them are using it to tune up for the world championship next month.”

That’s precisely what the race’s champion had in mind.

Will Welles of Portsmouth, Rhode Island led his four-member crew to victory. Alex Bishop, Luke Lawrence, Eric Lawrence and Nick Turney joined Welles aboard his boat “Cougar.”

Welles praised his eleventh hour crew.

“We pulled together a really great team at the last minute,” Welles said. “We gelled together pretty quickly. These guys could do it all.”

He singled out Eric Lawrence for his expertise in trimming the genoa sail, a first for him on a J/24 class boat.

With more than 30 years of experience sailing J/24 class boats, Welles finished 12 points ahead of second place finisher John Mollicone of Jamestown, Rhode Island. Michael Marshall, also of Jamestown, finished third.

Following the win, Welles said he’s now preparing for the world championship.

Travis Odenbach finished in fifth place at the national championship. After five years of sailing J/24s, he’s relatively new to the class. But that hasn’t stopped him from competing at a global level.

Last year, he placed third in the J/24 World Championships held at the Howth Yacht Club in Ireland.

“Our goal is to place in the top 10 again,” Odenbach said.

A Rochester, New York resident, Odenbach said he would ship his boat, "Honey Badger," straight from Marion to Newport following this weekend’s race.

The J/24 World Championship is scheduled to start on Sept. 19 when sailors from around the world will arrive for check-in.

While the National Championships were open to anyone those competing in Newport must qualify. The World Championships will feature five days of racing hosted by the Sail Newport Sailing Center.

For more information on World Championships, visit

For complete results from the U.S. National Championship, visit

First place finisher Will Welles (center) helps his crew prepare his boat "Cougar" after the regatta ended Sunday. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
The crew of the Helly Hensen led by John Mollicone came in second place. (Courtesy of: Chris Howell)
(Courtesy of: Chris Howell)
(Courtesy of: Chris Howell)
(Courtesy of: Chris Howell)
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