About J/24 Fleet 43, Casco Bay Maine
J/24 Fleet 43 - Casco Bay, Maine was organized in the early 1980s as a combination of smaller fleets of J/24s sailing at various yacht clubs in Casco Bay, Maine. At the height of the popularity of the J/24 class sailboat there were over 35 J/24s sailing regularly on Casco Bay out of Harraseeket, Portland & Centerboard Yacht Clubs. Currently the fleet is mostly out of Portland Yacht Club with others sailing out of Falmouth Town Landing and Handy Boat Service all in Falmouth, Maine. The fleet organizes Wednesday Night Races in cooperation with Portland Yacht Club from May to September.
The fleet also organizes the world famous J/24 Downeast Regatta the first weekend after Labor Day each year. The Downeast Regatta hosts between 25 and 40 boats from all over the U.S. and Canada every year. This event is famous for the great sailing, excellent race committee work, amazing venue, awesome Maine Traditional Lobster Bake, wild live musical entertainment and much more. The event has been hosted annually since 1983, so for over 35 years! A huge thanks goes out to the thousands of volunteers and sponsors that have made this event possible for decades.
Built on the success of the Downeast Regatta, the fleet with Portland Yacht Club and Handy Boat hosted the 2015 J/24 North American Championships that saw 49 boats race over 4 days in awesome Maine sailing conditions. In 2018 the fleet, Portland Yacht Club and Handy Boat again teamed up to host the J/24 US National Championship which also had 49 boats and over 200 sailors compete for this major championship.
More about J24 Fleet 43 & the J24 Sailboat
The J/24 Fleet 43 was formed in the great room of the Portland Yacht Club in Falmouth, ME in 1980 and is going strong to this day. That first summer there were close to 25 boats on the starting line. Impressive fact because the boat was only designed by Rodney Johnstone in his garage in the summer of 1975. Johnstone hoped to create a boat that could be competitive in offshore racing but also was a relatively inexpensive way to get a family out on the water for overnights. Today there are over 5,000 J24s worldwide. Fleet 43 is one of the strongest J/24 fleets in the country, regularly getting close to 15 boats on the starting line for our Wednesday Night Series that runs from May to September.
The J/24 sails with 4-6 people and the crew should have a combined weight of 882 lbs. In our fleet, each team hosts race committee once during the summer and an award is given to the best race committee. We start racing at 5:30 or 6:00 pm depending upon what time the sun sets and try for two to three good races that are about 45 to 60 minutes in length. The sailors join together at Portland Yacht Club afterwards for drinks and that evening’s race committee bring fun snacks to share as we recount the evening’s achievements, blunders, and what the wind did or didn’t do for us. Sometimes we play video from the evening and share photos.
Molly White, the heart of Fleet 43 and current President of the J/24 National Class says about us, “We have a strong balance of both genders and our fleet is an inviting one for women, men, and kids of all ages—from junior sailors to kids who are in their 60s and 70s. We are a fun-loving close-knit group of people who work together as a fleet to better each other as sailors. Across the country, and our fleet is no exception, the class is very welcoming and will support anyone who joins. Also, the J/24 is a boat that you can get involved with for minimal cost—to get in at the entry level.”
The coveted Tonini Trophy is named after our famed and passed sailor George Tonini who owned J/24 1031 Trick or Treat. Steph Helms, one of the legends of the J/24 fleet herself, said about George, “He was an active guy and an active member who just enjoyed the hell out of sailing. He was inspirational and was an all-around great guy. He made it fun and was a pretty damn good sailor who raced in every opportunity.” The Tonini Series is won by the team with the best record over the entire season in the Wednesday Night Series and includes other local regattas such as the Pilot Regatta (when there are three or more J24 teams) and includes the Downeast.
If you’d like to purchase a J/24 check out the national website http://j24usa.com. If you are or know of young sailors under the age of 25 who would like to start racing, check out info about the boat grant program: http://j24usa.com/boat-grant-program/