Florida Yacht Club - Jacksonville, Florida
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J24 Fleet 55, Jacksonville, FL

J24 Fleet 55 Jacksonville, FL is a 12 boat fleet, 10 of them onsite at Florida Yacht Club. We participate in 30 Wednesday night races on the St. Johns River, 4 Boat of the Year weekend races held at FYC, and several of our boats travel to compete in local and regional regattas. 

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J24 FLEET 55

Wednesday Night Sailing FAQs

Most of the adult sailors at the Florida Yacht Club sail the J-24, the world’s most popular one-design racing sailboat. (J refers to J Boats, the manufacturer; 24 is the length in feet; and one-design is a fancy way of saying all the boats are kept the same.) Recognized as Fleet 55, we have an annual competition for the Boat of the Year that is won by the crew that is the best at racing, traveling to races, and even showing up to race for fun. Most newbies come out on these more-relaxed “participation nights.” One Wednesday a month is a “points night.”

Behind the parking lot opposite the yacht club’s main building you’ll see the parked J-24s and the big blue hoist used to launch them. Park in the lot and head for the hoist. The sooner after 5 p.m. you present yourself the more likely you are to find a boat that needs someone. Once you do, offer to help out however you can. Experienced sailors can help rig the boat. Inexperienced folks can help carry sails and gear or even fetch ice from the machine. Just keep asking, “Is there anything I can do now?” If you’re running late, let someone know. Launching all these boats quickly is a bit of a dance, so waiting around isn’t really an option.

There’s the obvious: a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottle, soft-soled shoes, a rain jacket if you like and your personal life jacket if you want. Of course, check the the weather and dress for it.

And the not so obvious: a six-pack of beer, an armful of Gatorades or some snacks, especially once you become a regular. It’s a small contribution compared with that of the boat owner, who bears the costs of club dues, fleet dues, boat and sail maintenance, and dry storage.

J-24s are typically sailed with five people. The skipper is the boss. The trimmer trims the jib and spinnaker. The bow deals with the jib and spinnaker halyards and pole. The mast and middle positions together coordinate the twings, vang, cunningham, bring the spinnaker up and down and assist the bow and trimmer as needed. They also provide weight on the rail. You’ll likely start out in the middle of the boat. That’s a good thing.
Try to pick up on the dynamic of the boat and fit in. Look for the right (calm) time and ask questions. Ask if you can trim the jib, set the chute or take on another role during the sail out to the race course or back to the dock.
The people who own and sail these boats know their stuff. They’re used to — and like — helping people at all levels be better sailors. They’ll ask you to do things they need done and you’ll do it. And if you don’t, someone will jump in to help you.

That said, look for any opportunities to add value. Ask if you can locate and call out crab traps, make sure everyone is hydrated, call the time before starts or spot marks.  If you have an expertise in any area, let the group know.
Stay positive and own your mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up over them; everyone makes them, and participation nights are all about learning.
As you approach the race course you’ll see the triangle formed by two orange marks floating in the water and the committee boat. Between the committee boat and the mark nearby is the starting line. The mark in the distance is the other end of the course. It’s placed where the wind is coming from so it’s called the windward mark. This loop forms what sailors call a windward-leeward course.

From the committee boat you’ll hear a series of horns and see flags go up and down to signal the countdown to the start of each race. In sailboat racing, a good start is key, so there’s lots of jockeying around to get to the starting line (but not over it) as the countdown ends. Boats turn in front of one another for position (and to avoid collisions) using a set of rules that will become more apparent over time. For now, just watch and learn and know that some of the tensest minutes of your Wednesday night will happen before the starts.

Once the race starts the boats will tack (zig zag) to the windward mark, go around it and sail downwind on the next leg. All the while sails are being trimmed, doused and raised in a sequence that easy enough to learn but takes a lifetime to perfect. And that challenge is what keeps people racing.
After the last race, the process from beforehand is reversed. Boats dock, trailers are pulled up the hoist, the boats are hauled back to their parking spots and everything is put away. Be a team player and stay to the end, helping out when asked and asking when you’re not. You can help roll sails, pull out gear, clean up below, even empty the trash.
Yes, but it’s a little complicated. Sailors will head to the yacht club’s bar for dinner, drinks and sometimes spirited debriefing. Non-members can’t purchase food and drinks, so a member will have to do it for you. And while it’s certainly OK to accept a little hospitality, don’t expect the boat owner/member to pick up the tab every week. Ask the member what you can pay them and how.

Safely back on shore, it’s a good time to ask more questions. Now you can get explanations of any situations you might not have understood or any strategies or tactics that worked or didn’t.

If you’ve sailed before and have seen done something done differently somewhere else, resist the temptation to offer advice. Instead, ask why something is done a certain way. There’s always a reason.
Sailors want to hang around people who are positive, helpful, and willing to learn. So be those things and you’ll probably hang around!

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