During my last trip overseas, I made time to visit the Japanese fleet and the Singapore fleets.
One of the Japanese fleets is located at Waseda Yacht Club where the President of the Japanese J24 association, Tommy Hatakeyama, sails from with Team Gekko.
I caught a train from Tokyo at 7am down to Misakiguchi to arrive at around 9am. Tommy was there with his team and picked me up at the train station. After a 15 minute drive we arrived at Waseda Yacht Club. I thought we were going to just have a meeting and look at the boats. Tommy asked, Mr. Peter, are you coming sailing with us today? I of course responded yes of course.
Of course I didn’t have any gear with me.I was whisked away to a modern3 storey glass apartment building just 5 mins walking distance from the yacht club to Gekko House owned by team boss and CommodoreShigeru Namiki, where we had a discussion about the Australian scene, the worlds and the Asian Pacific regatta.
When we went to look at the boats, Mr. Namiki came over and said lets go to the club. It’s 10 am, and he says let drink beer, it is absolutely rudeness to refuse Japanese hospitality so I accept. We drink a long neck of Japanese beer, he says another one?? Ok, comes back with some fried fish dish and we sink another long neck. Lets go he says and we go down to the travel lift which must be a 20 tonner, the Japanese use little transporters which are electric similar to what the airlines use. Boats are backed into the slip, two slings up and in the water in 2 mins with military precision – what would you expect from a professional Japanese yard team?
One of the crew runs down with Team Gekko’s boss’s spare set of Musto gear, and we are off.
We motor out into the bay, set the sails and go sailing. In the meantime the fleet is starting to grow and we hover around a rib in the bay.2 boats arrive, then 3,4,5,6. I ask are we racing? The answer is NO, not today, just sail training. What are we doing today I ask, Just practice starting today. It’s around 11am and the pin is set and a weather mark around 150-200 metres. Bang goes the hooter and we are in a 4 min countdown, forget 5 mins these guys can’t afford to lose time.
I’m working pit on Gekko, one of the teams boats for today. We time the start right and blow the fleet away. We sail around 50 metres and Tommy yells out something in Japanese and the fleet peels off and back to the line. He yells out something to Mr. Nobuo Nakazawa, who is the rib driver and runs Gekko House.
Hooter goes, 4 mins is the call and into the start sequence again , we jostle for position and the start is very close. We hike out and lee bow the windward boat, we are in front.
We sail for 100 metres this time, and Tommy recalls the fleet. He is the boss on the water for training.
I am really enjoying this:- I now know the drill – this time 1 lap.
Back to the line again and bang, we are off again. We position the boat well after a few close bumps from leeward and bumping the weather boat. I am loving this, we get a reasonable start and work hard hiking and pull out in front. 1 lap great, I call to Tommy we going kite? He says no, course too short. I say lets go kite and he nods. Pole goes up and we burn down the run, nobody else go kite. WOW these Italian specials are quick. We round the pin and finish. Wait for the fleet. He says ONE more – we have done about 5 starts now and this will be the 6th.
Bang, gun goes again. Tommy yells out to the fleet 2 laps, We all look for the best position off the line and we smoke it again. We are out in front by 3 or 4 boat lengths. Tommy says to me penalty turn practice, I go ready, we swing the boat around hard, dump the mast man in the piss as he didn’t hear the call, complete the turn.He managed to hang on the rail, pull him in and we are still ahead.
Pole goes up, all the fleet have their poles up and six boats run down neck and neck pumping and surfing down the waves. We finish and raft up the rib. Lunch time around 12.30. We have lunch, change bowman with the other Gekko boat and get back into for another hour and a half.
We pick up the buoys and head home. What a fantastic day! Had a couple of whiskies with the boss, took photo’s and said goodbyes.
Anyone who has the time, certainly go sailing in Japan. Japan has 50 J’s scattered all over the place but they all get together to provide a large fleet for their Nationals.
For additional photos, please visit www.hiyachtracing.com