LAKE GARDA, ITALY — Southwest Harbor native Will Welles landed his second J24 world championship title in four years earlier this month.
A former member of the MDIHS Sailing Team, Welles and three other J24 world champions sailed the boat, Kaster, to lead the 40th year of the international regatta. One of 89 teams from 14 countries, Welles and his team were in the lead throughout the week of racing.
Lake Garda is located at the start of the Alps between big mountains.
“It’s a much bigger version of Somes Sound, if you will,” said Welles. “It’s a nice windy venue.”
In the morning hours, wind blows down the lake from the north at about 12-20 knots. Typically winds die down at mid-day and then come out of the south at 15-20 knots during the afternoon.
Welles was the only American to include two Italian sailors on his team for the regatta. Along with previous championship teammates Nick Turney of Cleveland, Ohio, and Rich Bowen of Charleston, S.C., the team included Andrea Casale of Genoa, Italy, who skippered for the 2008 J24 world championship team and Giuliana Cattarozzi of Garda, Italy, who owns the boat, Kaster.
“They all kind of go the same speed,” said Welles about the J24, “and they’re not that fast. The key is to get a good start on the course.”
It also helps to have someone who is familiar with weather conditions to sail the lake well, such as Casale.
“We were fortunate enough to favor the right side, which seemed to be 90 percent of the race,” said Welles. “We had most boats behind us.”
He and his father, the late Ted Welles, were instrumental in starting the sailing team at the high school and the Community Sailing School in Southwest Harbor. Welles began sailing at a young age and playing around with boats, saying his mother often had a difficult time tearing him away for dinner.
After graduating from high school in 1993, Welles went on to sail for the University of New Hampshire team. He has lived in Newport, R.I. with his wife and daughter for the last 16 years. There he sails frequently and works for North Sails One Design.
“We got there a week early and measured in our boat,” said Welles about his trip to Italy.
They practiced for a few days and then sailed the regatta. It was made up of nine races spread out across five days.
“It was a long week,” said Welles. “We were leading all the way through and we were able to keep that momentum going and seal the deal.”
Welles sails in a handful of J24 races throughout the year around the world. In 2014, in addition to winning his first J24 World Championship, he also won the National J24 Championship title. Welles has qualified for and raced in the worlds six times before and won the nationals in 2010.
“The J24 is an old class with a lot of history,” said Welles in an interview with a Rhode Island paper. “I’d say the racing is probably closer than it has ever been with all of the sailors knowing the tricks to make a J24 go fast. I always say, sail in the fleets that are in your backyard and the J24 has always been there for me.”