Escapade is not really a racing boat and we are not really racers, but we happen to be here and there is a major annual regatta taking place, so why not?
To make it interesting we are competing with another Outremer 51: Archer, owned by Rick and Julie Palm. We met at the boatyard in France last year when both boats were being commissioned. Archer and Escapade are from the same mould and the same age but there are differences in the rigs. We have a self-tacking jib and a rotating carbon mast. She has an overlapping genoa and a conventional rig. The mainsails and gennakers are identical. We have elected not to use our Code 0 sail as we are expecting 20 knot winds during the regatta. Both boats are measured for a CSA rating which should adjust for these differences so the boats can race together. The ratings are close but our elapsed race times will be adjusted to handicap Escapade for her carbon mast.
The week begins with a couple of warm-up races. Tuesday is the Round Tortola Race. We are joined by Chris as crew for the day, and Beverly as photographer.
A great day racing round the island. We went round in about 5hrs and we beat Archer by about 12 minutes, but would it be enough? Results are posted as we are celebrating our day at the bar. Escapade 1st! But our excitement is short lived as the rating has not yet been calculated. A few minutes later the adjusted times are posted, Archer won by seconds!
Next day is a pursuit race from Tortola to Jost Van Dyke. We are joined by our new crew Josh and Lucy, and a last minute volunteer Barbara. Now we really begin to worry about our rating, we are starting right at the back with all the high performance race boats and don’t stand a chance. We can’t beat Archer, or anyone else!
After a lay day fixing our water maker, Friday is the start of the official 3 day regatta. The breeze is a solid 20kts+ and we are joined by Josh, Lucy and Caroline. The BVIs make a great race area. The race officers set the courses around islands rather than buoys. Spectacular scenery with tricky wind shifts and shadows around the islands. We race the boat hard and beat Archer across the line in two intense races. The 5 of us on board are working well together and we are getting better at sailing the boat efficiently. Our sail changes are faster, our gybes are getting quicker and everyone is focussed on our boat speed, and Archer’s! Her crew are joined by Francois from Outremer and he knows how to make these boats perform. We can get past Archer, but not by much. The times are adjusted and the results announced. Two wins for Archer! Great sailing from the Archer crew, but everyone disappointed on Escapade after a long hard day. Our rating is punishing us for our rig but we don’t seem to be able to beat them by a big enough margin to win on corrected times.
Saturday morning we notice a chafe on the sleeve of our main halyard, expertly stitched and whipped by Josh and Lucy minutes before the race start. Beverly is back on board with her camera and today’s race course looks like fun for the multihulls with a fast reaching course and a good breeze. A start off Pelican Island and we work hard all the way downwind with slick gybes and no mistakes. But we are not passing Archer. Through the Thatch Island Cut and we bear off for Sandy Cay with the gennaker pulling us along at 14kts. As we round the Cay we are all trimming sails and daggerboards as Josh steers an audacious course between racing boats and anchored yachts, speeding past Archer with our music playing loud in the cockpit. We eventually crossed the line 9 minutes ahead of Archer and calculate that we have won by about 30 seconds. It can be done!
Sunday is the final day with two races to decide the result. So far Archer has two wins and Escapade only one, but we now know it is possible. Our crew arrive on board and are VERY motivated. Caroline, Josh and Lucy are joined by local hotshot sailor Rayne. He is 12 years old and races Optimist dinghies.
Rayne knows his stuff. We appoint him as tactician. We are also joined by Brice and Gen who have just arrived from California. The first race is a very short course and we are neck and neck with Archer. Our gybe is slow and Archer cuts inside of us at the leeward mark to take the lead. Rayne calls for a couple of quick tacks behind Pelican island to benefit from the ‘Geographical Lift’. It works a treat and Archer cannot catch us to windward. We win! With two wins each and one race left, the afternoon race will decide the winner of the regatta. The crew are tense, the wind is light now and we are concerned that will favour Archer with her larger headsail. The course is a long beat up past Peter Island and Salt Island, through the tricky Cooper Island Passage and downwind to finish off Pelican Island. Rayne calls tactics and we establish a good lead over Archer and sail a great race. We calculate that we will need to win by at least 7 minutes. We cross the line and watch Archer sailing downwind to the line, all eyes on the stopwatch. She crosses the line 33 minutes after us! Escapade’s crew are very happy and satisfied to have won. A few days ago it just didn’t seem possible.
Everyone felt it was a hard-earned win.
A great celebration at the prize giving party and we dance long into the night.
Great music by Al and his band Hot Sauce, joined on stage for a classy guest piano solo by Brice!
Thanks to all our crew who worked so hard to sail the boat to her limits and Rayne who made all the right calls. Thanks also to the crew of Archer who pushed us so hard in some very close racing, we couldn’t relax for a minute! We learned a lot and enjoyed the whole experience.
More thanks to Beverly Factor (www.beverlyfactorsailing.com) and Archer’s crew for the great action shots.