Sunday, May 5, 2019

BALANCING ACT: Tech Talk by SailGP Gurus

Day 1 winners Japan Team SF Bay 
SailGP racing left its mark on San Francisco Bay this weekend with a showcase of memorable yacht racing that will leave its mark on the Bay for a long while. An on water technology play like nothing before, the F50 was the subject of a fascinating tech talk at the Golden Gate Yacht Club last week, setting the scene for an exhilarating event.

The panel: Mike Drummond, Technical Director, SailGP, Edwin Upson, GVP, Enterprise Cloud Architects, Oracle, Warren Jones, Director of Technology, SailGP, Hans Henken, Flight Controller USA SailGP Team, Tom Burnham, Coach, SailGP and Phil Crane, Data Analyst, SailGP.

WHAT ITS LIKE FOILING A F50: It's always appreciated when techies can bring the language to the layman. Mike Drummond, describing sailing a F50 catamaran up on its foils, said, “It’s like balancing a broomstick on your fingertip.  Except this broomstick on your finger is actually only a few inches long, and has another full-length broomstick, with a broom on the upper end of it, way up in the air, balanced on top of it.  And it’s not exactly on your fingertip; it’s on the fingertip of your friend, standing right next to you, and you are telling him how to move his finger to keep it balanced there.”
Australia crosses USA Day 1 SF Bay
To keep these boats sailing on their foils, the sailors are constantly adjusting the angles of the foils and sails to achieve and maintain a most opportune “ride height” of the leeward hull above the water.

Very small changes to the bow-up attitude make a tremendous amount of difference: Russell Coutts indicated during a boat tour that a difference of 50cm in ride height when foiling can mean a difference of two to four knots of boat speed. Too low, and your hull slaps the water and that’s very slow. Too high, and the water foil will cavitate (the water around the foil breaks down / boils / evaporates), and you crash back down into the water while going 25 mph.

Hans Henken
HOW THEY SAIL THESE BEASTS: “We sail these boats as you sail most boats, with a seat-of-the pants feeling, combined with the data,” Hans Henken, racing on the US team commented. Henken races on the US SailGP Team and is a Stanford University graduate with a master’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. “We can certainly and dramatically feel when a boat “releases” (presumably from the water and transitioning into a foiling mode), and this is very positive feedback! We use the data to quantify what we did in terms of trimming, moding, and sailing the boat, and to replicate when we have been able to do it particularly well.”

Henken continued, “Pitch and ride height are the comms between the flight controller and the helmsman. More bow down attitude on the boat provides more speed. Our wing trimmer Riley Gibbs changes the attitude and twist of the wing in order to give us the power we want, when we want it.”

Getting and keeping these things flying is tremendously hard work, and it is difficult.  Data has helped these sailors to better learn and understand their flying machines. The boats are highly instrumented, with1200 sensors onboard each vessel. Oracle is helping SailGP to collect, display, transmit, store, and analyze 20 MB of data from every race boat, per 15-minute race. With 1000 channels of information from sensors onboard, and with some channels operating at 50 hz (readings per second), it’s a significant data stream. From it, they are inferring the behaviors of the boat.

HOW THE DATA FLOWS: SailGP proprietary IP is layered atop an Oracle open platform. Oracle intends that model to be replicated for additional sports applications. The SailGP electronics team build some of their own gear, using some conventional marine electronics sensors (from B&G and others), feeding real-time info to on-board displays for vital boat performance and control information. 

Day 1 SF Bay
Every race boat has individual SIM cards, hubs, and their own bandwidth, and their performance data is relayed in real-time via telemetry across a low-latency, custom-built LTE (4G wireless) network built with multiple antennas around and upon the waterfront race area. 

The data (and audio, and video) collected on each race boat flows into a popup data center and into the cloud, at 200 ms. Live video screens onshore, on coach boats, course marshal boats and other displays are powered from a 100 ms from SailGP in London. All of this info mashes up into the SailGP app that you was available throughout last week for practice races and during racing on the Apple Appstore (the app was released to Android Thursday May 2).

Coaches Analyse Racing 
Data gets loaded into autonomous data platforms that include AI. Oracle engineers can set up the data they want to look at, like a Spotify playlist. Teams have hired data analysts to interpret and help teams to learn from data collected and uploaded from sailing sessions and races to better inform performance. 

Before San Francisco, SailGP did not have an adequate dataset to fully analyze the performance of these newly-configured boats; conditions at the Sydney event had light breezes, and they may not have had the opportunity to collect enough race-quality data in heavier air conditions. That will not be the case after the end of this weekend’s racing; the dataset will be more robust, well-developed and useful, and can be compared meaningfully against designer’s polars and targets.

China Team Day 1 SF Bay
Unlike most other types of sailing, each boat gets to look at data from all the other boats, in real time and during post-race analysis. This is in marked contrast to the Americas Cup, and almost all other sailing.

Teams that weren’t performing well in Sydney have greatly improved here in San Francisco in the last week, by using stored performance data, and comparing their sailing efforts to those of the teams who made their boats perform better. In the future, new teams will be able to rapidly get up to speed by learning the boats virtually at first, with stored data, and then going sailing and trying to emulate bench-marked performance achieved by experienced and well-practiced teams.

The data being collected is leading directly to design improvements, including larger wings for lighter venues, and possibly different rudders. The boats will remain one-design but will evolve. Specific suggestions by individual teams are considered for applicability for inclusion in design mods to all boats. There’s a lot more technological development continuing upon the racing boats, and while the data being used for boat technology development and ability to fly them is the most interesting to some of us, SailGP is focused on tech development well beyond the race boats. “We are optimizing everything in conjunction…boat tech, broadcast tech, fan experience, and it’s a lot!” Drummond noted.”

Japan Gybes Day 1 SF Bay
Tom Burnham, SailGP coach, and Phil Crane, SailGP Data Analyst, worked together at the last Americas Cup and it seemed natural to do it again together at SailGP.  Beginning at the first event in Sydney, Phil prepared numerous reports based upon extensive data analysis. They are working now in San Francisco at doing this even better, and they are working on building their abilities to do more meaningful and effective real-time data and performance analysis – and providing feedback, based upon that data, to the teams, both in real-time and in post-race debriefs.

This real-time feedback and input from the coach to the teams is enabling improvement during the day while out sailing and racing, building significantly upon the effectiveness of traditional post-race analysis. In conventional sailing, this is prohibited by the racing rules, which prohibit communications or access to information that is not specifically and freely available to all competitors.

SUPER-DETAILED POST-SESSION ANALYSIS: After each sailing day, there is typically a 1-hr debrief post-race with the coaches and (probably very tired) sailors. They go through race videos, audio, hand written notes, audio notes, and the post-race debrief generates LOTS OF QUESTIONS from the sailors who, during the race, had their hands full just trying to keep the boat flying. When the action is over, they want to know how to fly better.

Tech Services F50 Foil
Boat sensor data, coupled with onboard video, onboard audio, and all boat’s GPS positions displayed in the most appropriate ways enable immersive re-creation of a session or race for analysis. More details provide better data analysis, and a more realistic and accurate recreation may enable noticing small things that might have had unanticipated or surprisingly large inputs into a process - whether it might be a crash or a particularly nice liftoff, tack, or gybe.

After the debrief, Crane digs more deeply into the data, sometimes can answer some of the ‘lots of questions’, and provides detailed reports. Comparing actual performance achieved in a race to theoretical models, benchmarked best behaviors, speeds and angles, and to performance of other teams sailing in the same conditions, in that same race, enables detailed and quick learning opportunities. Teams can look at all of the settings they used onboard for sail and foil controls, compare them to the settings used by other boats in that race and others, and rapidly learn to do things better.

Many F50 settings are automated within control buttons used on the systems. Super-detailed data logging enables post-race analysis of exactly when buttons were pressed, in what sequence, and by whom, to minutely examine what works, and what doesn’t work, as these talented athletes learn to fly these sailing machines.

With continuous improvement of systems, sails, foils, controls, and the sequencing of what they do with all of them, these guys are going to soon learn to balance their broomsticks and foil all the way around the race courses. A race with multiple boats that never slow below 19 knots will be a whole new and exciting kind of simultaneous and competitive broomstick-balancing.   

F50 Performance data seen on screens during Thursday May 2 practice race, with winds 15-18 knots:

Bottom speed in a foiling tack: 18 kts
Takeoff speed:19 kts
Upwind boat speed of 27 kts, VMG (velocity made good towards the wind) of 18.3 kts
28 kts target boatspeed upwind
40 kts of boatspeed achieved at bear away at top mark
23 kts: Lowest boatspeed during a foiling gybe

Note: Thanks to John Bonds for providing this report
Photo Credit: SailGP

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Russell Coutts: Making Sailing Cool Again

Russell Coutts, CEO of SailGP, is in San Francisco this week for the 2nd event in the SailGP global racing series, and the program's first US event. SailBlast was curious to learn more about aspects of the event which are somewhat unique ... and what it is that keeps the Olympic gold medalist and five-time America's winner in this fast-paced game.

SailGP has forged a relationship with US Sailing - how did this come about and how do you see maintaining this relationship over the long haul? 

RC: It’s logical for SailGP to partner with US Sailing as we have a lot of common interests. We both want to promote and grow sailing at the grass roots. The nationality rule that we have adopted for SailGP means that the US team must use US sailors and that in turn means the US Team needs to have a pathway for young sailors to develop their skills such that one day they can sail on an F50. It’s our hope that by presenting an exciting platform with the SailGP Championship, it will inspire more young people to become involved with or try sailing. Our goal is to create a consistent platform of annual events, returning to the same venues each year.

During our broadcast and on our Event TV within the Village we will be showcasing US Sailing programs during our US events which will hopefully help to create more awareness. We also have a number of aspiring Olympic athletes involved in the US SailGP team and they should be marketed to become great ambassadors for the sport, especially for young sailors here in the US.

What do you think is the coolest thing about the F50?

RC: The fact that teams are each racing in the same high tech boats and 
the data coming off the boats is in the public domain is a pretty cool feature. It means that the crews can analyze each others performance and compare the different techniques they are using to sail the boats. That should accelerate the learning curve for all the teams. I suspect the teams will not end up sailing the boats the same though. The play book that one team adopts may not suit another. But it will definitely give us an insight as to why one team might be performing better than another.

Of course we made the boats one design because we want to identify the best sailors rather than who has the best technology and we also wanted to save costs. But the interesting thing is the rule doesn’t stop our central design team from developing the boats, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The rule is simply that each team must use equal equipment as supplied without modification. We are currently building new wing sails to be used for the 2020 season. We’ve just introduced a new flight control system on all of the boats for the San Francisco event. And we will likely build new foils to be implemented in 2021. Whilst the current F50’s are capable of exceeding 50 knots I see no reason why they couldn’t be reaching 55 knots or more in two or three years time. 

You’ve been around the elite sailing game your entire life – what keeps you inspired?

RC: It’s never become boring for me because I’ve always kept an open mind and taken on new challenges. It’s an exciting time to be involved in sailing. I’m pretty involved in some youth programs in New Zealand and we are seeing growth in a few areas for the first time in quite a while. These new forms of sailing are exciting and inspiring the youth. It’s become cool again.

Of course sailing can and should be enjoyed in all forms and at all levels. But having a top professional arm of the sport, that’s well marketed, with a high quality broadcast tailored towards modern viewership habits, involving national teams in a consistent, year round, annual series with defined pathways for youth to make it to the top has been a missing element in our sport.


Check out SailGP in San Francisco this week:

Photo Credit: SailGP

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Classic Boat Love Affair - Building Blackfish

BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish
Carolyn and Ron Zarrella, from Nantucket, Mass, launched their stunning Taylor ’49 Blackfish in 2017, and the boat is special to the couple for many reasons. Over and above being a true beauty, significantly it brought the pair together.

They met some ten years ago when Carolyn was Sailing Director at the Great Harbor Yacht Club on Nantucket – Ron had moved to the area and wanted to learn about local sailing conditions. He owned a 32’ Nantucket Alerion (a modified hull-molded wooden boat and 1916 Herreshoff design) and the two became acquainted as he began racing his boat locally.

An avid sailor with Trans-Atlantic racing and three Sydney to Hobarts under his belt, Ron missed big boat racing however, and thought about building a boat. He sought Carolyn’s help and before long Carolyn was having significant input into the ultimate look and feel of Ron's new boat. They fell in love and tied the knot in 2016.
Blackfish owners Carolyn & Ron Zarrella
“The building of the boat was a lot of fun - beginning to plan the boat was really the start of our relationship,” Ron recalls fondly - and with a big smile. 

Blackfish is a "Spirit of Tradition" boat designed by Jim Taylor and built by Steve White of the Brooklyn Boatyard in Maine.Taylor’s work on Blackfish came about after Ron and Carolyn saw Dreadnought, a Taylor 49c, in Maine.The Zarrella’s were big on aesthetics and being based part of the year in Nantucket, they thought a boat like Dreadnought would fit there perfectly. They also knew that they wanted to race rather than cruise, so the overall design was modified to accommodate more race-ready parameters, Taylor explained.

Top right: Designer Jim Taylor 
Primarily designed to compete with other classics( she’s done well in classic fleets the past few summers racing in New England), Blackfish does have a modern keel, rudder and a carbon fiber mast.

“The cabinhouse on Blackfish is one showerstall shorter than Dreadnought so the cabinhouse became 24” shorter, and the cockpit moved 24” forward - these changes made for less interior space but actually, it’s a considerably a more attractive boat,” Taylor commented. “Those changes made a surprising difference.”

Taylor’s proud of the fact that Blackfish does what she was specified to do and be: drop-dead gorgeous above deck and a race boat below.

“People look at the boat and don’t expect too much,” Taylor says. “She looks old school and looks like she behaves old school but she’s a race boat for sure.”
BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish

In the Caribbean for the first time this year, she raced the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival where she was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful boats on the docks. First time sailing under the CSA (Caribbean Racing Association) rule which arguably didn’t do Blackfish any favors, she placed 7th overall in CSA Racing 2, and the Zarrella’s discovered that BVI competition was tougher than anticipated. Taylor trimmed main, Ron helmed, and Carolyn called tactics. Friends from New England and boat captain David Abramski filled crew positions - spinnaker and jib trim, mast and bow. 

“We loved BVI racing – the venues, the courses – around islands and rocks - we don’t get to do a lot of that kind of racing on the east coast,” Ron said. “We are used to winning more (laughs) but the competition was very different. I questioned whether our boat fit there before we even went but we always finished in the middle of the pack against really good sailing, really top sailors - we were humbled and we learned a lot! We could have sailed better but we’d been off the boat for 4-5 months and we’re just getting back into it. The BVI was a great place to do that and it’s a spectacular place to sail.”

BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish
This week Blackfish is racing Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the Zarrella's are looking forward to going up against more “like-minded” boats. As Ron says with a certain degree of seriousness mixed with humor, they didn’t build their boat to race against plastic boats...

After Antigua, Blackfish will be shipped back to Brooklyn Boatyard for a symmetrical spinnaker, pole, and track on the mast ((she's currently set up with an asymmetrical spinnaker) so she can be better equipped for round-the-buoy windward-leeward racing this summer in New England where they'll also compete in the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge series. 

“We’re really enjoying our boat and just love classics, especially the theme of “Spirit of Tradition” boats,” Carolyn said. “We're typically racing to the CRF (classic rating formula), against yawls and schooners over 100 years old. It’s really fun.”
BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish

“Spirit of Tradition boats are all about the design, not necessarily the materials they are built of. It is imperative they have a nice sheer as this is the key to a pretty yacht and is what differentiates a modern practically minded design from a more classic, aesthetically driven one.”
Richard Gregson, Wooden Ships Yacht Brokers

Photo Credit:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Vestas 11th Hour Racing Cautiously Optimistic Heading Into Leg 7

Enright In-Port racing, Auckland Jeremie Lecaudey/VOR

The Auckland layover has given Vestas 11th Hour Racing time to recover and regroup after their tragic collision in the latter stages of Leg 4 during the final approach to Hong Kong.The team is in 5th position following the incident and co-skipper Charlie Enright, is anxious to get back in the race. Catching up with Charlie in Auckland, he says his team is - cautiously - ready to for its next meeting with the Southern Oceans. 

How has the team recovered emotionally from the Hong Kong incident?
CE: Physically it’s easier to discern – the boat’s in great shape, it’s nothing short of amazing that the repair was coordinated in such a short amount of time and the level at which the boat came out – everybody’s ecstatic with it. It looks like there'll be a couple of windy first few days out to the east cape (of NZ) so hopefully the boat is pretty well tested by the time we get there.

On the emotional side, I trust our team more than any other team to deal with something like we went through and come out of it stronger. I’ll be able to give you a better answer on that when we get to Brazil – there’re all kinds of emotions with regard to being back on the boat again – anticipation, excitement, there’s probably some unspoken nervousness, but I think that’s all natural but there are no red flags and we’re all ready to go. We’ve done all the right things – it’s time to go sailing!

While you weren’t present at the time of the accident, as skipper what did you learn from the experience?
CE: It’s tough to say because the situation continues to evolve, and especially not being part of it in some ways was difficult because – as it should be – a shared experience for the team. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with something like this - it’s a big team and everyone deals in their own way so I think to provide unconditional support and understanding as best you possibly can is important but at the same time you have to know what everyone will deal with it in a different way – give people the space they need. It’s been a bit of a tightrope walk, that’s to be expected.

Vestas In-Port racing, Auckland Jeremie Lecaudey/VOR
Outlook for Leg 7?
This is the leg we all sign up for – this edition has more Southern Ocean miles and those are real miles from Cape Town to Melbourne, so if the forecast is anything like that, it should be pretty relentless. It looks like it’ll be a little colder on this leg though which is kind of ironic since there’s not a lot of ice as the ice gates are further south which means we can go further south…we’ve got that to look forward to! We do the race for competition and adventure and this is definitely on the adventure side for sure, but sometimes you lose sight of that when you’re crossing the equator and bobbing around and you’re just thinking about the competition but this next leg is pretty special. 

It's pretty relaxed around the docks - how's the intensity prior to Leg 7 ?
CE: For us relative to the last edition of the race, the intensity has ratcheted up – with experience comes expectation, right, so we’re looking at this race through a different lens but I can definitely see how walking around the village it may be a little different to what you may expect. It’s a probably a product of there being so much intensity on the water and having to keep it 24/7. That being said, with the one design format, there’s a lot less secrecy and more camaraderie among the teams.

We definitely have a lot more experience on the team this time and that’s proved to be a valuable thing as you can probably imagine. But we have a good mix of youthful exuberance with also some gray hair – we have a little bit of everything in all the key positions. The vibe and dynamic for us has been very strong even through some very difficult circumstances.

Vestas In-Port racing, Auckland Ainhoa Sanchez/VOR
How's racing been this edition?
CE: It’s closer than it was last time because you have folks from every single team sprinkled among this iteration’s current teams. Whatever “secrets’ everybody might have had are all kind of distributed among all the teams this race. It’s all close. I think we had a lot of people who sat out the last race as they weren’t sure about the one design concept. I think after seeing the tightness of the racing, they missed it and we’ve seen a lot of those people back.

Your thoughts on the one design aspect?

CE: Personally, I think it’s great because it’s what allowed us to compete in our first edition – we were literally over our heads as it was and added to that a boat build and the campaign cost would be twice as much. Tony Mutter on our team has won the race twice on boats like ABN AMRO and Ericcson 4 and I think he’s enjoying the close racing although the boats are certainly not what he’s accustomed to sailing because this one design racing is tight. While the boats have got a bad rap, I think they nailed the design brief on this one – we’re doing 550+ miles in a day, they do down wind really well.

Who are you chasing at this point?

Vestas In-Port racing, Auckland  Jesus Renado/VOR
CE: Everybody – in the last campaign we won the last leg, and in this campaign we won the first leg so that kind of tells you what expectations we’re up against. If everything had gone to plan, we would have sailed into Hong Kong 2 points off the lead. That’s not where we sit today but it doesn’t affect our perspective on the leader board. We view ourselves as one of the more consistent teams and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Anticipated days to finish this leg?
CE: About 19 days, just in time for my dad’s 60th birthday!

Sunday, February 5, 2017


It’s simply hard to beat racing in the Caribbean, and a week competing in the BVI Spring Regatta + Sailing Festival is no exception. A highlight is always the diversity of boats that participate across many classes - this year there will be some 18 classes - including boats who are in for the very first time, like the newly launched all-carbon HH66 NALA. Others, such as the J122 El Ocaso which has competed in Spring Regatta for the past 10 consecutive years, just keep coming back for more. Likewise, many crew will be racing BVI Spring Regatta for the first time, while others are event old timers, coming back again because they know just how good it all is.

NALA, the carbon rocket ship owned by Jim Vos, a dinghy sailor and long-time boat owner, is seriously fresh out of the yard in Xiamen, China. The brainchild of renown multi hull designers Morelli & Melvin, NALA’s just been unloaded in Fort Lauderdale and boat captain Collin Marshall, who lives in St John, US Virgin Islands, will be spending the next few weeks completing the commissioning work on her before heading into the Caribbean race circuit, including BVI Spring Regatta.

At 66’-long, NALA races with a turbo-charged rig and T-foil rudders that assist stability and reduce pitching in big seas. Curved daggerboards help create lift at higher boat speeds making her faster on all points of sail, Marshall explained. This all-carbon racing machine is super light and as Marshall described, is designed for racing in every condition.

“While we haven’t had a chance to really put it through her paces yet she seems do pretty well in chop. She’s going to love big breeze – being in the Caribbean is going to be fantastic once we figure out the bugs but she is really designed for both light and heavy air regattas.” Marshall expects to race with 10 crew on board who will be coming from all over the east and west coasts.  “We had quite a few Kiwis and Aussies working in China on this project so we’ll have a Kiwi or two on board - for good luck!” Marshall smiled.

Also new to BVI Spring Regatta this year is Challenger, a modified Whitbread 60 built for the ’97 Whitbread Round the World Race but which never made it further than Cape Town due to a financial situation. When Chris Stanmore-Major, owner/founder of Spartan Ocean Racing, bought the boat late 2015, she had just 6,000 miles on her, having been kept in storage for years.

“She is the lowest mileage Whitbread 60 in the world. We’ve since put 20,000 miles on her and she’s been modified for the kind of racing we do, with roller furling headsails and a change to the backstays that makes the rig a lot more secure and even to operate for the charter crews," he said.

Challenger will race Spring Regatta with a crew of 12 sailing guests all new to the boat and two Spartan crew. The team will spend a few days in Tortola pre regatta doing sail training aboard Challenger. Stanmore-Major, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, said the boat has done well in regattas this year, chalking up first, second and third places. He’s confident that with his staff’s collective sail training background they’ll be able to put together a competitive team for Spring Regatta, although, oddly enough, it’ll be his first time racing in the BVI. “All my racing has been Asia, Europe, around the world etc. so the idea of going to this part of the Caribbean is very exciting,” Stanmore-Majors laughed.” I’ve heard a lot about it but never had the opportunity. I’m interested to see what goes on…”

Complementing the lineup of new boats and new people are event veterans, like Doug Baker, from Long Beach, California. Baker first raced the event in 2000, took a break for a number of years but has been back for the past five events. While he’s owned plenty of fast racing boats in his time, these days Baker prefers to charter. This year he will be at the helm of Runaway, an ultralight sled 70 which will be racing Spring Regatta for the first time. From Peru, Runaway was the first across the line at the 2017 Cape2Rio, and will do several Caribbean events before Baker meets her in Tortola for Spring Regatta.

Doug Baker (red cap) & crew in the BVI
"For the most part chartering works well for me, it’s cost effective, it’s a little more for each regatta but then you don’t have the maintenance of the boat beyond the expense of owning a boat," Baker said. "We try to do our research - I understand Runaway's current owner has done a lot of work on the boat and it’s in really good condition so we’re excited.”

Baker says he'll need about 15 to race Runaway and will have a mix of pro sailors and “volunteers” on board, some whom he has sailed with for 30-40 years, and others 15-20 years. Ernie Richau will navigate and Chad Hough will call tactics, both are from Southern California. Baker has done all the Caribbean events over the years, some more than four or five times.

“I like the Caribbean, and my crew love coming with me,” Baker said, with a big smile. “The weather is always great, 99% of the time you have good wind, lots of competition – we get more competition down there than we do back on the West Coast, the parties are great, it’s hard to beat everything that the Caribbean has to offer!”

Andrew McIrvine, from the Isle of Wight, UK, is also a Spring Regatta veteran returning to the event for the first time in some 20 years. He’s chartered the Beneteau First 40 Olympia's Tigress, and will be racing with his crew, Team Larry.

“The boat we're chartering is a sister ship of my own boat in England on which we’ve been very successful; we’ve won a lot of RORC and other European events with my usual gang on board, we wonLes Voiles de Saint-Tropez a couple of years ago and Cowes Week last year in our class. Tony Mack (Mack Fly) won class at Spring Regatta last year on the same boat.”

The last time McIrvine sailed Spring Regatta was on a Jeanneau 47 and he’d always wanted to do it again. As Admiral of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, McIrvine was involved in the launching of the Caribbean 600 which he has competed in since that race’s inception. This year he wanted to do something different, and will have a team of 12 with him.

“It’s probably too many but everyone wanted to come,” McIrvine laughed. “We’ve hired a young foredeck guy as we’re mostly getting old so that should keep the front end sorted out. I do have Tasmanians on board – not just Australians but Tasmanians - so we could be in big trouble there. We expect to be reasonably competitive if only I can only keep them off the rum!”

The weeklong BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival takes racers throughout the beautiful British Virgin Islands. Starting at Nanny Cay, the Sailing Festival is two days of warm up racing: The Nanny Cay Round Tortola Race, and the Scrub Island Invitational. Next up, the BVI Spring Regatta kicks off three solid days of some of the best racing the Caribbean has to offer.  Check out the 2017 Preliminary Schedule of Events.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Fun Day of Racing to New Destination

Team Hot Stuff
With one day of racing behind them, competitors in the 45th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival rolled right into today’s race, the Scrub Island Invitational – a 12NM upwind ride for the CSA Cruising, Bareboat, and Multihull fleets, and a 17NM course for the CSA-Racing fleet. Conditions were again breezier than expected with 22 knots from the east and bumpy seas for the 10am start.

Located off the north east end of Tortola, Scrub Island is a new race destination for this year’s Spring Festival.

A private resort island with classic Caribbean white sand beaches and docks at the ready was a welcome sight for racegoers who, on arrival, didn’t waste any time stripping down to bathing suits and finding their way to the pool-side bar.

Said Norwood Smith, VP Marketing, Scrub Island, “This is our first-ever sailing regatta and it’s amazing to be part of the 45th legacy of this event, to be able to host all the boats here and to have Scrub Island as their destination is exciting. While we’re a private island resort, we’re thrilled to be hosting people from all over the world here today.”

SPOOKIE, the TP52 owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin (USA), took first in CSA-Racing class, followed by Quokka – Performance Yacht Racing, the Grand Soleil 43 skippered by Christian Reynolds (GBR), and in third place, Northern Child, the Swan 51 skippered by Eric Bos (GBR).

Feeling very satisfied with a second place, Reynolds said, “We had a really good sail today. I’ve got people with varied experience onboard but everyone’s smart and enthusiastic. We won the start among some very serious racers and had a few challenging maneuvers out there – for some of the guys, they’re learning a whole new level of racing so it was great to take second.”

Renato Faria (BRA) helmed his Dufour 500 Ventaneiro 3 to another first place today, in the CSA-Cruising class, all the while claiming his boat really isn’t that fast, it’s his fabulous crew. 
Brazilian Stylin'

“It’s not so fast, it’s a cruising boat!” Faria laughed. “We had a nice sail today and were happy to win. We just tried to do our best. We got a good start and followed the coast closely all the time, it was easy racing. We’ve got really nice team work – one of our crew was trying to qualify for the Olympics in the 49’er, so we’re lucky to have him on board.”

Windward Spirit, the Jeanneau 54DS skippered by Serge Bisson (CAN) took second in the CSA-Cruising class, and Sam of Hamble, a Sigma 38 helmed by Peter Hopps (GBR), took third.

First place in the multihull division was Slow Motion, skippered by Werner Puche (GER), while the Outremer 51 Ten Directions, skippered by Glenn Davis (USA), took second. Puche and his family - wife Erena and sons Leon (11) and Robert (9), who are just learning to sail, are having a blast in the BVI.

“We made a few mistakes yesterday – we were seven minutes late for the start,” Puche laughed. “But today we hit it on the dot, which makes a big difference to one’s mood! The boat is easy to handle and I’m glad the wind was just at the limit where we didn’t have to reef so we were able to stay with full sails all the way – we had a good time, with no mistakes. The boys have been helping with the timing at the starts, and they’re my look-out guys.”

Two-Bullet Bubbly for the Dutch
Taking another win today in CSA-Bareboat was Warvor, helmed by Willem Ellemeet (NLD). This group of seven friends celebrated their win with a bottle of champagne on the dock on arrival at Scrub Island.

“We had a reasonable start but tacked away early so we could sail our own race and that was a good decision. We stayed as deep as possible to the shore and that also worked. Our boat is definitely sluggish but everyone’s got the same challenge. We’re really enjoying the sailing here and the more intimate feel of the Regatta compared to others.”

Mary Jewell, the Sunsail 50 skippered by Larry Caillouet (USA), took second in CSA-Bareboat, while ACTIFORCE-Ivoire (NLD), a Moorings 51, skippered by Willem Klomp, took third place in class.

Looking out to the start of the Regatta on Friday, Warwick Dunnett (USA), skipper of the Beneteau Oceanis 50 JogFund, is grateful for the practice racing over the past two days.

“I was glad to have this time to get the boat dialed in,” Dunnett commented. “While we had a great start today, first over the line, we were experimenting with jib set and figuring out the new SailRacer app which can be distracting. A navigational error also didn’t help us but we have the boat rigged well now so are looking forward to improved racing later in the week.”

Thursday is an official lay-day but there’ll be plenty happening at Nanny Cay, host for the Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, with the Maritime Heritage Day featuring VP Banks 3rd Annual Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge - traditional Virgin Islands sloops competing for prizes and honours - starting at 11am, and presentation of the Sloop Awards following racing. The Regatta Skipper’s Meeting is at 5:30pm. The Mt Gay Welcome party kicks off 5-7pm, with live music – the MJ Blues Band - until midnight.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Triple Jack Takes Home Nanny Cay Cup
SPOOKIE Breaks Monohull Record for Nanny Cay Challenge

The BVI Sailing Festival Round Tortola Race for the Nanny Cay Cup and Nanny Cay Challenge started promptly at 9:30 on Tuesday morning in seas a little rougher than normal due to last week’s high winds, and an easterly breeze of 18+ knots. The trimaran Triple Jack, owned by Richard Wooldridge and Steve Davis (BVI), charged off the start to an early lead in the CSA-Multihull class, making its way around the island in corrected time of 3:46:38, taking first place overall in the 2016 Nanny Cay Cup. Their elapsed time of 3:19:30 was not enough, however, to break the current multihull record for the Nanny Cay Challenge of 2:33:40 which they set on April 30, 2015, nonetheless spirits were still high on the custom-design trimaran.

Woolridge commented, “It was a beautiful day for it, the wind was perhaps a little more than forecasted, blowing a good 18 at the start and gusting 20+. We had a very fast trip down the north side with the spinnaker up, jousting with SPOOKIE and while they started after us, it was
great finishing before them. We did break our main halyard on the last beat up from West End and there was also a large cruise ship in West End which made tacking through the Narrows interesting.”

Davis said, “Having raced Triple Jack since 1998, improving our performance over the years has been a combination of racing conditions and doing a lot of work on the boat as she was built in 1979. She’s like an old MG so we do have to be a little careful!”

Penalized by an over early in the start of the CSA Racing Class was not enough to hold back TP52 SPOOKIE, owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin (USA), from taking first in class in the Nanny Cay Cup in corrected time of 3:48:43.

Most significantly, however, SPOOKIE broke the Monohull Nanny Cay Challenge record in an elapsed time of 3:08:43, a whopping 21 minutes off the previous record of 03:29:44, set in March 2013 by Peter Corr’s Aiyana, an Alia 82. With a new record under his belt, Steve Benjamin, SPOOKIE’s skipper, was one happy guy when his boat pulled into the dock after a fantastic ride around Tortola.

“We were really trying to get inside that record for the Nanny Cay Challenge,” Benjamin explained. “Once we got into the lead after our over early start, we beat all the way to the top of the island, fetched the rocks at the top then set a fractional code zero and took off on a screaming reach which was beautiful and proceeded to get lifted on starboard as the wind went right, so we set our 4A, our bigger spinnaker. I guess we hit 21 knots, saw gusts to 23 and had a beautiful run down the back side of the island, making it in one jibe and planing a lot of the time. It was really fantastic!”

The team will certainly enjoy their Nanny Cay Challenge prize: a jeroboam of “Drappier” champagne, sponsored by Tico, a BVI distributor, dinner for 15 crew at Peg Legs restaurant at Nanny Cay, and a donation of $250 to benefit BVI youth sailing, which the team has generously matched.

In the Racing class, John Bamberger’s Canadian Farr 45 Spitfire was also over early at the start, having to return to the line along with SPOOKIE, while the remainder of the 11-strong fleet took off in a tight bunch. TP52 Team Magnitude – Conviction, skippered by Doug Baker (USA) initially took the lead before being caught by SPOOKIE and finishing second in class. Quokka-Performance Yacht Charters, the Grand Soleil 43 skippered by Christian Reynolds, took third.

Renato Faria (BRA) steered his Dufour 500 Ventaneiro 3, to an early lead and first place in the CSA Cruising Class, while Warvor, the Sunsail 44i skippered by Willem Ellemeet (NED) took first in CSA Bareboat.

Wednesday takes the fleet racing to Scrub Island, located off the north east end of Tortola, for the Scrub Island Invitational. Race start time is 10am and the exact course will depend on weather and conditions. An afternoon of relaxation and fun is planned for crews, their families