Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First for Equation at BVI Spring Regatta

Sadly, the crusty Caribbean salt’s washed off, the sunburn’s beginning to peel, and the rum’s done for sailors who raced this year’s BVI Spring Regatta held off Nanny Cay last week. More than 100+ boats competed in the 41st edition of the regatta, with as many new faces as repeat players, including Bill Alcott from Michigan who celebrated his 15th event - this year on his newest boat Equation, the TP65 formerly known as Rosebud.

Equation took first place in Class 1, a particularly sweet prize, as it’s been a while since the racing beauty’s enjoyed the taste of success. The boat was designed by Bruce Farr and built in 2007 at Westerly Marine, Santa Ana, Calif. Originally owned by Roger Sturgeon, she won the 2007 Sydney Hobart among other international prestigious races. She dismasted in heavy weather during the Middle Sea Race off Malta in October 2009, and shortly thereafter was purchased by Australian Ray Roberts in early 2010.

Roberts fixed her up, including a new mast, and sailed a Newport regatta with the intention of taking her back to Australia later that year. But he didn’t.

Instead, the sleek 65, one of three including Money Penny and Luna Rossa built to the Rule, was purchased in spring 2011 by the American partnership of Bill Alcott, Ed Palm and Tom Anderson, aka ‘TA’, all from Michigan. They renamed her Equation.

Alcott says that the partnership was looking for a boat to race on the Great Lakes in summer, and also be ocean competitive for winter racing in the Caribbean. He said, “Rosebud was very successful when Roger owned her and we thought that maybe we could learn to do the same thing.”

Alcott, who has owned some 14 boats, says Equation’s a very technical boat and a step up for the boys. “We’re more traditional boaters and when it came to adapting to a boat with hydraulics, we had to rethink how we were going to do things and it’s been a slow learn, I think, for us. We intentionally looked for guys who had sailed her when she was Rosebud as they know the boat and that’s been an immense help.”

Guys like Matt Smith…who has a long career in the America’s Cup behind him and is currently involved in the Bella Mente Racing program, managed pit on Equation for the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival.

It was a kind of homecoming for Smith, one of the original crew on Rosebud. He was involved in her build and raced on her for the three years following.

“It's been lots of fun to come back,” Smith said. “She’s still fast and easily sailed. I sail on a lot of leading edge boats and Equation still has a lot of potential for a niche boat.”

This year’s BVI Spring Regatta was number two for Smith - he previously raced it on the old Rosebud 52. “It’s a real diverse fleet that caters to all different types of racers," Smith said. "The course is also refreshing - sitting on the rail passing beautiful islands is very cool.”

For Alcott, this year’s regatta was only disappointing in that there weren’t a lot of big boats to do battle with. “We thought there would be more in our class - but the other boat that did show up - Passion 4C (Turner 56) was fun competition.”

Asked if the Regatta keeps getting better, Alcott replied, “I keep coming back with different boats so no, it’s not always better - LOL!”

Alcott, 74, has become enamored with Caribbean racing over the years as he loves the warm water, balmy temps and great racing, especially in the BVI where the water is relatively flat. “How can you not?” he challenged.

The BVI win was good regardless, especially after Equation was forced to pull out of the recent Heineken regatta in St Maarten after breaking a spreader. Project Manager Stu Argo, who has worked with Bill and his boats since 1995, says they were sailing upwind in about 18 knots of breeze in big seas when the second spreader broke.

“We came off a wave when the spreader broke but very happily we kept the mast - it’s very unusual that the mast would stay up - it’s also very unusual to break a number two spreader. The mast probably had 22 days of sailing on it - it was all pretty new. We sent the spreader back and Hall Spars ran some tests. We sent the lower spreaders back also and they made those spreaders stronger as well.”

“The boat’s an all around good boat,” Argo commented. “The wind range in the Caribbean is probably a little better suited to the TP52 - that mid range - whereas the TP65 is good in light and heavy air. I don’t think the 65 has a particular wind level that it’s weak on other than a jib reach which occurs with a lot of boats with non overlapping jibs. But that’s the fun part of the race - getting the right sails up at the right time,” Argo said.

There’re no plans for any major modifications on Equation, just general tweaking and replacing sails, which are key to success in the Caribbean as Smith pointed out.

"The racing here does offer up some navigational challenges and it’s key to have really nice sails for the island approaches - sails can make or break this regatta for sure, they make a huge difference.”

While she needs about 16-20 sets of legs over the rail, Argo says he’s never had any difficulty recruiting crew. “These events can logistically be a challenge - it’s easy to find 16 pros and pay for them to come down but that gets expensive. It’s not so easy to find that number of good amateurs who can take the time off and pay their own way but people do like sailing with us. We throw 2-3 pros in the mix in the specialty areas then get a crew together who have been sailing with us for the past few decades so we know them - seems to have worked out the past few weeks!”

Full Class 1 Results:

Results for the 2012 Bitter End Cup, Nanny Cay Cup, Sailing Festival & Spring Regatta:

* Ron Sherry wrote an informative article on Equation’s technical attributes last year, after Alcott et al purchased her: Equation is a very complex machine capable of doing amazing things as she does battle with the wind. In reaching conditions in light wind, Equation will sail 3.5 to 4 kts. faster than the wind speed. Sailing up wind, the Equation's target speed is 10.2 kts, and tacks inside of 65 degrees including leeway. -- Read on:

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