In the warm morning breeze, in feisty spirits with battle flags flying, the 15-strong fleet tail-chased out of Nanny Cay Marina for Race Day One of the Oyster Regatta BVI 2015. Ahead lay a challenging course circling the sun-silhouetted Peter, Cooper and Ginger islands away across Drake Channel, finishing just off the privately owned Norman Island.
Then an evening of piracy, aka apt fancy dress for a great evening’s dining at the new Pirate’s Bight beach restaurant, before a night’s quiet anchorage in this secluded bay. Fair reward for a day’s fair racing.
It might be said the quickest way to round an island is the shortest but as the fleet rounded the far side layline tactics and number of tacks for the turning points shaped winning or losing. In Class 2 Ken and Diana Randall’s Infiniti of Cowes called it right. They’d started last but came in 3rd on the water and 1st corrected. Skipper Tim MacIntosh says, “We had two really good laylines, and were bang on Cooper Island, a bit of luck, a bit of judgement.”
With the majority of the fleet opting for downwind sails, the final twist for all was a fine, time essential call before the last short leg: fight to keep or lose the kite. Infiniti again called it right, early, and countered the time loss others suffered in a delayed drop further slowed by then excessive upwind loading. Shaved seconds counted, saved minutes won. Infiniti took first spot. Later in dapper pirate guise and private parly, owners Ken and Diana joshed, “All right, we lucked out, the island moved over and the others didn’t realise!”
Second corrected behind Infiniti went to Peter Blackmore’s family-sailed Oyster 49 Pied Piper where attention clearly paid off. “We could see the bigger boats in front, what’s happening, and took advantage of that.” It was also the first time the family had flown the kite since a midnight spinnaker incident while racing four years ago. So a pleasing result today, “The team did great. We had a blast!”
Third meanwhile went to Richard Smith’s Oyster 655 Sotto Vento and 4th to Ian Galbraith’s 53 Jigsaw.
Staggered small group starts within both Classes 1 and 2 saw keen battling but none more so than between Class 1’s Oyster 825 Reina and Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean. In early manouevres Starry Night appeared to block Reina out on the committee boat end, then just on the gun Reina instead squirted through the tiniest slot higher and ahead to chase the smaller, earlier starting 625s, David and Joanne Furby’s Vamos and Lady Mariposa skippered by Dan Hardy.
Starting through the whole class has been sharp with all seven boats crossing within 18 seconds of the gun. Indeed, Alan Parker’s new ride, brokerage Oyster 82 Dama de Noche, took the line just one second after the gun, later receiving one of the two daily Pantaenius awarded Best Start prizes. In Class 2 that champagne went to Peter Blackmore’s Oyster 49 Pied Piper.
Back to the Class 1 action, in the 12-15 knot breeze of leg one, while Reina sprinted away from Starry Night, Mariposa ahead with a small blade jib against Vamos’ larger genoa, though pointing considerably higher, took some while to overcome Vamos’ matching boat speed. Then the wind hardened a knot or two and Mariposa pulled away. Meanwhile the three 82s, Dama de Noche (new owner Alan Parker), Zig Zag (also new owner John McMonigall) and Ravenous II (Bill Dockser) trailed each other looking on as the fully race crewed 82 Starry Night accelerated through from her later staggered start.
Out the back of the islands the game played out along tacking angles and laying the turning points before the long downwind leg home where gybe angles and duration down Drake Channel had equal import and effect. Some sailed just one long gybe back in toward Tortola and out, others played more. The leaders all sailed tight, with only 2m 27sec between the first three home: Mariposa, Starry Night and Reina. Indeed Reina played it so cleanly she was the single one boat in the fleet to cross the line with kite still flying. But a couple of calls had cost those minutes that define win or lose, Mariposa instead taking the well earned 1st and Starry Night in 2nd just 59 secs ahead of Reina’s 3rd. Vamos notched a good 4th followed by Dama de Noche 5th, and Zig Zag 6th. Ravenous II showing great sportsmanship in 7th, racing whilst saddled with the unassailable handicap of a temporary, substitute propeller: a massive, fixed four-bladed affair acting as unfortunate brake.
Aboard Mariposa victory was especially sweet. Two years old and with this her owner’s fourth regatta aboard, today’s the first time he’s helmed a race. And before Mariposa he’d never sailed, so a fine achievement.
As Race Officer Oyster CEO David Tydeman said when presenting the Dolphin Sail awards, “It was very close racing. In class 1, only 4% difference between the first four boats. In Class 2, 3% . A very good day.” It was also to be a good night with the fancy dress ranging from fine, full admiral outfits to rakish and daring if not sometimes demented pirate costumery… of course, in true brigand fashion, a ‘rum’ do! Well, tomorrow’s another day, will sabres again be drawn?
more info ………………oysteryachts.com
by Mike Owen