Just finished racing the 2021 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup (better known as the Rolex Maxi Worlds) in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. This was the first event that I’ve sailed since the Covid shut-down in March 2020, and it was really wonderful to get sailing again. Just as great was to be back together with my team on Topaz and see all my fellow sailors from around the world. This also counts as one of the most wonderful places in the world to sail, so a perfect place to resume racing.
I was racing on the J Class yacht TOPAZ in the Super Maxi division. Our chief rival was the other J VELSHEDA, and we had a fantastic time dueling with them over 4 days of racing. We still consider them the fastest J Class yacht afloat, so we could not have a greater challenge than pushing ourselves to beat them. In the end we sailed a really good regatta, but not a perfect one, which was needed to beat them, and so ended up finishing a very close 2nd.
We now have a couple weeks before our next event in St. Tropez, France where we will have another chance to go head to head against our friendly rivals on VELSHEDA.
Finally. Hopefully! After a year+ of waiting and wondering, it now looks like my international racing will resume this summer in Europe. I have opted to focus on just my primary racing program for this short season, which is the J Class TOPAZ that i have been sailing with for almost 5 years now. We will have a training session in Palma in late August and then compete in two of the biggest and best events in Europe- the Rolex Maxi Cup in Sardinia and Voiles de St. Tropez in France.
We are really looking forward to getting back out there with our team and trying to resume where we left off in the performance development of this ultra complicated and wonderful racing yacht. Hopefully the world will continue to recover and we can return to a full racing schedule for 2022.
Here’s wishing all of us a healthy and happy rest of the year!
The year started out well, but that all came to a crashing halt on March 13.
My year started in Cape Town South Africa in January with a training session on the TP52 Phoenix. I had signed on with this two-boat program to do a training session and then the first two events of the 52 Super Series in February and March. It is a great program, led by Hasso Platner of SAP driving one boat and his daughter Tina driving the other. A great team, mostly South Africans, but also plenty of good veterans from around the world. I was tactician onboard, but getting plenty of good help from our strategist Andy Horton, main trimmer Paul Wilcox, and several others.
The first event went well. We opened up with a 1-3-1, which surprised many people, including ourselves! It was a challenging place to sail, with one course very close to shore, and some serious local effects. The wind was also highly unpredictable and went through the full range from 0 to 30knots. We sailed well, had our fair share of lucky breaks and bad luck, and a few breakdowns that cost us points. But in the end we sailed smart, avoided big mistakes, and managed 2nd place. We were very happy with this in what is arguably the hottest grand prix class in the world. Capetown is also one of the cooler places on the planet to visit, with whales, amazing sea & bird life, so that made it all quite special.
There was a two week gap until the second event in Cape Town, and fitting perfectly between these 52 events were my next regattas in the Caribbean on the J Class Topaz. After a long flight from Cape Town via England to Antigua, we had several good days of crew training and confirming sails and systems before racing started.
First up was the Antigua Super Yacht Challenge and then the St. Barths Bucket. This was going to be a big year for the J Class as we rolled out a new handicap system, several J’s that had taken a year off were returning to the circuit, and everyone was then heading down to New Zealand for our J Worlds just preceding the Americas Cup.
As we were lining up for the start of Race #1, well positioned on starboard with 1:30 to go, another J approaching on port tack crashed into us. It was a horrific incident, with serious damage to both boats, and two of our crew injured. These yachts are 135 feet long, 175 tons+, with 30+ crew onboard. Any crash is bad, but with the magnitude of these yachts, it was a particularly sad and scary day. Luckily neither rig came down, and no one was killed. The other boat was disqualified, but we were out for the event with too much damage- broken boom, mainsheet, runners, backstay, runner winch, etc.
Then two days later the world started to go into lock-down, so the racing schedule would have been interrupted anyway. We have since shipped Topaz back to the yard in Holland and will now use this period to repair the damage. Hopefully by the time we complete repairs in August, sporting events will resume and we might be able to compete in a regatta or two in Europe.
So what looked to be another exciting year of racing has turned into a time-out and re-set for our planet. Personally I will focus on being extra healthy, and living safe and smart. And hopefully people and societies will find the positive lessons from this and we will emerge on a better path in the end.
Exciting times. The start of a new year, a new decade, and a new chapter in life.
My year starts with an exciting return to the 52 Super Series. This is the hottest class of sailboat racing currently in the world. I mention sailboats, because it is not flying, like so much of our sport is now doing with foils. I still love the challenge of harnessing the wind and water to sail as fast and smart as you possibly can. These 52 foot speed machines with 13 crew race in a tightly controlled class that rewards good design, crew work, speed, and smarts. I will be doing three events with my new team in Cape Town, South Africa, which also happens to be a really cool part of the world, with wild weather, and animals! We will do a training session in late January, and then 2 events in February and March. So an exciting new challenge to start my year, with a new team of great guys and girls.(https://www.52superseries.com)
I will also continue racing in the majestic J Class onboard TOPAZ. The class is now seeing a full revival as new and old teams return to class racing. The impetus for many is the exciting plan to travel and race in New Zealand along side of the Americas Cup in 2021. Our race circuit begins in Antigua in March, followed by the Bucket a week later in St. Barths. After this, all the boats will begin the journey to New Zealand, with most boats enjoying some stops along the way to explore the islands of the Pacific. The race series will then kick off in early 2021 with two events, followed by the J Class Worlds’, which end one day before the Americas Cup starts on March 6th. Pretty awesome! These 135ft majestic machines, designed in the 1930’s, upgraded with the latest technology and materials, and now raced by some of the best sailors around, are the most difficult, and rewarding, boats to sail. And it is really cool that the organizers of the next America’s Cup, which will be sailing new complex flying boats, have decided to showcase our class at their event. It will be an incredible display of just how far our sport has gone within the Americas Cup arena. For sailors and the public, it will be amazing to have such classic sailboats racing alongside possibly the biggest leap in design that the sport has ever made. (https://www.jclassyachts.com)
Also looming large on my schedule for 2020 are some further adventures on my Outremer 45 catamaran in the Med. I will launch her in Menorca in April after a winter haul out and some fresh bottom paint. Then a couple weeks later I will sail across to Cagliari, Sardinia and make that my base for the following year. And it just so happens that the first race of the America’s Cup World Series will be in Cagliari April 23-26. My, what a coincidence! ☺ After watching some wild racing, where the next generation of flying boats race head to head for the first time, I will cruise and explore Sardinia over the following months between races and trips back home to the Virgin Islands.
I also have some great new Partners to announce for 2020. First up is Pedro’s Boat. No seriously, that’s the name of this great team in Mahon, Menorca that is taking care of my cat. A great bunch of people, providing all the services and supplies a boat owner needs in Menorca. They have been an absolute joy to work with, and I will be proud to fly the Pedro’s Boat flag! ☺
My other new partner is CYOA Yacht Charters here in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. John Jacobs and his team provide the only full service chartering in the USVI, with a full fleet of cats and monohulls. The advantages of the USVI for chartering are direct flights, greater provisioning options, uncrowded anchorages, and an immediate start to your precious few days of cruising. CYOA has supported sailing in the VI for many years, and I am proud to support them now.
The year 2020 looms huge for us all, a blank sheet of paper. We only live once, so let’s all commit to making the most of every single day, and do our part to help make the world around us a better place along the way.
Just finished racing the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia on the J Class yacht TOPAZ. Absolutely one of the best places in the world to race, with stunning scenery, challenging conditions, and great competition. Our team on TOPAZ did an outstanding job, beating our rival VELSHEDA in the first two races, and then almost beating them in the third race, coming up just shy in the final crossing of the last beat before reaching to the finish. We are literally meters apart for hours against them, going toe-to-toe, in some of the greatest racing I have ever done. Unfortunately we had a mechanical issue after racing that third day which prevented us from sailing the final two races of the event, and so we had to settle for 2nd place overall. Once again VELSHEDA proved to be an excellent foe, a great team to race against, and still the bench mark amongst all the J Class yachts in my opinion. But kudos to our team that found a way, dug deeper, and sailed a great regatta. The permanent crew will now work hard to fix our issue and get us back out on the race track.
Just finished an epic journey on my Outremer 45 catamaran here in the Med.I was joined by my racing navigator and good friend Nacho, who is considering getting a cat for himself, and so was keen to join and help me test mine. We sailed from Menorca, off the coast of Spain where I have been based, across to Tunisia on the Northern tip of Africa.Tunisia was the best non-EU country nearby to meet some VAT guidelines. It was a great trip and the perfect chance to finally unleash my Outremer 45 and see how she performs, test myinventory of North Sails, my B&G instrument package, and my Mastervolt power system.And everything has been awesome, even better than I hoped it would be. Tunisia was also a pleasant surprise, with lovely people and heaps of history.On the return leg, we stopped at the bottom of Sardinia and visited a cool little island named Carloforte, before sailing back across to Menorca.Absolutely one of the nicest sailing trips I’ve ever had.It was the first real outing with my cat using the full kit, and having Nacho along made for the ultimate test sail.We tested her in every mode, used every sail to learn it’s range, and trialed nearly every feature of the B&G navigation package and Mastervolt power system to see how they all worked.We both enjoyed every phase of it and came away highly impressed.So an awesome one for me, real happy to be so satisfied with all the choices I had made.Now headed back to the VI for a bit before returning to Sardinia next month for the Rolex Maxi Regatta.A big thank you to my partners in this cat venture, Outremer, North Sails, B&G, Mastervolt, and Harken.
I have just wrapped up a long prep and racing period in Palma Majorca. This was our first event of the season on TOPAZ, the J Class that I race. We had done a few tweaks during the off-season (top secret, can’t tell you more J) so a few early days to get things right, and then the Palma Superyacht Cup, where we would face a fleet of top boats, including VELSHEDA, a J Class similar to us, which I rate as the top J Class yacht around. So a great opportunity to test our changes, work on the endless process of refining how to sail these ultra challenging boats just a little faster.
We had an un-official race day with just the two J’s, where we did two races, and each won a race. Then the regatta proper, three days, three races. Day one they beat us by a few seconds, after over 3 hours of racing! Day two we returned the favor and beat them by 15 seconds. Day three would decide, so nothing like a little old fashioned match racing at the start in 140ft Americas Cup boats designed in the 1930’s. No crashes, so all good! And we battled feet apart around the entire track, changed the lead a few times, but finally got ahead on the last leg to the finish to score the win. This also gave us victory in our division, so a nice way to start the season.
It’s early days in the performance improvement game for TOPAZ, but nice to see some of the changes we made were helpful. VELSHEDA is the benchmark in my opinion, and a great group of guys to race against, so we are very grateful to have them to compete against all summer.
We now have a few weeks to analyze our performance, consider any more changes, re-cut a few sail shapes, and then we meet again at the Maxi Rolex Cup in Sardinia in late August.
So all good, our team sailed really well, very proud of our guys, and very happy for our wonderful owners.
Just finished racing the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo Sardinia onboard the Wally Cento+ OPEN SEASON. She is a Vrolijk designed 100 footer, later stretched to 107 feet. Porto Cervo is absolutely one of my favorite places in the world to sail, so it was going to be a great week, no matter the results! This was my first time racing with this team, but we had a couple short training sessions in Palma prior to the event, so were pretty well prepared as a crew. The boat has not raced in over a year, and so this was a test event for the owner, with old sails, to help decide if he will do a proper campaign next year.
We were in the Performance class with about 12 boats. Magic Carpet was going to be the benchmark for everyone, as she is a fully optimized and campaigned Wally Cento. Sure enough, she sailed nearly perfect and easily won the event. The battle was for 2nd, and this was between us and about 4 other boats. Going into the final day the Briand 115 INUI held a 2 point lead over us, and unfortunately the final race was canceled when the wind died, so we finished third for the week. But a great regatta, the team sailed really well, and we were satisfied with the outcome.
I’m now on my cat in Menorca for one day, and then it’s off to Palma to prepare for the first event of the season on TOPAZ. This is the J Class that I will sail with for the remainder of the 2019 season. This first event will be at the Superyacht Cup Palma, where we will have some great competition there to test ourselves against, including the other top J Class VELSHEDA. Should be a great event.
My 2019 racing season started in late January on the Eastern Caribbean island of Grenada, where I helped a local team of Grenadians race their home built Carib 33. Grenada is about the only Caribbean island I had never been to, so I was keen to go when I got the call from my buddy Nacho. It was also an opportunity to help a local team sail. Although we are surrounded here in the islands by the best sailing in the world, our local people rarely get involved in the water and boating, so any opportunity to help promote this is welcome. I had a super time, helped them win the regatta, and finally got to see and enjoy the “spice” island of the Caribbean. Nice way to start the year.
Next up was the St. Barths Bucket in March, about as extreme a contrast as you could get to the regatta in Grenada. This one is on monster yachts all over 100ft. I was tactician on the 54 meter Hyperion and we sailed a good regatta and most important, had a great time on St. Barths. We were 3 boats tied going into the final race when our genoa split in half, forcing us to limp around the course. But we held on to third for the event, and the owners were pleased, so all was ok.
Next up for me is a series of events and training in Europe. I will be heading over in April and will base myself on the Spanish island of Menorca on my Outremer 45 catamaran. This year I have scheduled some breaks in between my regattas so I plan to take a few trips around Europe and finally get to enjoy sailing the cat.
Here’s to a great year of work, play, and enjoying life to the fullest.
One could not pick a better way to wrap up the 2018 racing season than by racing the J Class yacht Topaz in the Voiles de St. Tropez. We were placed in the modern IRC class with 24 other yachts, but mainly focussed on the boat similar to us, our rival J Class Valsheda. We had some great racing all week, and managed to beat them, finish 9th in class, and win the Loro Piana Trophy for top Superyacht.
The Voiles de St. Tropez is truly one of our sports greatest festivals of sailing, combining modern race yachts with some of the most elegant classics afloat. Everyday was a sight to be seen with the horizon filled with the full spectrum of racing to classic yachts. And all in the quaint and beautiful town of St. Tropez.
Thank you Topaz and team for a fantastic year. Now it’s time to head back to my lovely Virgin Islands for some time off.
And a special thanks to my partners Outremer, North Sails, Mastervolt, B&G, Harken, and Marina Menorca.