Hello 2015 !!

Well 2014 sure flew by! It was a great year, and I am looking forward to an even better one in 2015. My current schedule sees me starting the year in Antigua and then going straight to one of my new favorites- Cape Town, South Africa. I will then return to the Caribbean for our busy race season that runs through April, before jumping over to Europe and the USA. This year also sees me signed up for the 2000-mile sleigh ride in the Transpac race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. All good!

A big thank-you to all my teammates and owners that I am so fortunate to be able to race with. Thanks to them I am able to sail in all types of boats, and to enjoy and appreciate all forms of sailing in our great sport. From IC24’s, to a wooden 1936 Fife designed 8meter, to carbon 52’s and 82 foot Maxi’s, and finally up to 125 foot Superyachts with thirty crew onboard. Each different and with their own unique challenges to sail well and help orchestrate a team to achieve a top performance.

I am also heavily involved with promoting sailing in my region of the world via the Caribbean Sailing Association. Now in my third and final year as President, I am most proud of what our team has done over the last few years to promote Caribbean racing to the world, while at the same time improve our events, and also reach down to promote sailing at the grass-roots level on the smaller islands. Honestly one of the most rewarding “jobs” I have ever had, to give back to the sport that has given me so much. A big thanks to the team that works with me at the CSA.

And finally, a big shout-out to my great partners and sponsors that I thoroughly enjoy promoting as I travel the world racing: Kaenon Polarized Sunglasses, the absolute best sunglasses, bar none. Designed by sailors, for sailors. Horizon Yacht Charters, the best team to help make sure you have the absolute most enjoyable charter experience in the Caribbean. And finally, Seahorse magazine, the most complete technical and informative magazine for sailors. Thanks for the ride!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and fast 2015,

Peter

October 2014 Report

Just returned from two great events in France. And in quite a different league than I normally compete. I raced in the Regatta Royale in Cannes in late September and then Les Voiles de St. Tropez in early October, both in a wooden 1930 Fife designed 6 meter, beautifully restored in Antigua. Yes that’s right, a wooden boat !

Although I can’t help myself but compete to win when I am on the water, the greater goal at these two events was to enjoy sailing amongst the hundreds of beautifully restored wooden boats and appreciate the beauty of it all. The fleet ranged from tiny little 25 foot modern wooden boats, to 150 foot classic schooners. Safety was one of the top priorities, and with the larger boats starting last and coming through the fleet, looking backwards was as important as looking forward. Clear air was as important as picking the right side of the course. The winds at this time of the year are mostly very light, or too strong if a front comes through, so it was mostly a light air regatta. The committee work at these events leaves a bit to be desired, and when you throw in the French language, we had a bit on trying to keep things straight, but we managed to start on time and sail the right courses each day, so success.

I hesitate to even mention results, as that was not the main goal, but I will say that we didn’t win. The rating system was pretty bad, with the boats placing in the same order no matter how well they sailed, and pretty big gaps in corrected times. But we did sail quite well, managing to get off the line clean at every start, and being ahead of most of the bigger boats in our class at the first mark. But as the smallest boat, once everyone got on the reaching legs, and there were plenty, the big fellers would just extend away from us. In the end we finished several places higher than we should have, so came away feeling pretty good.

Next up for me is the Caribbean Sailing Association Annual Conference in Antigua at the end of October. I’m currently the President and really enjoy the hard work we are doing to grow sailing in the region where I am from. With the best sailing conditions in the world, I am a firm believer that we we have a bright future and should capitalize on the opportunities ahead, for growing our Grand Prix regattas, developing our basic youth sailing programs, and benefitting the island economies along the way. Hard work, but all good, and nice to give back to the sport that has given me so much.

Then in early November I travel to Cape Town for my last event of the year, the IRC Nationals on the RP52 Cape Fling. With a new set of rudders, and average winds of 30, it should be a blast!

peter

September 2014 Report

I’ve just finished my third event in the past six weeks, so a good time for a little update. First up for me in early August was Cowes Week, one of the biggest sailing events in the world, with 36 classes, and close to 1000 boats. Based out of Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, just off the Southern coast of England, the event is sailed in the body of water between the two called the Solent. Huge currents, lots of tricky shoals to navigate, and complex winds, makes this one of the greatest places to race in the world. Except for the weather! It can often be miserably cold and wet, and I am always amazed why so many Brits took up the outdoor sport of sailing. Anyway, we actually had relatively mild conditions for the 10 days we were there, so the racing was really enjoyable. We had added a heavier bulb to our keel since the Caribbean to try to improve our upwind performance, and this event served as our first test. We had some great racing against a diverse group of boats in the IRC 0 class, and the mods to the boat proved good, as we took the lead on the opening day, and held it through to the end to win our class. Some really challenging racing, in the same waters where the Americas Cup all got started. Great stuff.

Next up for me was the Newport Bucket in Rhode Island in mid August onboard P2, the Briand 125 that I’ve been racing with for the past 5 years. This was our first event in a year, and followed a major refit in the yard in Italy, so several new systems to be tested. It also served as a warm-up event for us before the big racing season starts next year in January. We had several days of good training before the regatta, and so went into it feeling pretty good. We had a great regatta, the team all sailed really well, and the boat with its new systems performed perfectly. Three races, three firsts, so mission complete!

Next up was the Rolex Maxi Worlds in Sardinia Italy on the RP 82 Highland Fling. It was also our first event on this boat in a year, and followed several upgrades and modifications to the boat. Porto Cervo and the surrounding coast and islands where we race is one of my favorite places in the world to sail. The courses take us around a multitude of rocks and islands, all with spectacular rock formations, with challenging wind changes at each turn, making sail choices really difficult. It was a small fleet this year, so we mostly challenged ourselves to sail as well as we could, and judged ourselves accordingly. In the end we sailed really well to win the event, and also enjoyed a great week of racing on a really fast boat.

So three events, three wins, makes for a pretty nice couple weeks of racing. Now for a two week recharge at home, and then off to France for two events- the Regatta Royale in Cannes, and the Voile de St. Tropez, where I will be sailing the restored 1930 Fife 6meter NADA. After flying around in carbon fiber boats all year, it’s a refreashing change to step into a classic wooden boat and sail in these two events. Really looking forward to it, and maybe a little of the rose wine that they are famous for!!

June 2014 Report

I have just returned from my first European event of the season, the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Sardinia in early June. This event targets the new growth class in our sport, Superyachts. This class started as informal racing amongst big cruising yachts, but as it grew in popularity and wealthy owners naturally started to compete more intensely, the new designs have become more performance oriented. The beauty is that some truly dual-purpose yachts are now being designed and built; a sleek performance design incorporating the latest technology, but with a cruising interior tucked inside that one can enjoy entertaining family and guests on. For this reason, it is now probably the area of the most growth in our sport.

Back to the event. The racing was held in Porto Cervo, which is one of the nicest areas in the world to sail; clear water, lots of small islands to use as marks, and generally good winds and weather. For this event I was sailing with the Highland Fling team on a chartered Southern Wind 100 named Cape Arrow. We had a great series with a close battle right through to the final day, and finished on the podium in 3rd place, which we are content with considering we were racing with a “rental”!

A couple of weeks before this I enjoyed racing in a “fun” event in Antigua during Sailing Week. Eight skippers were invited to compete for a one-week holiday at the Nonsuch Bay Resort in Antigua, sailing in three person RS Elite boats. I had a blast, really enjoying getting back into a small boat, getting to use some of my matchrace skills, and dueling with other teams on a short race track. We did well, making it to the finals from our group, and then winning it with three straight bullets! I was particularly grateful to my crew Kevin Miller, so he gets to take his wife on a one-week holiday!

Next up for me will be Cowes Week in England in late July, where we get to test the latest modifications to the IRC52 Highland Fling.

All for now,
peter

April 2014 Report

I just recently finished doing two more great events here in the Caribbean. First was the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR), formerly the Rolex Cup Regatta. VI Tourism, Captain Morgan Rum, and Heineken stepped up their sponsorship where Rolex left off and the event continued stronger than ever. I was again racing on the IRC 52 HIGHLAND FLING and we had probably the best class racing that any event will see in the region this year. Our class had four 52’s, a Cookson 50 with a canting keel, and a Kerr 46. We were blessed with three great days of weather, with a squally 5-25 first day, a solid 20 knots on the second day, and then a moderate 15 on the final day. One of the best things about this regatta is the use of islands and rocks as marks, making for a challenging and scenic course through all the islands. The TP52 NEAR MISS from Switzerland dominated for the win, TONNERE, the top IRC boat in Europe the last several years was second, and we stole 3rd.

Next was the BVI Spring Regatta a week later. Three days of 20-25 knot winds and several races a day made for some tough, but fast and exciting, sailing. We only had TONNERE in our class, and they beat us soundly. It was unfortunate we only had one good boat to race against, but we did benefit from having John Reichel, our boats designer, onboard one day to address our performance issues. As we learned from this and the previous event in St. Thomas, our boat was not sailing up to it’s potential and we need to make changes. After analyzing the data and seeing the boat perform, he is convinced that we are lacking stability, so a new heavier bulb has been ordered and we’ll be ready for our next event in England to test this upgrade against a tough fleet of other 52’s.

Next up for me is the RS Elite Challenge in Antigua, which should be good fun.

peter

March 2014 Report

My 2014 season kicked off with the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta on the TP52+ HIGHLAND FLING in early March. This event has grown to over 200 boats, with the full spectrum of classes from big boats to small, multihulls, and a major bareboat class. Our 52 was designed and built in 2011 and we had our first outing at Key West 2012. After working out a few bugs and modifying our twin rudders, we entered the 2012 Rolex in St. Thomas with high hopes of seeing the true performance of the boat which was designed for coastal racing, rather than Windward-Leewards like most of the TP52’s. We took off in race 1 and were leading our division, only to see our mast break at mark #1. What a crying shame. The owner decided to pursue other racing for the next season, and so only now built a replacement rig and started racing the 52 again, with Heineken as our first event. After a few training days and getting all systems working, we had 4 fantastic days of racing. Days 1-3 were 15-20kts, and the final day was a light tricky day. Showing that she loves big breeze and off-wind sailing, we romped around the course on the first 3 days, winning all our races. Top speed I saw was on the around the island race when we were hitting sustained 20-25kts of boatspeed. Now that’s sailboat racing! The final day was like sailing through a minefield, avoiding the clouds and their no-wind zones. We did a really good job, but got nipped by a Kerr 43 by one minute to finish second for the day. So a great event, wining our class, and starting to see the potential of this great boat. Next events for the team are the St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR, formerly the Rolex Cup) and then the BVI Spring Regatta.

I now take a quick diversion to San Diego to race in the 1,000 mile race to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the Santa Cruz 70 HOLUA. One of my rare distance races, but sailing with the legend Dave Ullman, plus ace naviguesser Wouter Verbak, should make for a great experience.

peter

October 2013 Report

Cruising along at 35,000 feet on my way home from my final big overseas trip of the year. I just finished racing in Long Beach, CA at the Campbell Cup, and prior to that was the Voiles de St. Tropez in France.

The regatta in France was a fantastic experience. This event is as much a celebration of sailing as it is a regatta. The greatest assembly of beautifully restored wooden classics race inside the bay, while the IRC and Wally fleets sail outside. And this year I had my first opportunity to sail in the classics, on a 1929 Fife designed 6 meter named NADA owned by Peter Harrison of the Superyacht SOJANA. I believe the 6 meter class originated in the 1920’s and grew into one of the biggest classes around the world, and might even have been an Olympic class at one point. The class has remained strong over the years, with their own Worlds and other championships held yearly. For this event we were racing amongst a diverse fleet of classics, ranging from ourselves as the smallest boat at 33 feet, up to 8 meter boats at 45 feet plus. And the racing was awesome. Five crew, myself driving, hiking out, and pulling on ropes. I loved it. Three of the crew would hike below to get the weight furthest out, with just me and one other on deck going upwind to look around, make decisions, and pull ropes. The jib comes all the way aft to the helmsman, so the only way to see boats below and not crash, is to have someone peek under the jib every minute or so. With all the big boat racing I do now, getting back onto a small boat was wonderful. I had a great team who helped me learn the boat quickly, do all the maneuvers, and help make decisions. And all this in lovely St. Tropez, amongst the rich and famous. Yes, life is ok! Oh and the racing, it was a blast. We had some exciting starts with 35-40 boats on the line, us being the small fry, trying to have a clean exit and not get run over as the big boats got going. We did well, didn’t die, and usually were ahead on the water or on corrected time at the first weather mark. Unfortunately most of the races are predominantly reaching, which is all about waterline length, so the bigger boats just stretch away and can easily put their handicap time on us. But this little team roared, and managed to punch above our weight, and finish fourth for the series. It was truly a great experience for me and I hope to do more of it again soon.

My next event saw me flying a zillion miles over to California, but luckily I had a few days to get over the jet lag. I raced the Campbell Cup on the Santa Cruz 70 HOLUA with a great team, having two days of windward-leeward racing around the buoys. We had a class of 5 boats, all similar, with only a minute or two of handicap difference per race. This is the only buoy race HOLUA will do, so the boat is moded in light configuration for the rest of the year where they sail all downwind courses, to either Mexico or Hawaii. Accordingly, we lacked stability against most of the fleet, so had our work cut out for us on the upwind legs where stability is king. PAYWACKET had the greatest stability, and sailed away from all of us each race for an easy win. So the race was for the remaining places, and we had a great battle with GRAND ILLUSION for second right up until the final race. Luckily for us we saved our best race for last, took them to the layline, and spanked them into the top mark and pushed them back into the fleet traffic. We then sailed shifts and a loose cover on them to extend and beat them on handicap, for a second place in the regatta. I also had a great time coming to the west coast and racing amongst this fleet and seeing many of my friends which I only see on this side of the country. Sunny weather, building sea breeze each day, in the waters where I sailed my first Olympics, all made for a great time. Thanks to Dave Ullman for inviting me out to help, I really enjoyed it.

Now it’s back home with only a few regional events until the racing season kicks off next March. My next gig is a speaking engagement this week with Dennis Conner, Mr. Americas Cup himself. We are doing a joint presentation at a John Maxwell conference in St. Thomas on October 17 which should be fun. I did the 2000 Cup with DC and look forward to seeing him again.

My next gig after that will be the Caribbean Sailing Association AGM and Regatta Organizers Conference in Puerto Rico at the end of October. I’m currently the president of the CSA and we are trying to make some big changes in the years ahead. This body administers the CSA handicap system for all the Caribbean regattas, plus coordinates the race calendar, promotes dinghy sailing, and fosters sailing throughout the region. The Regatta Organizers conference dovetails the AGM and is a unique event the world over, bringing competing events together to network and share strategy at improving OUR Caribbean events and strengthening our position on the world racing circuit. I believe the Caribbean has huge potential to grow into one of the strongest sailing regions of the world, and this body has the potential to take it there. Huge challenge, but great rewards if we can achieve it.

And my final event of the year is the Carlos Aguilar Match Race in St. Thomas in late November. Match Racing is my favorite, but unless you commit 100% to it, which means fund a team or find a sponsor, it now can only be a fun campaign for me. I will reassemble my team of locals, dust off the cob webs, and give the pros a good ol local effort. We almost won it last year, but got too serious, or tried too hard, and ended up third. This year I intend to keep it fun, sail loose, and be happy with taking any scalps I can.

Stay up!
Peter

September Report

I have just returned from a couple of really good events. First was the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds in Newport, Rhode Island, at the end of August. For many years, the F40 was THE class, attracting all the talent, and having some really big fleets and very close racing. The last few years have seen newer and faster classes emerge, and some of the owners have migrated away. But the die-hard class devotees have stuck with the class, and the racing is great. The boat is a good size, 40 feet, with ten crew, the owners drive, and only four professionals are allowed, the other six being amateurs (non industry pros). The highlights for me is the great tactical racing which takes place, not being an uncomfortable hiking fest like on some of the newer sport boats, and the mature nature of both the owners and tacticians in the class, which plays out on the race course. I served as tactician on the German entry Struntje Light. We finished fourth at last year’s worlds, and had hopes of another top five result. The team decided to introduce some new sails at the last minute, and I have to say it was a mistake, as we never found good speed throughout the event. This is a common mistake, as teams often put a lot of hope into new, fresh sails providing them with the silver bullet. But in all reality, it takes time to settle in and learn how to get the proper (fast) shape in the sail from fine tuning the set up of the rig, and just learning the nuances of new shapes and getting comfortable with them. So in the end we sailed a good regatta and rode our horse as hard as we could, and ended up 9th for the series, about where we belonged.

Next up for me was the Rolex Maxi Cup and Mini Maxi Worlds in Sardinia during the first week of September. This is one of the biggest events of the summer and attracts some of the best sailors from around the world. Classes included the Mini Maxis (72 feet max), Maxi, Super Maxi, and Wally. I was tactician on the Richael/Pugh 82 HIGHLAND FLING racing in the Maxi class. We had 5 days of great racing, doing coastal courses around all the rocks and islands off of Porto Cervo. The wind was on the light side compared to recent years, with only 5-15 knots, and mostly from the East. We started out pretty strong, wining the first two days of racing. Unfortunately our competitors got much better over the following days, and three of us went into the final day virtually tied, so that the winner of the final race, would win the series. We had a great start, and were leading twenty minutes into the race when we had a bit of a set-back. Like most boats our size and bigger, all our systems and winches are hydraulically driven, and powered by an engine or generator. Unfortunately our engine failed, and it took one of our crew about 20 minutes to get it back on line. During this period we sail in a very compromised state, with minimal maneuvers, and all of them being very slow. We calculated that we lost between two and three minutes to our competitors during this period. Once back on line, we sailed a great race, but in the end, we finished third…by 2:30 ! Ouch! Very frustrating, but that is reality on some of these more complex machines we are racing these days. Our team in fact did an incredible job to sail as well as we did while disabled, so we all walked away feeling OK about our final result, considering the circumstances.

So two good regattas back-to- back, and now a couple weeks at home to relax and recharge the batteries before my next event at the end of September in St. Tropez France.

peter

June Report

I’ve just returned from racing in four events in Europe. First up was the Dubois Cup at the beginning of June in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. This event is notable for the size of the yachts, more so than their performance. I was driving the 150 foot Prana, the biggest I’ve ever driven, with a crew of about 25. Although it may not be high performance, it is definitely some of the most challenging racing I have done. It is a big task trying to make these huge yachts perform, and doing so safely with the huge loads, lack of maneuverability, and the power in yachts of this size. We had a great week, with good crew work and very few mistakes, and i enjoyed meeting and working with a new team.

Next up was the Loro Piana Super Yacht Regatta, also in Porto Cervo. I raced P2 in this event, a Briand 125, with a crew of about 20. I have been with this yacht now for almost five years and we have grown into a great team. We have improved the performance tremendously from day one, sailing the boat better each time. The owner has also continuously upgraded the boat and sails every year. Because of all this, we have made it on to the podium at almost every event. Except this one. The organizers chose a different application of the handicapping system, and for some reason, it hammered us, and no matter how well we sailed each day, we could never get a top 3 result. Not good, and not a happy owner or team.

My next event was the Giraglia Rolex Cup in St. Tropez, France. This event is in three stages- a distance race from Sanremo Italy to St. Tropez, a three day in-shore regatta around St. Tropez, and then a distance race to Genoa, Italy that rounds the Giraglia Rock off Corsica on the way. Luckily for me, our owner only wanted to do the inshore portion! We were racing a new Ker 46, a fast grand-prix IRC boat with a crew of 13. We had a great class with over 70 boats, from 30 footers up to TP52’s. The starts were scary as, and a great challenge to get off the line clear (and alive) and then fight for clear lanes going the route you preferred. We managed a 10th on day one, then a 4th, and then on day three the wind completely died one hour into the race. We were in great position, but after drifting for over an hour, we decided that any result would be meaningless after this reshuffle, so we opted to motor in and start packing the boat away. But great event, good hard racing, and a fun boat that gets up and goes with any wind at all.

The final event on my euro tour was the Super Yacht Cup Palma, again on P2. The handicappers got the (heated) message in Sardinia, so they changed their system. For this event, rather than pre-race guessing of the conditions and handicap to apply, they would take data from several yachts to get an accurate read on the conditions, and then calculate the results after the race. A little delay of a couple of hours to get your result, but we were all willing to wait if it meant getting fair results. Bottom line it worked better, but it still needs serious work to make it right. In the end we sailed a really good regatta and finished second, so a podium finish, a great party in a castle with the full moon, and good final event to my tour.

A long trip, but a great time, and now happy to be home for a couple weeks before my next event back in Europe.

Ciao,
peter

April Report

I just finished a busy month of racing in March with three regattas. First up was the Farr 40 Miami Invitational in mid-March where I sailed as tactician onboard STRUNTJE LIGHT. We sailed along the coast, directly in front of South Beach. Conditions were rough and windy the first few days, and then very light for the final day. Very challenging conditions, where you had to trust your instincts. We started off on a blinder, scoring 1-2-1-2, and leading the regatta after the first day of racing. We managed to continue leading the four-day regatta right through to the final day, and finished one point ahead of PLENTY to take the win. Great result for our team as we prepare for the Farr 40 Worlds in August in Newport, RI.

Next up for me was the Loro Piana Super Yacht Regatta in Virgin Gorda, BVI where I sail as helmsman on P2, the Briand 125. This is our fifth season sailing together and we have a full schedule planned for the year, starting with three events in the Caribbean, and then moving over to do four in the Med. The Virgin Gorda event was a great one, with 20 yachts, light to moderate winds, and close racing around all the islands and rocks in the BVI. The setting in North Sound and the 5 star quality of the new Yacht Club Costa Smeralda make this event really special. Hopefully they will keep it this way and not allow their success to grow it too big. The racing was close and we went into the final day with a chance to win, but ended up tied for 3rd with the J Class HANUMAN.

The final event for me was the St. Barths Bucket at the end of March, also on P2. This is the biggest Super Yacht event in the world, with 36 yachts competing. The entries included 5 J Class yachts racing in their own class, the first time since the 1930’s that this many of the classic America’s Cup designs have sailed together. Racing was great, with moderate winds on the first day, followed by solid 20 knot trade winds on the final two days to test the crew and equipment on these huge boats. We went into the final day in a three way tie for first, and ended up tied for first on points with UNFURLED, but finishing second after the tie break system was applied. Tough to be so close and not win it, but we sailed a great regatta and did all we could to pull off a victory.

All good,
peter