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.