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Around Tortola – The Pirate Would have been Proud

The legendary Peg Leg would have been proud as a pirate craft scored the main silverware in November 22nd’s Peg Leg’s Round Tortola Race. Kevin Rowlette steered the Willy T, a black hulled Olson 30 decorated with the skull and crossbones, to victory in the 36-mile annual event.  They completed the race in four hours, 58 minutes and 34 seconds to win the Racing Class and overall. Bill Bailey’s Second Nature romped home at the head of the Cruising Class in five hours, 58 minutes and 15 seconds.

The boats faced strong trade winds and big waves surfing down the north side of the island. "We almost dropped out when one of our bulkheads started to separate from the hull," said Rowlette, but added that they had been able to brace it and carry on. The fastest time was recorded by Dave West’s Melges 32 Jurakan in a mere four hours, 28 minutes and two seconds, but after handicaps were applied, Jurakan dropped to third. Peter Haycraft’s Pipe Dream finished second.

The leaders showed consistency all the way through the marathon race. An unusual northeasterly breeze made the first leg to Beef Island more tactical than usual, forcing competitors to judge the advantages of flatter water and favourable shifts inshore against bigger breeze further out. Off Scrub Island the fleet encountered big, confused seas with the potential to stop a boat in its tracks if handled wrongly. Following the long run down the north side the next pitfall for the unwary was the narrow, current-filled gap between the West End and Little Thatch, where the light and fickle breeze held up several boats for a long time. Willy T was not the only boat to suffer problems. Robin Tattersall’s Diva had mast problems and also nearly retired, while Guy Eldridge’s Luxury Girl was caught in a wind hole and so spun around by current off West End that she had to reverse course for several minutes to drift away from the rocks while watching the fleet sail away.

The smallest boat to complete the event was Mark Plaxton’s Intac helmed by BVI Olympic aspirant Alec Anderson, who finished a creditable fourth. Rounding out the racers were Andrew Thompson’s Melges 24 Crew Clothing, which had been hastily unpacked from storage and launched the day before, and Jeff Williams’ J 40 Gryphon, while Sheryl & Erik Groenenberg celebrated a "significant" birthday aboard their Grand Soleil 39 Stella di Mare in Cruising Class.

Finishes were called by King Greenspon from the patio of race sponsor Peg Leg’s bar and restaurant, where the usual celebrations, animated hand gesture re-enactments, whines about one’s handicap and commiserations were helped along by Dark & Stormy drink specials and the music of Elms’ Steve and Gorgeous George. Peg Legs’ manager Eddie Brockbank, who had joined the race aboard the Willy T, said "We are very happy to have taken over as sponsor of this event and look forward to the race being held from here for many more years."

Race report submitted by the Royal BVI Yacht Club

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