The Christmas winds died down, the New Year’s Eve hangovers receded and the Territory’s sailors came out in early January for the first races of the year organised by the Royal BVI Yacht Club, the Halyard Challenge sponsored by Latitude 18. Dave West’s hi tech Melges 32 Jurakan, flying an enormous red spinnaker, crossed the finish line of both races comfortably ahead to take line honours. She completed the first race from Road Harbour around Cooper Island to Dead Man’s Bay on Peter Island in less than two hours and took only just over an hour on the return leg to the harbour via Dead Chest and a mark off Nanny Cay.
However, once handicaps were applied it came down to a close duel between the Haycraft family’s Sirena 38 Pipe Dream and the First 10R Luxury Girl skippered by Guy Eldridge. In the first race the fleet was too eager and all eight boats were called back by Ron Gurney, Race Committee Chairman, for being over early. The race started cleanly at the second attempt and the fleet beat out of the harbour with Jurakan and Luxury Girl playing shifts up the shoreline to pull ahead. Both chose a conservative central line to cross the current of the Sir Francis Drake channel and round Cooper Island.
This was the first time many of the racers had seen the backside of Cooper, but as Bob Phillips, Luxury Girl’s tactician and Chairman of the BVI Spring Regatta Committee put it, "You’d better get used to seeing the outside of the islands, we have several courses planned for out there this spring…" On the run down between Dead Chest and Peter Island Pipe Dream made a late charge and closed up to third on corrected time, followed in by Kevin Rowlette’s skull & crossbones-liveried Olson 30 Willy T.
The fleet enjoyed a short lunch break at anchor in Dead Man’s Bay, with Luxury Girl’s crew trying to distract the traditionally dry and serious Jurakan team with chilled Heineken donations, and some hardy souls braving the frigid (well, to longterm residents) water for a swim. Ron and his faithful assistant Diane Lewis entertained the moored bareboaters setting a start line right in the Bay, with competitors manoeuvring around anchored Moorings cats. Pipe Dream judged it perfectly and hammered off to an excellent midline start while Luxury Girl approached the line early and had to run off to the pin end starting well down the fleet.
After a short beat to Dead Chest the fleet set off on a long run down to Nanny Cay which jumbled the positions. The lightweight sportboats Jurakan and Andrew Thompson’s Melges 24 Crewclothing.co.uk struggled in the dying breeze, while Luxury Girl overtook the Willy T. The best gain was made by Colin Rathbun at the helm of Team Lime, one of three IC 24’s, the smallest boats in the fleet, who persisted in staying close enough to win the race on corrected time.
On the final beat to the finish, Team Lime and Pipe Dream hung on to finish first and second. Luxury Girl took advantage of a poorly timed "slam dunk" tack from Willy T to sail through her lee and take third, giving her four points after two races and a one point lead over Pipe Dream.
"I have to thank my crew" said Luxury Girl’s skipper, Guy Eldridge. "My time and distance judgment on the start of the second race was awful and I put us in a bad position, but they kept working and pulled us out." Team Lime’s second race win was enough to lift Colin Rathbun to third overall. Richard Wooldridge’s IC 24 Racing in Paradise was awarded a special prize for having the youngest crew members, Ryan Wooldridge and Sam Morrell.
Report courtesy of the Royal BVI Yacht Club