Look out racers, there will be a new kid on the block this upcoming Caribbean regatta season. Jason Fletcher, his crew at Grenada Marine, in St. David’s, and a talented team of friends and yacht experts, plan to launch their first Caribbean 33 in December, just in time to train and make the start at Grenada Sailing Week (GSW).
“We have raced in cruising for quite some time,” says Fletcher, who won GSW’s CSA Racer-Cruiser class for the past two years aboard his Albin Stratus 36, Apero.
“We decided we wanted to play with the big boys in racing class, but couldn’t afford to or justify buying a race boat. Plus, we felt that we could build one and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Caribbean 33’s ‘dream team’ of designers and builders came together through what Fletcher calls divine intervention, or a mix of friendship connections and interest by those who have a love of race boats. First on the scene was Britt Colombo and Toby Mueller of Carbon Ocean Yachts (COY), in Bristol, Rhode Island. Together with Fletcher they had discussed building a race boat for the past few years, especially in the wake of race week. However, Fletcher deemed the full-on carbon fiber ocean racing machines COY constructs as out of his reach. Then Nacho Postigo, a professional sailor and invited crew for GSW aboard Fletcher’s Apero, heard the idea, liked it and crafted a design brief for an affordable yet capable racing machine. COY’s Colombo and Mueller suggested Rodger Martin and Ross Weene of Rodger Martin Designs, in Newport, Rhode Island, might be willing to come aboard as the designers with the COY boys consulting and overseeing the build.
“The initial design brief was exciting as well as challenging: Build a 33ft race boat to sail under the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) Rule, of mostly wooden construction, to be raced by a crew of five to nine, to be built largely by Grenada Marine with assistance from COY,” says Weene.
Weene explains that optimizing the boat to be competitive under the CSA rule required extensive use of VPP (Velocity Performance Prediction) to assess hull shapes, sail plan and mast choices, appendage decisions and ballast quantity. The windy Caribbean race conditions necessitated a lightweight design with a high level of required stability, which in turn increased loads on the structure and the need for efficiently located fiberglass reinforcements. In the end, her hull and cockpit are constructed of Okume plywood skins over plywood frames and cedar stringers and her deck is fiberglass/foamcore. The keel can be raised or removed for shipping.
“We expect the Caribbean 33 to hold her own against the current sport boats such as the Melges 32, Farr 280, the Far East 28, the C&C 30 and of course the Category 5,” says Fletcher, who proposes to call the yacht, Apero 2, if the team approves.
Design work started in 2015. As of August, Grenada Marine had all of the plywood panels that were cut and laminated by COY. The launch is planned for December 15, 2016. Fletcher plans to sail the Caribbean 33 in GSW, as well as the other regattas down south. However, the chief intention, he says, is to race the Caribbean circuit and show her off to potential buyers in the region.
“If the performance is as good as what the VPP suggests and the CSA rating is close to the trial certificate we have issued for the boat, I think it will make a lot of sense to have more of these built,” says Postigo. “Who knows, maybe we’ll end up getting our own Caribbean 33 class in the major Caribbean regattas!”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.