It is 4321 nautical miles from The Solent (a stretch of sea separating the Isle of Wight from England) to Grenada in the West Indies. This December there will be a fantastic party on Grenada to celebrate the finish of the first ever Spice Race—a race for Class 40s and IRC cruising yachts that are looking for a new challenge.
The Spice Race is the brainchild of British businessman, Tony Lawson, who started his first business in Grenada in the late 1960s, at age 19. To this a day he retains strong connections with the “Spice Island,” as Grenada is known for good reason; cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are very much part of the island’s economy.
In the 1970’s, Lawson returned to the UK and went on to create a property business which, when time allowed, enabled him to continue his passion for yacht racing and the Caribbean. His 44ft race boat Supercilious won Antigua Race week, he crewed on a winning Transpac yacht and he has completed several Trans- Atlantics. In recent years, Lawson became involved with the Class 40 and purchased Concise, an Akilaria 40.
“The ethos of the class is fantastic,” commented Lawson. “A true offshore race boat that can still be used for cruising and round the cans racing. The Class rules keep the boats uncomplicated and robust, so there is less chance of gear failure and sailing them is relatively straightforward.”
Lawson also believes that while Britain has been extremely successful in Olympic sailing, youth development for offshore sailing is still thin on the ground in the UK.
“The first round the world race was won by Robin Knox Johnston and Britain has a proud heritage in offshore sailing from Sir Francis Chichester to Dame Ellen MacArthur,” said Lawson. “We should not let the opening afforded by the Class 40 pass us by. It’s true that the Open 60s are very dominant at the moment, they get a lot of the offshore sailing press. I am not saying that The Spice Race will make the Class 40 more dominant than the 60s, but it might just help to raise the profile of the class and in a way narrow the gap a little.”
The Spice Race, which will start from the Solent on the 15th of November, is to be hosted by the Royal Southampton Yacht Club and will finish in Grenada in December. Tony Lawson expects about 10 Class 40s to compete either fully crewed or two-handed and is also inviting boats to take part in an IRC division.
“We decided to keep the first Spice Race a simple affair, to concentrate on the basics and get them right,” explained Lawson. “However, we very much welcome cruiser/racers as well. I think the course will be great for Northern European yachts that might have crossed the Atlantic before but feel that a full blown race might now be the order of the day. The route is a far more tactical than a straight trade wind run and this should be a quality fleet.
“Competition will be strong especially among the Class 40’s who are now really finding their way. Entry fees will be kept as low as possible. This is a ‘not for profit event’ and we are looking at race sponsorship to assist us here. Individual yachts will be allowed sponsors as well.” For details: www.spicerace.com
According to Spice Race organizers, the Class 40 is a rapidly-growing race class in Europe, where there are 69 boats racing or under construction.
“It’s a fast, easy-to-sail boat, available with a full cruising interior or as a minimalist racer, with a fixed keel, twin rudders, water ballast, open cockpit, carbon rig and retractable carbon pole for asymmetrical kites. Class rules don’t allow canting keels or exotic materials in construction, which serves to keeps the cost down and make the boats less complicated to sail providing plenty of bang for the buck.”