David Glenn has a storming ride at the helm Pindar during race 3 of Antigua Sailing Week 4/5/06
Just when Rolex Antigua Sailing Week was beginning to look a bit tame, along came Big Tuesday and a master-blaster ride aboard the Open 60 Pindar.
She’s the old Hexagon, originally Graham Dalton’s boat but in the Caribbean she’s being skippered by Nick ‘Nobby’ Black and crewed by some top UK names from the grand prix short-handed ocean racing circuit. Alex Thomson was taking time out from his Boss programme, Brian Thompson was aboard along with Lymington-based designer Simon Rogers and, with Solent navigator Jonny Greenland calling the nav, it constituted quite a brains trust.
She is one of two boats being campaigned in the Caribbean by Andrew Pindar, the other being the old Volvo 60 Newscorp but for race three I’d been invited to ‘Go Open’ and boy was it the right move!
We came off the Racing Big Boat Class 1 start line like a scalded cat, right at the pin end and bang on the gun. Race three of the regatta would take us from a start off Jolly Harbour and eventually up a longish beat back to Falmouth Harbour on the south side of Antigua.
But first we had a fetch followed by a blast reach across a brilliant blue Caribbean Sea rendered billiard table flat by the lee of the island’s west coast.
The fetch to the weather mark was truly extraordinary. With the keel fully canted, a dozen of us doing what we could to help on the weather rail and the Solent jib and full main just cracked we clocked 15 then 16 knots and left the Volvo plus arch rivals Titan (75ft Reichel Pugh) and the Transpac 52 Rosebud floundering in our spume filled exhaust. I’ve never been up an opening leg at such a pace.
Just when you thought it really couldn’t get much better we did what felt like a hand brake left turn at the top mark, unfurled a carefully selected Cuben Fibre jib top and just screamed off on port.
“David, fancy a go?” said Brian Thompson with the brim of his hat blown flat against his forehead. Do bears?. he didn’t have to ask twice as I scrambled rather unceremoniously across the cockpit to lay my hands on that wheel. With 18 knots on the clock, a silver wake pluming away from the starboard quarter, Alex Thomson trimming the hell out of the jib top, Simon Rogers winding the power into the main and the Caribbean at last serving up the conditions we’d all been longing for this was just fantastic, spine tingling stuff!
What amazed me most – and website editor Sue Pelling had talked about this when she sailed the boat the day before see previous news story here – is just how light the Open 60 felt. Fingertip, sports car style handling with the top down – brilliant! Sure there was a bit of grinding to do getting dagger boards up and down but the loads gave the impression of being strangely out of proportion to the break neck performance.
“More wind in five?” came the cry from forward. No battling the wheel, no rounding up, no misbehaving, no need to dump the main. She just sat up and went faster and faster and faster, a big deep rumbling hum changing note as the water accelerated past her appendages. Yelps from the crew, grins from ear to ear and 19 point something on the clock. “Don’t worry David they under-read,” Simon Rogers assured me, so I’m putting that down as 20 knots in the Caribbean?!
It really was looking like our day but on the long beat to the finish the narrow, upright form of Titan eventually hauled us in as Pindar struggled to bite to weather. No, these are offwind boats and Titan came in for the kill. On corrected time she beat us by about two minutes, pulling away impressively in the closing stages.
Something else then cropped up to spoil our day. While dealing with a keel hydraulics problem just before the start we were more or less forced to sail through another Division’s start line. That’s a 20 per cent penalty and we paid dearly for it. While apologising for Pindar’s error to the committee after racing it became clear they hadn’t realised the predicament the yacht was in and at the time of writing an application to re-examine the penalty was pending. Watch this space and the next (July) issue of Yachting World.