Scarlet finishes with a bullet

  • Sat, 5 May 2012

A relaxed crew from Guernsey knew they couldn’t win their class but they were out the get ‘The Fly’. David Glenn was aboard to watch them hunt her down…


She started with a 1st and finished with an excellent win but that wasn't enough to bring the 25-year-old Oyster Lightwave 48 Scarlet Oyster to the top of a very tight bunch at the front of CSA Class 2 in Antigua Sailing Week. Ulrich Rhode's immaculate Swan 53 Dragonfly Plus with her lifting keel and twin rudders ended up taking the Class although on the final day she was found wanting in the lighter conditions, particularly upwind.

Scarlet's skipper Ross ‘I'm in it to win it' Applebey and his nine-strong charter client crew from Guernsey sailed a blinder on the final day although they were pipped on the water by friendly rivals Christian and Lucy Reynolds's  Swan 51 Northern Child and their multi-national charter crew. Scarlet corrected out 25 seconds ahead of Child.

Yesterday, as those who read my blog will know, I was aboard the 115ft Sojana but for me Scarlet Oyster represented the real core of this regatta, a very well sailed and prepared performance cruising yacht which provided the perfect platform for a bunch of guys from the Channel Islands who wanted really good sailing balanced with fun ashore.

"Sometimes we didn't get the balance right," said charterer Tim Joyce, managing director of Sarnia Yachts and yesterday a 4th in race 5 was put down by some to ‘dustiness' following a longish lay day.

When you step aboard some boats you immediately know they mean business. Well sorted, organised, no fuss and a slight tiredness to some of the gear which tells the story of a long (and successful) Caribbean season. A win in the ARC, a very good Caribbean 600, a Heineken Regatta, which also went well, added up to plenty of competitive sea miles and this is precisely what Joyce and his gang, who sail regularly out of St Peter Port, were looking for.

He explained that it was not always easy to find the right calibre of yacht to compete at a decent level in regattas like this and they were lucky to have come across Applebey and his Caribbean plan. For £9000 they secured the yacht for the week, lived ashore in modest accommodation and partied suitably hard. Applebey, they claimed, led from the front ashore and afloat but only led them astray on land...

I floated around the aft deck for Scarlet's final race. This is a centre cockpit yacht and at first glance one would have thought she'd be outclassed by much newer competition. But combine the genius of designer Carl Schumacher and 16 years of optimisation by owner driver Ross with his instinctive reactions on a race course and you have the classic wolf in sheep's clothing.

"Slay, kill, burn the Dragonfly!!" Wow these guys are up for it, I thought, as we had a very juicy little tussle at the start where clearly Dragonfly Plus was enemy number one.

And sure enough we poked through the middle of fleet just to leeward of the said Dragonfly who I'm afraid couldn't live with us with what looked like an undersized headsail. We heaved ourselves ahead and above of the swatted ‘Fly' and immediately trained our sights on Northern Child who had made an immaculate pin end start to weather.

Others in our nucleus included Andy Middleton's strangely named EH 01, his First 47.7 from Global Yacht Racing and Chris Brand's Swan 53 Merel Four. These were the front runners in the 14 strong fleet.

Our worst leg I think was the long run to Bluff, some way west of Falmouth Harbour. With the wind in the low teens and the sun re-appearing this was ASW at its very best but irritatingly for us we let ‘The Fly' through on our inside. We held onto port gybe all the way to the bottom mark while others gybed at least twice close to the mark which appeared to help keep us in touch.

Scarlet's killer move came on the long beat back up to the entrance to English Harbour. Like yesterday the hot money was on those who went right, out to sea, as opposed to the normally favoured left side and lift on the island. But with the wind down, flatter water and traffic on the shore, if you could find a lane to seaward there was uninterrupted pressure and Ross went that way when he felt the smallest of favourable shifts.

When we came back to the front runners only Northern Child led us and ‘The Fly' had be re-swatted. Not much could stop us now although an under par let off on a sheet winch by yours truly resulted in a nervous moment on the approach to the top mark and there was an uncharacteristic foul up on the hoist as the kite went up in the midst of a little foredeck chaos.

‘Calm it lads," came the call from aft and things duly settled down. Despite differences in so many ways it seemed extraordinary that Northern Child, Scarlet and Merel remained neck and neck all the way down the run.

It wasn't quite mass hysteria on the line but we had done well and to finish with a bullet simply rounded off what appeared to have been a top week for the Channel Islanders. Friendly but hard fought rivalry had been the order of the day and back ashore the cold Caribs flowed liberally as the stories were swapped and the idea of  top notch performance cruising race boat charter was developed.

For me it was a great combination of a modest yacht performing really well with a crew who had gelled and performed. It epitomised what ASW is all about.


Photos: 1. hunting 'The Fly'

            2. job done - cold beers all round...





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