Mick Cotter's brush with Maxi racing leads to a week aboard a 40 footer at Antigua Sailing Week 3/5/06

Last week Irish Dragon sailor Mick Cotter from the Royal St George Yacht Club was making his debut into big boat racing aboard Farniente his new Southern Winds 78 Reichel Pugh-designed, three-year-old yacht at the Hublot Palmavela regatta. This week he’s in Antigua crewing for an old friend – Michael Blaney – aboard Spirit of Venus a Beneteau 40.7 at Rolex Antigua Sailing Week.

For someone who’s usually seen a the helm of a Dragon and who’s done very little in the way of big boat sailing it was a bit of a surprise to see Cotter steering a 78 footer through the 240-boat fleet in the Bay of Palma. And even more surprising was that most of the rest of the 20-strong crew – Cotter’s friends from the Dragon class – had about as much big boat experience. Fortunately however, Dragon sailor Mark Dicker who’s a former Swan 80 and Swan 100 skipper, and who delivered the boat to Palma, took control and, with the technical expertise of Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen, managed to survive the regatta “?without hitting anything,” said Cotter.

Talking to Cotter about the transition from the Dragon to the Maxi he said: “It’s a huge step and fairly daunting because apart from the occasional race on big boats I’ve spent the last 25 years sailing Dragons. Before the start of the regatta we spent two day’s training because we (most of us including me) really didn’t understand the mechanism and how you gybe asymmetric spinnakers, so we learnt very fast. The thought of it is pretty frightening but when you get out there it’s not too bad Fortunately we had ideal conditions but I’m sure it will be a different story in stronger winds. Interestingly every day we stepped aboard the boat last week she seemed to get 10ft smaller. In other words as our confidence built we became less frightened.”

Now at Rolex Antigua Sailing Week for the first time ever racing on a 40 footer Cotter hopes to learn as much about big boat racing as possible before his next event aboard the ‘big one’. According to Cotter the plan is to sail the Maxi from Palma to Cowes, then head to Ireland for the 700-mile Round Ireland Race. After the Autumn in the Med Cotter thinks he’ll spend Spring 2007 cruising, maybe do the ARC and he might even do Antigua Sailing Week in 2008!

Cotter continued: “I’ve only been here in Antigua for a few days but from what I’ve seen so far I’m very impressed with the regatta and it’s made me even more determined to make sure I get my Maxi out here in two year’s time. Hopefully by then we should have sussed it out!”