Blast Reaching Page 2 - Sail Magazine

Blast Reaching Page 2

I admit that I was skeptical about racing on a big catamaran for a day at Antigua Sailing Week. My previous cat experience was limited, and I wasn’t expecting much. I’d seen the fleet of exotic-looking Gunboats—three GB48s and three GB62s—dockside on day one of this annual regatta. With their synthetic-fiber halyards strung from Marstrom carbon-fiber rigs and their chisel-like bows practically
Author:
Publish date:

Johnstone deftly dances the starting-line samba, ducking and weaving between other Gunboats. Although the other boats are driven by his customers, it is obvious that, given a starting line and a hopped-up boat and crew, Johnstone’s competitive spirit is alive and strong. Johnstone calls for a few tacks, the crew springs from one hull to the other, and Blast does a little nip-and-tucking before her bows pierce the starting line exactly on queue, winning the start. With barely a word from the helm station, Williams and Ditton begin hoisting the big A-sail, which the crew unfurls the second the halyard lock clicks home. WHOOSH! I feel Blast 's boatspeed ramp up several knots as the big sail fills with air, its tackline flying from the weather hull. Johnstone foots off a few degrees, just enough for Blast to momentarily fly a hull, giving the spectator boats a glimpse of her slippery underside, then heads up a few degrees and locks onto the rhumb line in the lead. Glancing at the speedo, I am pleasantly surprised by the mid-teen reading; I couldn’t feel it from my perch on the weather rail.

I am even more impressed to see Blast walking past professionally sailed monohulls that are far bigger than her 48 feet. I am enjoying the view from the ergonomic weather rail, and the atmosphere aboard is relaxed, calm, with everybody taking things fairly easy. Considering how much cloth we are flying and the fact that our boatspeed is pegged in the mid-teens, you’d think things would be tense, as they often are on Corinthian-crewed monohulls sailing at this speed. It begins to dawn on me that the true brilliance of Gunboat sailing is that you can blaze past fast monohulls without much stress, while maintaining a high level of civilized comfort.

GUNBOAT1

Johnstone slides us through a couple of perfectly executed gybes, but since we are sailing as fast as—or faster than—the true-wind speed, it doesn’t take long for our apparent wind to move slightly forward of the beam, allowing Blast ’s A-sail to prove its worth. And to leeward even more boats slide astern, with only the maxiyachts and the bigger Gunboat 62s proving unpassable.

Soon Johnstone issues the command to prepare for the meandering upwind leg. The jib is unfurled and the A-sail is lowered into the waiting hands of the crew, who quickly and efficiently get it sorted out, just as our bows start slicing through the small chop. Blast carries acceptable speed to weather, sailing fairly tight angles as we tear (without hobbyhorsing) up the coast toward Falmouth Harbour. Some of the faster monohulls are catching us on this long, close-winded leg, but plenty of others in our size range are still safely astern. And while the monohull crews are hiking out hard, trying to get every bit of body weight as far to weather as possible, our ride is smooth and flat. My job is to sit comfortably on deck, my legs hanging over the side, my toes grateful for the occasional hit of bathtub-warm Caribbean water, munching on a delicious sandwich.

“Peter, are you aware of those reefs up there?” someone yells from the foredeck. Sure enough, there is a boat-eating reef some 20 boatlengths from the shore. “We’re fine,” replies Johnstone. “Plenty of water, as long as we don’t sprout a keel!” Johnstone spins the wheel to weather a few boatlengths from the reef, and I watch as the headsail tacks over on its flush-deck jib track.

Blast ’s twin hulls cross the line far sooner than I would like. We finish fourth out of six boats, and only one GB48 beats us across the line. I realize then that I could get used to this sort of sailing. Really used to it. The siren song of these beautiful, South Africa–built racer/cruiser speed machines plays loudly in my head for several days. Even while sailing on state-of-the-art monohulls.

Related

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more

dorcap-open-blue

ATN Inc: Dorcap

COOL SLEEPYou’re fast asleep in a snug anchorage, forehatch open to catch the breeze, when you’re rudely awakened by a sneaky rain squall. Now you’re not only awake and wet, you’re sweltering with the hatch closed. Sucks, right? That’s why ATN came up with the Dorcap, an ...read more

HIGH-RES-29312-Tahiti-GSP

Ask Sail: Who has the right-of-way

WHO HAS RIGHT-OF-WAY?Q: I sail in Narragansett Bay, which is a relatively narrow body of water that has upwind boats generally going south and downwind boats generally going north. When sailboats are racing, the starboard tack boat has the right-of-way over the port tack boat, so ...read more