Â 0419, the Seventeenth of June 2006, the 1969 Carter 37 â€˜Lively Lady IIâ€™ sits wallowing in the Gulf Stream, 252 miles out of Newport and competing in her fourth Newport-Bermuda race. Having battled through the 1972 race â€“ accepted as the stormiest ever â€“ she was fully equipped to cope with the tremendous 5 knot winds through which she and her six crew â€˜battledâ€™ â€“ or more appropriately persevered. Nothing special, perhaps, in being becalmed, yet Lively Lady II was traveling towards Bermuda at a comfortable 6 knots SOG. Not only was she moving fast but she was ahead of over 90 boats in our division fleet of which all but one of whom owed her time under IRC. Not only was she one of the smallest, oldest and theoretically slowest in the fleet but she was also one of the prettiest. Fast-forward 105 hours and Lively Lady II is motoring in from the finish where she is passed by the great-looking Swan 44, â€˜Akela IIIâ€™, which owed us over 8 hours handicap but had finished behind. The crew of â€˜Akela IIIâ€™, drawing near, are nothing but sportsmanlike shouting over, â€˜Well sailed, superb, congratulationsâ€™, offering our navigator (the Troll) a salute and taking photos of our little ship.
So how did this happen? As a 19 year old with an elder sister who has vast experience of over a decade and a half of offshore racing it was about time I was collared into something longer than a cross channel dash. Some amount of leverage won me a place on the boat whose crew included my sister â€“ Ashley Perrin, the owner William Hubbard III, his son William Hubbard IV, Phil Wilmer and superstar â€˜naviguesserâ€™ Mike Lawson. All five were part of the winning crew of Tempest in last years Rolex Transatlantic and, with my own suspect â€˜abilitiesâ€™ added into the crew, made up a formidable base of talent; the multi-national crew called America, Scotland, England and Canada home.
Starting in Newport on Friday afternoon we quickly set the starboard tack precedent which was to last for 600 odd miles. Beating out of the bay, we were quickly fluttering the flag of protest in what was ultimately an empty threat. Within a few hours the fleet was split in two, with most of the bigger, faster boats going East and the rest heading for a more Westerly part of the Gulf Stream. At least we thought we were heading West; soon enough we discovered that our port compass deviated from the other by 15 degrees which would eventually lead to rapid and (for me!) vexing calculations.
It should be noted that from this point on the author has enjoyed a night at RBYC, and local time is 0500, please blame â€˜Dark and Stormiesâ€™ for lowered journalistic standards.
For the first few days of the race we had light but consistent pressure, never tacking and only once â€˜cheatingâ€™ on the number 1 for a brief affair with the spinnaker and a jury-rigged storm jib used as a staysail. After hitting the Gulf Stream large swells with chop and light air made keeping going the momentum of the 17,000lb boat difficult. Given that only one member of the crew sailed regularly on the boat, and two had never set foot on her until a few days before the race I feel we adapted well to the challenge of a weather helm; admittedly less of a problem than it could have been in a race where 4 knots often seemed fast and wind speed never exceeded 16 knots gusting.
In spite of the frustrating light wind conditions crew morale was kept high, and we owe much of our success to gains made between 2300 and 0700 nightly, where we were able to keep the boat moving when other crews were half asleep. A friendly and constructive inter-watch banter in terms of boat speed and gains relative to the many nearby yachts contributed further to our success. With a boat motto, â€˜sail it like you stole itâ€™ and crew breaking out in Righteous Brothers songs at 4am on the final morning we tried hard to keep cheerful in face of frustration. Other helpers in terms of morale and determination were both the continually hopeful updates provided by the much maligned tracking system and the fantastic food laid on by â€˜Motherâ€™ Hubbard â€“ superb home cooked and frozen meals which we had but to heat up in the oven to enjoy a splendid supper.
With this ability to â€˜race the shi*tâ€™ out of the boat, as Will Hubbard put it, we were fortunate to find ourselves crossing the line with a 70 footer. This was not to say that we were sure of our IRC win; we were seriously rattled by the far too close for comfort proximity of Westray (the only boat in the entire fleet that rated lower than us). It was not until 12 hours after we finished that we were certain of our win, and the drinks then flowed free. There has been a discussion on the SA forum about the dual trophy system and about who deserves more credit and coverage â€“ Sinn Fein or Lively Lady II. They were able to beat us â€“ on ORR (a rating system of which none of the crew had any conception) and full credit to a great sail to them. On the other hand had they been entered in IRC they would have owed us over three hours, time which we easily made up. http://www.sailinganarchy.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=37054
At the end of the day we were all out there to have fun and sail a fast race while withstanding the sauna down below (not helped by our on board wood burning stove â€“ no, seriously) and the frustrating winds, and that is what every boat on the water did, some just a little faster than others!!!
Written by Myles Perrin (crew on Lively Lady II)