Dear Sailing Magazine —
TSUNAMI: An Anguillan Sloop by Robert PerryWhat next?Bruce Farr lives down the street, maybe we can get him to do a design with dual rudders or an open stern?There are few enough local boatwrights who can design and build these classic work boats — not sure I want to see West Indian sloop racing go the way of North American boat racing — a globalised sport reserved for only the few with the biggest billfolds.When we first saw the Anguillan sloops in 1973, it was the year after Emil Gumbs had started a revolution by commissioning a NEVISIAN boatwright from Charlestown to build Saga Boy, and Bertie Richardson lept to the challenge the next year with Saga Girl. Bertie’s father, Reuben, who ran a rum shop on the beach in Sandy Ground, asked us to try to convince Bertie to use traditional granite stones for ballast, rather than iron rails, because the stones were natural features that worked with the boat, rather than the artificial iron rails. We abstained from the debate.That was also the last year that anyone used canvas sails. The next August Monday races, the last holdout, a yellow and green boat called Peace and Love, I think, showed up with a brand new dacron sail. Rumor had it that unbeknownst to his wife, the owner used the rent money to buy the sail, and other boats were generous in letting Peace and Love — still about the slowest boat in the fleet — win one or two of the August Monday races.Contrary to Bob Perry’s description of a Le Mans start — back in those days the boats used to start from a windward shore, where a line was anchored to the beach by a crew of a dozen or two local folks, while the boat held offshore with sails raised, and would drop the line at the start. We never saw as many as 22 crew — more likely 12 to 15.Guess maybe I won’t ask Bruce Farr to design next year’s boat, after all.==============================================
Anguilla racing sloopI get some unusual design jobs. There was the submarine job. The 116-foot-long Fautasi (super canoe) for the Samoan village was interesting, as was my trip to Samoa. Over a year ago my phone rang one afternoon and the gentleman calling asked, in a deep sonorous voice, if I would be willing to design a Class A racing sloop to compete in the Anguilla races. I asked where Anguilla was then said I’d be happy to design the boat. I had no idea what an Anguilla Class A boat looked like and I had no idea of the class rules. But it sounded like an interesting project and I don’t get asked to design many racing boats so I jumped at the chance. My new client, Mr. Carl Richardson, directed me to some website where I could find videos of the boats racing.
Anguilla is in the eastern part of the Caribbean in the Lesser Antilles in the Leeward Islands. It’s only 39 square miles big but it is very beautiful and appears to be a wonderful place to vacation. The sailboat racing in their local classes is intense and very competitive. The Class A rules are loose. The boat cannot have an LOA greater than 28 feet. Ballast must be internal and the keel must be a “full keel” type. That’s about as specific a set of rules as I ever got. The boats are crewed with between 14 and 22 men and there is a good chance some of the crew will be asked to swim ashore once the weather mark is rounded. Ballast is in the form of heavy iron bars that the crew carries from side to side with each tack.After watching the videos of the boats sailing it occurred to me that maybe the boats could be faster with less crew and less rig. As you can see by the sailplan the rig is very unusual and huge. I suggested this to Carl but he was adamant that we stay with the big rig and big crew. Obviously, while the written rules were few there was the spirit of the class that has to be adhered to. I designed the boat to displace 11,556 pounds with full crew and movable ballast for a D/L of 236. I was not sure how much of the “full keel” I could cut away and still stay within the spirit of the rule so I gave my client a few options and one was accepted. Unfortunately the local builder who built the boat under a shade tree took some liberties with my lines after I provided full-size Mylar patterns, but that’s what happens when you are dealing with an old traditional model and an old traditional builder, Mr. David Hodge. Construction is white pine planking on plywood frames with West epoxy. I begged my client to let me design a more modern rig for the boat but in the end tradition won the day. The boom I drew is 34 feet long. But I suspect the boom they built is 38 feet long. I’m just not sure. There was not a lot of communication during the build. As drawn the SA/D is 35.5. I have watched several videos of these boats racing and videos of Tsunami racing but I have yet to see a jibe. I imagine it is action-packed. There are no winches on the boats. There are about a dozen of these Class A sloops racing. The start is a Le Mans type with the boats anchored close to the beach, making shoal draft a premium. My client would like me to come down for the next racing season. I am anxiously waiting for some race results.