Lets Go Racing! What??? The 2022 Copa Mitsubishi

What are we doing?

Aren’t you sailing around the world? Cruising boats can’t race, right? Well, sort of. As sailors that enjoy high-performance sailboats and are used to racing with the bare minimum, surrounded by carbon fiber and Dyneema, it is hard to envision racing a full-fledged cruising sailboat. Cruising is very fulfilling and challenging, but sometimes we miss the adrenaline and spike of mental energy in the rush of close-quarters sailing.

Enter our new Brazilian friends Wellington and Paola aboard the Samoa 30 TXAI (the name of the boat means “brother” in an indigenous language). We ran into them while anchored off of Sao Sebastiao and as we sipped Cuba Libres and practiced our Spanish and Portuguese they let us know that one of Brazil’s most important race series was now offering doublehanded and cruising boat classes this season.
Of course, this piqued our interest as racing sailors and we promptly clicked the link to the notice of race Wellington WhatsApped to us the next day. We were in! Just a few short minutes later we had filled out the entry form and our entry was accepted pending payment of the entry fees. This had to be done in person as we do not have a Brazilian bank account to do transfers within the country.

We headed over to Yacht Club Ilhabela to meet Ann, the regatta organizer. Luckily our Portuguese is getting much better, especially Kate’s, and Ann spoke very good English. She has been involved in some worldwide racing programs so she was helpful and easy to communicate with. She knew what it was like to race in a foreign country not knowing the details of the language. Let us tell you, Google Translate does not know sailing terms. For example, sail or vela in Portuguese translates to candle in English.

The yacht club and the race sponsor, Mitsubishi, put on a great pre-race party. An authentic Brazilian fishing canoe was filled with ice and beer for the sailors to enjoy. Champagne was served with the trophies on display at the bar under an awning of palm leaves next to the ocean while sailors told racing stories in excitement for the week’s coming events.

Yacht Racing in Brazil

Now, we didn’t know much about racing in Brazil. We have only met other South American racers once before at the 2016 Melges 24 World Championships in Miami. Let us tell you this, they take racing very seriously down here. There is a ton of skill and boats are very well prepared. As hardcore racers back home we have lots of respect for “pro” level racing, and this certainly fits the bill. What is better than learning from the best? After meeting a few of the sailors, including Mr. Eduardo de Souza Ramos (a past Olympic sailor and TP52 MedCup competitor), and seeing the boats (Botin 44 Phoenix, C30 Caballo Loco, Soto 40s, HPE 25s, and others) we were thoroughly impressed and excited to see some awesome racing.

Our doublehanded (Duplos) class was only scheduled to race on one day of the event, which was perfect as it gave us time to go out in the boat and watch the high-end racing as well as fly the drone to get some awesome aerial shots of the boats in action. We sucked through 5 drone batteries and GB of video on day one as we chased boats upwind and downwind. Needless to say, there will be some very cool footage of all of this racing, including shots from our 3 onboard cameras in the upcoming YouTube video covering this part of our time in Brazil. https://www.youtube.com/c/sailingsweetruca

Let’s Go Racing

On Saturday morning it was our turn to hit the racecourse, and we were amped for our first racing experience since the Bayview Mackinac race aboard Chico 2 last July. It was time to get out the Go-Pros to document this all for YouTube. Before we could get started we had to shift the boat from cruising mode to racing mode. This meant ditching some extra canvass, securing items inside, ditching the dinghy at the dock, and most importantly getting the spinnakers out!

We wanted to ditch more weight, including our oversized 73 lb Rocna anchor on the bow and its associated 218 feet of 10mm chain as well as our extra 100 gallons of diesel fuel (40 in jerry cans), 30 days of food & water, storm sails, canvas covers and lazy jacks, and scuba tanks. YCI was accommodating to allow us to do this, but we just ran out of time. We were going to race in full-on offshore cruising dress!

Our biggest decision was whether to leave our #3 dacron jib on the roller furler or make the switch to our Expedition Membrane Carbon cruising genoa. We watched the forecast carefully. A front was moving in and the wind started to build the morning of the race. This made the normally light 5-15 knot breeze we were expecting change to 15-25 knots with gusts to 30. Our fantasies of pointing extra high with the new carbon sail on the bow were fading fast.

Sailing double-handed upwind in a shipping channel and pre-race starts would put a lot of wear on headsails. It is very hard to sheet in an overlapping sail quickly with only two people. We really need to keep our best sail for our intended purpose, sailing around the world, rather than drag it back and forth across the spreaders and flog it to death racing. So, the old #3 was the last-minute decision.

The Start

Racing in an unknown area always has challenges. Apart from the standard wind shift and current issues we also had a huge language barrier to overcome. The racecourse was to be announced over the VHF radio, a problem to hear sometimes in the best conditions in our native language, let alone in Portuguese. Luckily the race committee agreed to send the course information to all competitors via WhatsApp as well, a welcome reprieve.

Our race was to start promptly at 1230 hrs local time. We jockeyed for position a bit, but after watching the previous classes start, we realized a start on port tack at the pin would be heavily favored in the strong current of the 100ft deep Sao Sebastiao channel. We pinged the line in our H5000 and set our clocks. Kate watched the clock closely as I burned some time. 23 seconds, she said, let’s GO!

We turned the wheel down and sheeted in. We glided over the starting line at our full 7-knot upwind speed, turning the winches and sheeting in hard as we brought the boat to its max angles. Did we just nail an on-the-line port tack pin start dead on time double-handed in a 46-foot cruising sailboat? Yup! We were pretty surprised ourselves and checked the committee boat for the OCS flag and listened to the radio just in case. We were good to go! Looking back, because of the current we were crossing everyone. Holy smokes, a perfect start in our first race in over 6 months!

Upwind Leg

Because we launched so hard we only had one other true contender in our start to deal with. Technically they were not in our class, as they were a fully crewed cruising class boat, not doublehanded, but they were a formidable and well-sailed opponent. The Grand Large 500 Nautilus was hot on our heels. We had a wonderful duel, tacking up the channel, both choosing different sides to seek current relief and checking in with each other in the middle. The Nautilus, skippered by Aziz Constantino, is a 50-foot performance cruiser and had good speed. They pushed us, and we had to work very hard to stay ahead. Short tacking a 46’ cruiser was hard work!

As we approached the windward mark, while avoiding max current, we strayed into some shallow water and tacked away just in time. Thank goodness for the J/46 shoal draft keel at that moment. We gave the red buoy just a little extra room as we rounded it to port, making sure we wouldn’t drift into it in the strong current.

Downwind Leg

Time for the spinnaker! As the wind was puffing to the 30s at times and was sustained around 20 this was going to be a challenge double-handed on a windward-leeward course filled with high-performance fully crewed race boats. We decided to use the G3 cruising kite in the sock, rather than the R2 race runner out of the hatch. We were in full race mode but had to check ourselves, we were racing our house and could not afford to break things.

We gybe set at the mark as we rode a lift into it. This set us on a great layline for the finish. With any luck, we wouldn’t have to gybe again, which is a tough task for a 1700+ square foot asym without a bowsprit. We were hitting speeds in the high 9’s downwind in the flat water. Awesome sailing.

The Finish

The finish was tricky. We were coming into the line just as the ORC 1 fleet was starting. This put a stunning wall of carbon boats with black sails in front of us. Our Rocna anchor looked pretty intimidating to those on the rail of the upwind boats. We decided to start stuffing away our kite early as we had enough lead to be safe and not push things. I ran to the bow while Kate took the helm.

We had a little twist start to happen as we steered quickly between the upwind boats to avoid them. BIG PROBLEM! In this breeze, if we wrap the kite on the forestay we are pretty screwed. Quickly I spiked the tack line and started unwrapping from the bottom up, flagged it, and jumped onto the sock while Kate played chicken with crossing boats. She stuffed it up to be safe just as I was able to get the sock to the deck. Phew!!!

We crossed the finish line under mainsail only, but safely. Line honors for our start, first in our class, and first for cruising boats overall. Nautilus followed closely behind, catching us a bit under the spinnaker, handling it beautifully with their full family crew but the course was not long enough for them. Whoa, what fun!

The Party

Time to clean up the boat and head to the most important part of the race, the Apos Regatta Party! There we would get to see our friends Wellington and Paula again, and grab some much-needed ice-cold beers from the wooden canoe. An excellent band played, awards were given, smiles, hugs, and handshakes were shared.

We can’t thank Mitsubishi enough for sponsoring this regatta, and we are hugely impressed with not only the pro sailing here but the way that racers and yacht clubs are building the grassroots. There is an amazing atmosphere here that is hard to compare, but we found it is similar to the wonderful experiences we have had racing in the Melges 24 one-design class. Passionate sailors that want to build the sport and pass on knowledge, racing hard, while having a wonderful time with friends. We also have to extend a huge thank you to Armando, who has become a wonderful friend and has been instrumental in helping us navigate Brazil. Last but not least we want to give a shout-out to all of our new friends from YCI in Brazil, if you are ever in the USA and feel the need for some racing, look us up at Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, we have a feeling you would enjoy the famous freshwater races to Mackinac Island (the Ilhabela of the Great Lakes)!

Official Race Write Up, Photos, and Results: https://circuitoilhabela.com.br/termina-de-forma-antecipada-a-primeira-etapa-do-circuito-ilhabela-2022/

Some photos By: Aline Bassi/Balaio: https://balaiodeideias.com.br/ and Wellington & Paola (Velerio/Yacht TXAI)

WTH, We Thought You Would Be in Patagonia?

There is enough here to fill a complete blog post about this. We are still headed there, but plans have been thrown completely out the window due to Coronavirus border closures and a mechanical failure and associated repairs. Sometimes we think though, someone is secretly looking out for us, as we wouldn’t have and be able to share these amazing experiences and have met all of our new wonderful friends. We are going with the flow and don’t even know what will happen next ourselves as the weather and countries policies are continually changing.

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