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Blinding Speed

Dave West  –  For the BVI, now and then comes a boat and a crew with an outstanding season. With success in the St. Maarten and a first in their class at Rolex, Jurakan and crew look like they are on a winning streak or a formidable formula. Jurakan is driven by a certain individual, inventor and entrepreneur Dave West, who resides on Tortola. Standing alert, focused and with a wide pirate grin, Dave is happy to talk about his season.

YG: First off, tell me a little bit about the stats of the boat.

DW: The Melges 32 is a popular one-design racer. 32-feet long, 3900 lbs. The boat is very light for its sail area. It has a foam core, fiberglass hull, carbon mast with PBO rigging, carbon rudder and carbon bulb keel. It is strictly a racer—it has no berths, head or galley. The mainsail is very large and the jib is small (105%). The spinnaker is huge for the boat’s weight. 

YG: Your performance at the 2009 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta was outstanding. Can you tell us a bit about the experience?

 

DW: We campaigned the boat in 2007 and 2008 with moderate success. We had more and more excellent BVI racers becoming interested in the boat and the program, so we decided to put together a team that could dedicate themselves to mastering this boat for the 2009 season. We enlisted Sam Rogers as a crew coach. Sam races on the top Melges 32s in the world. He worked for Melges for three years. We also got Peter Holmberg on board to raise our level of tactics and driving. The combination worked very well. 

All three days of racing were very windy. We were able to make excellent spinnaker sets and douses while some other crews struggled. With Sam's constant urging, Jon Clayton and Tom Clarke (our forward crew) performed tasks at hyper-speed in very tough conditions. Peter was expert at coaching Kevin Wrigley (jib trim) and Huw Pritchard Jones (main trim) on upwind boat setup and sail trim. Peter worked with Andrew Waters on upwind driving in the big wind and waves.

We all knew first place was within our capability. However, a driving error by me in the third race was all it took to relegate us to second place. We were all very pleased with the gains we had made, but, even more so, we all want to continue getting better. We are still a long way from mastering the Melges 32.

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Sailing with pros Peter Holmberg and Sam Rogers in St. Maarten was a wonderful opportunity to learn from the best. It was very hard work. The level of focus demanded by the pros can be a rude awakening for us mere mortals. We were forced to work at warp speed and maximum physical exertion 100% of the time. It was truly brutal. There was no time for high fives or even smiles over a well done mark rounding. The entire focus was on the next moment, working to keep the boat at maximum performance to save every second possible. Each day at the end of the races we were exhausted. We all loved it!  We knew we wanted more of the same.
 
YG: So, tell us about what happened at Rolex, once Peter Holmberg was out.

DW: Peter suggested we ask Anthony Kotoun on board as coach for Rolex and BVI Spring Regatta. Anthony agreed. He helped us prepare the boat for the Rolex and practiced with us in BVI. Our first race went well. The crew was truly on a whole different mental program than last year. The coaching was taking hold. Maneuvers that were once riddles with pitfalls seemed to flow like a graceful dance. Each crew was finding physical strength, speed and endurance that we didn't know we had. Anthony was a great crew boss, always asking for more strength and speed, chanting us through the worst of it. We were gaining a high level of confidence in ourselves and in each other. And I am telling you, this boat requires a very high level of self-confidence and confidence in each other. It can bite back in very harsh ways.

YG: What do you mean?

DW: The second race of the first day was going great. We struggled with some very high spinnaker angles then gained back a lot of time with some great windward legs, Anthony calling shifts like magic. Somewhere near the last windward mark a port tack boat (50-some feet, lots of pounds) hit us two feet forward of the stern on the port side. We bounced like a beach ball. Several of us were knocked down. We gained control of the boat, counted heads and continued.

Anthony looked over the side and proclaimed we were okay and to keep racing. Jon went for the spinnaker hoist on the bow. Grabbed the lifeline for support. It wasn't there, he went overboard. He managed to hang on and Peter had him back on board in a flash. Up went the kite.

 

We went on to win that race. The damage amounted to a six-inch hole in the sheer, a bent pushpit and a broken life line. We could not continue racing in that condition. Thank goodness it was the last race of the day.

As we entered Cowpet Bay, we noticed that Rushin’ Rowlette, owned by Kevin Rowlette of the BVI, had a much shorter mast than it had started the day with. Huw and I took the rib over to Lakota. What could I say to Kevin? I decided to say exactly what I was thinking: “Kevin, I’m so sorry about you mast. Is there anything I can do? Can I take your life lines?” 

“You vulture, yeah, take what you need,” was his response. Rushin Rowlette’s mayday was Jurakan’s payday. Kevin’s parts fit great. He really saved our regatta. Add some duct tape, and we were back in business.

Saturday and Sunday were tight racing, especial with the Coors Light team from St. Maarten. When we came in to our mooring after the last race Sunday, we didn't know the final results. We knew it was close. Crew were calling girlfriends to see if the web had the results. Not yet. We had a lot of work to do to get the boat ready for the tow home.

After what seemed an eternity, we got the call. Kim, my wife, had the final results. We had won our class. We managed a respectable three firsts and three seconds to hold on to first place by three points. Kim, Dana, Claire and Shannon were on the ferry to be at the prize-giving. It started to sink in for all of us. After so many years of trying, we had finally done it. We had won at Rolex!  We were watch virgins no longer. The prize-giving was quite a celebration. I will forever treasure the crew's expressions of joy and accomplishment.

YG: After St Maarten and Rolex, you guys are top of the game. Do you fear ending up being the ones to beat?

DW:
Well, every one of the crew has been in that position in the past and would love to be in that position again. 

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