VaiVai Powered by Rigging Projects

Guest post by Scott Gray, Rigging Projects

NYYC 175th Anniversary Regatta, July 2019

It’s back to the day job at Rigging Projects after a great week at the onboard Gunboat 57 VaiVai at the NYYC 175th Anniversary Regatta. Nick’s back in front of his computer and I’m battling the heatwave in La Grande Motte, France for the launch of Gunboat 6802.

But I couldn’t turn the page quite yet thinking back about the killer week we just had. Rigging Projects have enjoyed a  special relationship with VaiVai since we were commissioned to put the spar and rigging package together over two years ago.

VaiVai is not only one of our favorite boats of all time but the owner has become a great friend, so when he graciously opened the opportunity for RP to enter the boat for last week’s regatta we immediately decided to take it on.

Historically we’re much more used to just showing up to do the regatta and service rigs – putting a crew together, entering the boat, finding accommodation etc. is usually in the realm of someone far more qualified so this was unchartered territory for us. We decided early on that competing in such a historic regatta was an opportunity we wanted to share. We invited some very special guests in co-skippers Adrian Keller and Fred Stelle. Adrian is usually found at the helm of Allegra, the Nigel Irens 84’ and Fred has a huge amount of experience racing in the waters around Newport. Fred’s advice on NYYC dress code and decorum was also invaluable to the less civilised members of the team. For tactics and map reading we brought in Allegra regulars Paul ‘sail rocket’ Larsen and his boss Helena Darvelid. Paul had to make the very tough call in sailing with us or racing to Hawaii in the Transpac… we’re very glad he made the right choice! In the middle of the boat we had Rigging Projects own ‘Scottish dream team’ of myself and our US rep Jason Carr – the thought process was at least we would be able to understand each other even if no one else would. The real magic onboard for the week happened on the bow. Nick Black, Kat Thompson, Chris ‘but I don’t do bow’ Bailet with special guest Freddie Mills formed the front-end super group that we needed in occasional moments of indecision and they got us round all the corners in great shape. Lastly, but certainly not least, we had VaiVai boat captain and Mr Fix-it Rowland Bennet. Rowland has been Gunboat-ing since the beginning of time and his boat preparation, endless humour and ability to pick up the mooring despite Chris’s laissez-faire attitude to tying on the tender made him a key part of the team.

I won’t go into massive detail about the regatta (but Paul does that here). We started well with a 1st in race one and proceeded to experience the usual highs and lows encountered in a week-long event. We set out for the last race tied for first place, a position well beyond our expectations but we couldn’t stay close enough to Flow in the tricky conditions. Their experience really shone through and in the end they were very much the deserving winners.

I’ve been thinking a lot about VaiVai and why we have such a good time whenever we get the chance to sail her. For me VaiVai reminds me of why I first fell in love with the sport. The cockpit layout puts the helm right beside the trimmers and tactician which makes you feel as if you are back in a dinghy or sports boat. It’s a light boat with a generous sail plan which means you don’t need much breeze to really get going and are able to sail a lot by instinct. With the large sunroof and front doors open you can feel the apparent build out of a tack and respond as the crew move to the high side.

In terms of the finish, one of the crew summed it up when he said VaiVai is ‘put together with apparent love and attention’. She looks stunning and the interior matches the efficient but fun vibe of the boat.

Probably my favorite part of the day was after racing. Once safely back on the mooring the whole crew would sit around the large saloon with a cold beer or two and go through the day’s racing- it was a great way for a competitive bunch of sailors to wind down and get into evening mode – but still with our head in the game because we were hanging out on the boat, albeit in this super posh salon.

Our goals for the week; 1) don’t crash 2) show what VaiVai can do in race mode 3) have a great time.

I’m really pleased (and relieved!) to say we nailed it- thanks to a truly awesome group of people, a very special boat and some great competition. I really hope we showed just a hint of what this boat can do, VaiVai certainly has the potential to take some regatta wins and more importantly, is the perfect platform for having a whole heap of fun on.

Onboard photos by Helena Darvelid; Sailing photos by Billy Black

Watch Instagram Stories of race day 4 during the NYYC Anniversary Regatta, including video footage of VaiVai at the start of the 2nd race of the day:

Take the Virtual Tour of Gunboat 57 VaiVai

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