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West End Yacht Club Tortola Goes Eco for Foxy's Cat Fight

The tropical storm warning horn sounded as the first competitor sailed into Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, on Friday, October 26. Jason Gras had returned with his band of hard-driving firefighters from Bozeman, Montana, USA, and had chartered Kokomo to defend his “Baddest Cat” title, won in 2006 along with the coveted case of Pusser’s Rum.

The Cat Fight is a “non competitive” regatta conceived by The Catamaran Company and Foxy Callwood for two and three legged cats of any size to show their paces. Reaching courses are set with long legs suitable for this growing charter class. Boats are flagged over a long starting line at one-minute intervals with the added freedom of running engines up to the start time for safety and maneuverability. (In lighter winds participants have been known to cross the line several times, forward and backwards, before getting their “bateaus” in gear, so to speak.)

In the spirit of eco-yachting and through the generous sponsorship of The Catamaran Company, the committee boat this year was a Lagoon 420 Hybrid electric Cat (See side bar).

Winds were predicted to be strong SE from a low which was dumping rain all over the islands, to be followed by a promised NE high from the Atlantic. However the high never arrived—just torrential rain. By Saturday morning, winds were still SE at over 30 knots with overcast skies and talk of conditions favorable for storm formation. (As the weekend wore on, tropical storm Noel formed over Puerto Rico while the outer rain bands delivered torrential rain to Tortola.) We dodged the storm bullet by a few miles. 

Meanwhile, back at the committee desk on Saturday, Commodore Martin van Houton had a decision to make, with six eager cats signed up for a breezy test of skills.  A delay of one hour allowed the committee to get marks laid for the one long course. Boats would sail out from Great Harbour clockwise around Sandy Cay, Great Thatch, round a club mark off Long Bay, and reach back to Great Harbour for the finish. At the start winds had softened to about 20 knots and rain had mercifully abated.  The finish was tight with four boats finishing within minutes of each other in about two hours.

Pete Allen, sailing French Kiss, his 32 ft Fountain Pajot, came in first in the under 40 ft class. With his partner crew, Pete had sailed undeterred from St. Croix on Friday in atrocious conditions to be at the Cat Fight and certainly deserved the win. Kokomo crossed the line in full costume. Their red Spartan capes streaming in the wind gave them a certain superhero quality. The females flashing the committee boat as they finished seemed to be craving freedom from their rum-crazed Spartan warlords. The fastest Charter boat around the course was Dream Weaver winning this year’s “Baddest Cat” award. (Well, Montana didn’t need any more Pusser’s Rum).

The costume party on Saturday night sported many pirate costumes plus a group claiming to be Foxy’s Fairies with tutu’s akimbo. The prize giving for best costumes was a chaotic affair, with Foxy’s staff deferring to popular vote by applause. When it was all over the West End Yacht Club realized that this was the first time they had run a regatta in a tropical storm—well, almost.

Mike Kirk is a retired Engineer from the corporate world and long time sailor who loves sailboat racing of all kinds. He has sailed dinghies in England and the US, and now races actively on a J120 in the Caribbean circuit. He and his wife Di live in Brewers Bay Tortola.


1st Over 45ft Class: Hound Dog – Robertson Caine
1st 40ft to 45ft Class: Dream Weaver – Pere Chambliss
2nd 40ft to 45ft Class: Whiskers – Mike Fallis
1st Under 40ft Class: French Kiss – Pete Allen
2nd Under 40ft Class: Kokomo – Jason Gras
3rd Under 40 ft Class: Sanctuary – Tim Garvey
Baddest Cat: Dream Weaver

Observations of a Lagoon 420 Hybrid Electric Catamaran

In explaining the apparent oxymoronic title, here are few words about how it is to sail an electric sailboat. Basically it’s all about amps! The engine panel is all ammeters and voltmeters. Rather than sail to the knot meter or even VMG one sails to maximize the regenerative current.  We had engined over to Jost Van Dyke under full power at 75 amps. Beating back to Tortola on Sunday the wind was about 15 to 20 Knots. We were under full sail cruising at 8 to 10 knots.
Here are the basic power train components:

(Horse Power equivalents are given to allow comparisons with conventional diesel drives.) Fuel consumption was about 0.75 gal per hour.

There appear to be three modes:

  1. Basic full bore motoring - maybe with a little jib if the wind direction allows. Full load is 100 amps per motor but a comfortable speed/load draw is obtained at 75 amps. At this load the batteries will drain quickly and the generator is set to kick in automatically at 80% battery reserve, so you can assume the generator is running most of this mode.
  2. Motor sailing – with all sail up but probably with light or unfavorable wind. So if you want to some VMG to make it to Happy Hour on time, the engines can be run up and down as the wind allows or used to push you through a slow tack—characteristic of all big Cats (about 110 degrees). Again the generator will probably be running continuously.
  3. Regenerative sailing – full sail but engine in neutral-whatever that means. At about 5 knots the propellers (aka “turbines”) will kick in and start pumping amps into your battery bank. At eight knots we got about 10 amps regeneration. So you have to do this for seven hours to pay back one hour of motoring. This mode appears to be optimum hybrid conditions.
  4. There is no reason to just sail, as you lose the advantage of the hybrid regeneration potential.

In summary it appears the real “eco” gains occur in a brisk passage mode with steady regeneration from the props.  Under engine power, if our fuel consumption was typical, then it is about half what might be expected from a cat this size with two diesel powered engines and you have no auxiliary generator to worry about. Lastly of course there is the emotional advantage of a somewhat quieter ride even under full engine power.

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