Arabella, the Cape 31 owned by Niall and Olivia Dowling, is making its Caribbean debut this season. With just 8-9 days on the water, Arabella, after day 2 racing in the 49th BVI Spring Regatta is first in class. Anthony Haines, who races and manages the boat, has been sailing with Niall since the pair set the team up in 2017-18. The had a previous boat together, a FAST40+ which they raced solidly in the Solent before deciding to upgrade to a smaller boat…if that makes sense!
“Our previous boat was a sister ship to Tschuss, the Fast40+ also racing here, but that class in England is diminishing, the boats are quite expensive to run, and it takes ten/eleven crew to sail it,” Haines commented. “The Cape 31 ticks a lot of boxes, we have an emerging class in England – we’ll have potentially up to 25 boats this summer, they are a lot of boat for your money and also, we can ship the boat here or anywhere fairly easily. We also like it because it’s a very full-on boat, seven crew, no grinders so no pedestal, a lot less maintenance than the FAST40+, so we can focus more on the sailing and enjoying it rather than every night after racing having to fix something.”
The boat, designed by Mark Mills, who also designed the C&C30 which was briefly popular in the US some years ago, was built in South Africa and shipped to Haines’ workshop in Cowes. A boat builder and professional sailor, Haines put the new Cape 31 together along with a lot of custom work to get the boat where they wanted it to be. They bought a container which they set up to easily ship the boat. The boat breaks down and goes into the container at 45 degrees in the loading chocks then it slots into the container at a 45-degree angle. This brings the shipping costs down substantially compared to putting it on a cargo ship, according to Haines.
“It was a huge preparation to come out here, to put the boat on the ship, then set it up once it arrived in St Maarten,” Haines explained. “When we got it there, the mast had never been on, but we had put the keel on to do all the geometry and keel alignment. We commissioned it in St Maarten for the first time and took second overall in that regatta on a brand-new boat. We’ve really only done eight/nine days of sailing on the boat at this point but it’s just great.”
The fleet has migrated to England and the boats are being built as fast as they can, according to Haines. He’s hopeful that it will grow as a one-design class.
“We’d love to bring a fleet out to do the Caribbean circuit next year,” he said. “We’ve been doing a combination of coastal races here which we like, we’re a team that is happy racing coastal and off-shore, we’re happy racing inshore which is kind of the ethos of our team. Our first day racing earlier this week in the BVI Sailing Festival was just champagne sailing, it doesn’t get any better than that, spinnaker up and we were hitting over 20 knots, spray everywhere, getting soaking wet – it’s the best feeling.”
With some good sailors on the crew, Arabella is looking good to take first overall in the BVI Spring Regatta. Crew includes Nick Rogers, a three-time Olympian and medalist in the 470, Paul Wilcox who races on the Phoenix TP52 team, and Max Richardson who is also a permanent on the TP52 circuit. Haines, who is the upwind/downwind trimmer onboard has sailed professionally for over 20 years.
“We’re having a lot of fun here in the BVI, the racing is great – the geography of the area is really cool, we hope to come back!” Haines smiled.