Shotgunn: A Cape 31 Love Affair

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“As soon as I saw it, I thought it was the kind of boat that just looked right,” was the thought running through Michael Wilson’s mind when he first laid eyes on the Cape 31 Shotgunn. “It’s a proper little yacht, we can sail it with a load of dinghy sailors and we’re fundamentally a team of dinghy sailors. We were previously sailing a Dragon when the first Cape 31 made it to England, and I decided life was too short to go that slow. Even the guys at the back of the Cape 31 fleet were having a good time, so we went to Cape Town and bought one.”


In a word, the Cape 31 is exhilarating, and BVI Spring Regatta is thrilled that there are three at this year’s event: Flying Jenny (US & UK), Shotgunn (UK), and M2 (US). Michael Wilson and his wife Helen, who reside on the Isle of Man, spent last year sailing Shotgunn in Southampton and the Isle of Wight where the Cape 31 circuit was sailed. They kept the boat in Southampton, learned a lot, brought good people onto the team, and were fortunate enough to win the UK season.

As the pair worked on which regattas to do this year, they decided on the Med circuit and the Caribbean.

“The Med circuit was starting up and it checked my three criteria for sailing – cool people, cool boats, cool locations – hence why we are sitting here today,” Wilson laughed. “I always wanted to take my own boat to the Caribbean, so this is the culmination of a life-long ambition for us to be here with our own race boat.”

After figuring out a 2024 regatta list that included events all over the world, the couple realised that neither they nor their boat could be in the same place at the same time. Short story, they bought a second Cape 31 which allows them to fully engage in their addiction to sailing travel.

“One of my nicknames is actually Noah because I own two of a lot of boats,” Wilson laughed. “505s, Merlin Rockets, Flying Fifteens – we use them all when we can. We did the Flying Fifteen Worlds in Freemantle last year.”

The Wilsons have a team of high-level sailors on board Shotgunn who they feel incredibly fortunate to sail with, and they fully take advantage of the Cape 31 class rule where boats generally sail with up to three professionals.

“It’s given me the opportunity to sail with Olympic medallist Luke Patience who won silver at London 2012 in the 470, and his crew Stu Bithell who also won gold in Tokyo in the 49er – Stu is also the wing trimmer on the German SailGP team,” Wilson said. “We also have Pete Greenhalgh, managing director of Doyle Sails in the UK who has a sailing CV as long as your arm in professional sailing.”

“I believe in supporting classes, it’s not about what the class can give to you, you get out what you put back in,” Wilson said. “Someone has to get the fleet started here in the Caribbean and what we have to do is go home and encourage people to come race these events. It’s nice to support these things as you put a lot of effort into learning how to do a regatta and it’s a damn sight easier the second time around!”

Helen, a teacher for many years and Michael, a self-confessed serial entrepreneur, both in their fifties, have always shared a passion for sailing; Helen being more of a big boat sailor with races like the Transatlantic and Sydney to Hobart to her credit, while Michael prefers inshore racing. Their Caribbean racing this year included St Thomas International Regatta and BVISR.

“We loved cruising here so why wouldn’t we like racing here? It’s interesting to sail, the wind is generally good, and it’s warm!”

Other than being in the BVI this week racing, the Wilsons are also excited about their support of British 49erFX sailors Freya Black and Saskia Tidey in their Paris 2024 Olympic campaign.

“They’re inspiring to be around,” Wilson smiled. “Sailing is a great sport to be involved with, you’re always learning.”