Bermudians make light work of Windy City

  • My kind of town: the boats take to Lake Michigan for the M32 Chicago Regatta, which was a triumph for Bermuda (Photograph supplied)
  • Winning skipper: Cutler learnt as he went along
  • Working through pain: Ingham dislocated his shoulder

Alec Cutler could not have asked for a better debut in multihull racing after winning the M32 Chicago Regatta at the weekend.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club skipper won the two-day regatta with his Hedgehog crew, including Team BDA sailor Mustafa Ingham, by nine points over Convexity to cap a stunning debut in the one-design M32 catamaran.

“Other than beginner’s luck, we just learnt quickly and got better each day in different conditions,” Cutler said.

“We got the starts down, which are 90 per cent of these races. We won about a third of the starts and were never worse than fourth at the first reach mark, which gives you more options downwind.

“Sometimes when it’s your first time doing something, you are actually focused a bit more. Maybe next time I won’t be as good.

“This is my first time sailing a multihull and some of the stuff is really hard to transition, like reaching starts. Steering a multihull boat wasn’t that hard; it was more of getting orientated around reaching starts, which was kind of weird for me after 40 years of traditional monohull starting, but the other principles are similar. The acceleration is also pretty wild.

“We had 14 to 15 knots on Saturday and 8 to 12 on Sunday. The first day was full-on, as much wind as you can handle in these kinds of boats, while Sunday was much more challenging because of a lot of gear changes.”

Cutler and his crew posted ten top-three finishes, including three firsts.

“We ended up winning with a race to spare, which is pretty amazing,” the former J22 world champion and US Melges 24 national champion added.

Cutler was accompanied on board by Ingham, the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup sailor, who was also competing in the high-performance M32 catamaran for the first time.

“It was a great to have Mustafa on board because he is big and strong and is getting good,” Cutler said. “He was pulling the boards up and down, and weight management is really critical in these boats for when you are flying a hull. You have to keep that hull height consistent.”

Ingham competed despite dislocating his shoulder.

“I dislocated my shoulder on the first day by falling overboard and trying to pull myself back up while the boat was still moving,” Ingham said. “I was on the front of the bow and came to get back on the trampoline. We took a pretty sharp turn and I wasn’t ready for it.

“It was a tack and the boat just keeled over. I lost my footing, tried to grab on and just spun around. Thank God Alec was there and popped it [the shoulder] back into place.

“I was limited to what I could do on the boat, but still got to pull ropes and stuff like that. It was amazing and I enjoyed it.

“I had fun, but it was cold. Freshwater sailing is a little different as well, but sailing in Chicago and seeing the skyline is just beautiful.

“Shout out to Dave Doucette and the M32 North America guys, who put on a great show, as well as Chicago Match Race Centre, and also to Alec and Laura Cutler, who made it happen for me.”