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RORC Transatlantic Race IRC Two-Handed - Tigris gets the job done

by Louay Habib / RORC 26 Jan 17:16 GMT 26 January 2024
Gavin Howe & Maggie Adamson win IRC Two-Handed in Grenada on Sun Fast 3600 Tigris (GBR) © Arthur Daniel

Racing double handed across the Atlantic adds an extra dimension to the RORC Transatlantic Race. Just like the fully crewed teams, it requires meticulous planning and preparation before the race, and mental and physical toughness during the marathon.

However, when problems occur, as they always will, a two-handed team is short on the invaluable resource of crew. Gavin Howe and Maggie Adamson, racing Sun Fast 3600 Tigris (GBR), won IRC Two-Handed, hand steering without the use of an autopilot for over 2,000 miles.

Sun Fast 3600 Tigris finished the RORC Transatlantic Race in an elapsed time of 18 Days 06 Hrs 24 Mins 19 Secs. After IRC time correction, as well as winning IRC Two-Handed, Tigris was third in IRC One and sixth overall. Howe and Adamson have raced over 10,000 miles together, but this was the first RORC Transatlantic Race for the pair.

"It's a big challenge for Tigris to race across the Atlantic, and Maggie and I were very keen to take it on," commented owner and co-skipper Gavin Howe. "The weather forecast for the race was worrying and not what we expected. The fronts and gales that would come through were not the usual conditions of a sleigh ride to the Tropics. Strategically, the north route was not a good option for a 35ft boat racing two-handed, so we decided to go south and play to the boat's downwind strengths, even though it was a long way in miles."

Gavin Howe believes the biggest challenge in the race for Tigris was that the autopilot was not working. "As soon as we got into waves off the African Coast it started oscillating, and there was no way we could figure out how to fix it. For a double handed team, hand steering across the Atlantic is a big undertaking. We're so sorry that we didn't take a few more videos, but we were clinging on to the tiler! I think we achieved it because we have sailed this boat many thousands of miles together and we just got on with it. The consequence was we had little time to do anything other than drive, eat and sleep. The upside was that hand steering let us work the waves better, which was good.

"As we approached Grenada it was lovely to see land and the island looked very impressive; high, wooded and lush green - it was very special, as was our arrival into Port Louis and to receive such hospitality."

Gavin Howe was asked to describe his co-skipper Maggie Adamson in one word: "Tough; Maggie will tackle in a very practical 'Shetland way' any issue that happens on the boat. In the middle of the night, when the spinnaker is in the water, Maggie is not phased, and we work methodically through it to get the job done."

Maggie Adamson is a navigator for the Lerwick Lifeboat crew in the Shetland Islands, located 110 miles north of the Scottish mainland. The remote lifeboat station has been presented with 62 awards for gallantry, including the RNLI's highest accolade the Gold Medal.

"It was a long race and psychologically you have to be aware of that and get your head into," commented Maggie Adamson. "Some of the sailing was fantastic; blasting downwind with the spinnaker through the waves was just brilliant, but this is big-picture racing compared with others. When you race across the Atlantic you realise how small you are compared to the ocean and there are things that happen that you just have to deal with. You have to find a way around it. With two on board, you have to look after each other, and make the most of what you have got. It wasn't plain easy sailing, but it wasn't for anybody and that's part of the challenge. I enjoy double handed because you are always busy; there is always something to do and that has a really special feel to it. Gavin has been fantastic and very generous to give me the opportunity, which is pretty cool and very special."

Tigris' next adventure will be the RORC Caribbean 600 and the 2024 RORC Season's Points Championship. "This will be the sixth RORC Championship for Tigris; our best result was fourth overall. Last year Tigris was seventh after falling short in the Rolex Fastnet Race. So, Tigris will be racing in the Championship while also doing sailing activities in other boats," explained Tigris' owner, Gavin Howe.

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