Soma Breaks Around St. John Record

Nils Erickson and crew aboard Soma, above, circumnavigated St. John in just over two hours.

St. John Yacht Club hosted the annual Around St. John Race on Sunday, April 11, under sunny skies and heavy winds.

With a steady 20 to 25 knots of breeze, captains of boats in both the non-spinnaker and multi hull classes had their hands full.

“The start was very exciting with six non-spinnaker boats flying to the mark and heading east up the north side of the island,” said SJYC’s Frank Addison. “They were sailing directly into the wind, requiring many fast and difficult tacks to make headway up the north coast to the east end of the island.”

The two boats in the multi hull class started 10 minutes behind the non-spinnaker class, but caught up with them quickly. Nils Erickson’s Formula 40 Soma crossed the finish line first after two hours, 14 minutes and 20 seconds — a new record in the Around St. John Race.

The record breaking sail would be the first of two for Erickson, who cruised to Nanny Cay the following week and broke the Around Tortola record (see related story below.)

Stinger won the non-spinnaker class, circumnavigating the island in three hours, 50 minutes and 19 seconds, by which time Erickson and the Soma crew had been enjoying cocktails for almost an hour and a half.

After using the corrected time method, Stinger’s race was clocked at three hours, 28 minutes and 30 seconds. SJYC also honored Top Gun with the Cees DeGraff award for being the first mono hull to cross the finish line. Top Gun’s elapsed time was three hours, 27 minutes and 44 seconds.

Just as the starting line scene was a nail-biter, the finish line was packed with excitement too, according to Addison.

“The finish line for non spinnaker was extremely exciting,” Addison said. “Two boats battled around the last mark and finished very close to each other as they fought to eke out every speck of speed to the finish line while blanketing the competitor’s wind wherever possible.”

The conditions proved too difficult for several boats, which dropped out of the race.

Up next for the SJYC and all three of the island’s yacht clubs is the 11th Annual Commodore’s Cup set for Saturday and Sunday, May 8 and 9. SJYC, Coral Bay Yacht Club and the Nauti Yacht Club will join forces to host a weekend of sailing in Coral Bay.

The event is a fund raiser for the non-profit sailing education program Kids And The Sea, St. John. Raffle tickets are available for purchase for a chance to win a 10-foot inflatable Caribe dinghy and 15 horsepower Yamaha outboard motor.

Raffle tickets are available at St. John Hardware and from KATS St. John students.

One of the highlights of the annual race is the sail-off which pits the winning captain of each class in a small laser boat. The laser sail off winner gets their name etched onto the Commodore’s Cup.


The Soma crew celebrates by soaking captain Nils Erickson.

After Winning Around St. John Race, Soma Shatters Around Tortola Record

Soma, a St John-based Formula 40 catamaran moored in Cruz Bay, smashed the Around Tortola Record on Sunday, April 18, in the first attempt on the Nanny Cay Challenge announced in February.

Soma circumnavigated Tortola and outer islands in two hours, 50 minutes and 15 seconds smashing Triple Jack’s record of three hours, 33 minutes and 27 seconds set in the PegLegs Round Tortola Race last November.

Owners and crew Nils Erickson and Meredith Pridgen sailed with a crew of six friends including Nanny Cay general manager Miles Sutherland-Pilch.

“I’ve been wanting to do this record attempt since it was announced,” said Erickson. “I looked at the forecast and when you dream up a forecast, today was the perfect forecast for doing the race. A lot of north in the breeze and yesterday there was no breeze, so it was totally glassed over with no swell left.”

Starting off Nanny Cay just before 10 a.m., Soma sailed counter-clockwise leaving Beef, Scrub Island, Great Camanoe and Guana Island to port before heading down the north side of Tortola and through Soper’s Hole back up to Nanny Cay.

The breeze was lighter than the forecast but after a two-tack beat up the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Beef Island and then one more to Scrub “it was rootin’” by the time Soma reached the north side of Tortola with 20 knots of solid breeze.

“There was as much breeze as we can sail the boat comfortably with full sail,” said Erickson.

A power reach with screecher up saw them “pegging the speedo” at 25 knots on the way to Soper’s Hole. Soper’s Hole back to Nanny Cay was tough with “huge rumbly puffs rolling down the hillside” interspersed with no breeze at all.

Total distance point to point is 31 miles and Soma sailed 45 miles to complete the circumnavigation averaging 15 knots with a highest speed of 25.4 knots.
Despite this new record, Erickson believes that in the right conditions — a good solid north wind at three knots less — and sailing less conservatively he could shave another 15 to 20 minutes off his time.

However, he also believes his record is easily beatable by such ocean greyhound’s as Tom Hill’s 75-footer Titan.

“At 31 miles, you only have to average 10 knots to beat us,” said Erickson. “Most well-sailed maxis could do that.”

Soma has also been the fastest around St. Maarten five times, and broke the Around St. John record on Sunday, April 11.

As he enjoyed his record-breaker’s meal and Moet & Chandon champagne courtesy of TICO, Erickson reflected on his week.

“That’s a good week,” he said. “Two records in a week.  Little records but records nevertheless.”

The entry fee of $250 was donated to VISAR.

The Nanny Cay Challenge is an all-comers event for multihulls and monohulls. The monohull time to beat of four hours, 15 minutes and five seconds, was set by Dave West’s Jurakan, a Melges 32.

Competitors must attempt the record anti-clockwise and round Beef, Scrub, Great Camanoe and Guana Island to port. An entry fee of a $250 donation to a BVI charity of the challenger’s choice, includes two night’s dockage (before and after attempt) at Nanny Cay.

As with most sailing events, the reward is in the taking part and bragging rights but record breakers are able to celebrate their feat with a free dinner at PegLegs for up to 15 crewmembers and a jeroboam of champagne compliments of Nanny Cay Marina. They’ll also get their name on the trophy which will be on display year-round in PegLegs.

To enter the Nanny Cay Challenge, challengers should contact Miles Sutherland-Pilch at (284) 494 2512 or email