Ericka and Ben Towery have owned the Capri 25 Little Wing since 2016. Originally living and sailing on the Great Salt Lake, the boat traveled with them when they moved to Seattle last year. Since showing up on the scene, they have been a regular fixture on the Shilshole Bay racecourse, regularly taking part in the Sloop Tavern Ballard Cup on Monday nights, as well as the full range of weekend regattas.
Ben works as a sailmaker at Ballard Sails, and Ericka runs her own children’s clothing company, Melon Baby, so they both know their way around a sewing machine and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and take on worthwhile projects.
Built in 1984 as Hull number 422, Little Wing is far from a spring chicken, but thanks to hard work, you would never know it. The boat went under the knife last winter, and no stone was left unturned, including a keel box rebuild, new structural framing, stiffened compression post, and updates to the standing rigging and deck hardware. She now sits as one of the cleanest Capri 25s in the world and a fantastic example of an older boat getting a new lease on life thanks to much love.
While topping the score sheets in the local regattas is undoubtedly a feat, the coolest part about Little Wing is that the boat has more highway miles than most people’s cars. This summer alone, the Towerys took the newly rebuilt boat on the “Little Wing World Tour.” The tour started in Seattle, then traveled Idaho for the Spud Cup, next to Montana for the Montana Cup, then Minnesota for Capri 25 Nationals, and, finally, back to Seattle for the fall regattas. As the weather began to get cold, they were far from done, and the boat went on the trailer again and headed south for the San Diego Hot Rum series.
Hosted by San Diego Yacht Club, the three-race series has taken on legendary status in the world of “Beer Can Racing.” The series is held on the first Saturday of October, November, and December and regularly attracts hundreds of boats, ranging from classic wooden Six Meters to full carbon fiber 70-foot ocean racers and everything in between you can imagine. Besides the spectacular weather, amazing setting, and ridiculously welcoming host club, the race itself has a special twist: It is a pursuit race. In a pursuit race, the handicaps are calculated before the start, and every boat is given a specific start time. The result is that the slower boats get a head start on the larger, faster ships, and whoever crosses the finish line first is the winner. While not a perfect system, anyone who races handicap-scored racing knows that certain conditions favor certain designs; it is fantastically fun to see how many smaller boats you can pass and how many bigger boats you can hold off.
I was lucky enough to be invited to sail the first of the three-race series with Ben and Ericka, which was undoubtedly a highlight of my year. The racecourse is the same each week: Start just inside the San Diego harbor entrance, sail out into the ocean, turn left and head towards Mexico, around a pair of buoys, and back to the finish. The high headlands around the harbor make for tricky shifts as you come and go from the harbor, and the traffic on the way back in is unreal as the entire fleet converges on the finish line simultaneously. You only get one race per weekend, so you must make it count.
Little Wing did an excellent job holding off a ton of huge and very well-sailed boats for nearly the entire race. We won our class of similar ships and ended up 28th overall as the filling wind let the larger boats catch us on the final leg into the finish. The team kept up the pace for the next two races and wrapped things up with a respectable class win and 17th place after three races.
After a spectacular summer touring the country with the boat, most people would be happy to bring her home and tuck in for the winter, but Ericka and Ben aren’t most people. The boat is back on the trailer and headed southeast to Arizona to participate in the Lake Pleasant Regatta in February. So far, the plan for next summer is to stay closer to home and only take part in regattas in three different states.