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Literature / The Great Yacht Race

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Serious Business for all involved.

The Great Yacht Race is a novel by Jamaican author Anthony Winkler, published in 1992.

The setting is 1955, in Montego Bay, St. James. A member of the local Blue Blood community has been murdered, throwing the city in an uproar. His murderer, Elijah Lewis, is quickly caught, but tension hangs in the air as the townspeople wonder aloud how soon he'll be executed. This happens around the same time when the annual yacht race is scheduled to take place, and a number of the participants are already gearing themselves up for the event.

The story focuses on five characters in particular: Edward "Fritzie" Fitzpatrick, a barrister, the reigning champion of the regatta and the local Jerkass; William Anwgin, the magistrate; Alexander Biddle, the court reporter; Tyrone O'Hara, a hotelier; and Father Christopher Huck, who provides counsel to his parishioners while trying to cope with his crusade to save Lewis from the gallows and control his own secret sexual fantasies.



Tropes present in The Great Yacht Race:

  • Affably Evil: Fritzie. He's highly disliked by the rest of Montego Bay's male populace because he's a Smug Snake and Amoral Attorney, but he's still quite sociable.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Of the five main male characters, Magistrate Angwin is the only one who isn't this in any form, being Happily Married and faithful to his wife. The others are this to varying degrees; Fritzie and O'Hara both cheat on their wives at any given opportunity, Alexander Biddle seeks sex from his girlfriend even while drunk, and Father Huck struggles with keeping his sexually perverse fantasies under wraps.
  • Amoral Attorney: Fritzie once managed to convince a client, who was clearly guilty of murder, to wring some sympathy out of the jury by faking tears using an onion, thus reducing his potential sentence.
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  • Ax-Crazy: Elijah Lewis.
  • Babies Ever After: Alexander Biddle and Winnie Leewong have one. So do Iris, the Angwins’ children, and the O'Haras.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: The information given to the reader about Elijah Lewis's back-story makes it seem so. For one thing, he was cruelly treated while he was in prison, prior to his going mad.
  • Berserk Button: Mother Laidlaw does not take kindly to being told that African ancestry runs in her family. She WILL make you pay for it.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: After campaigning to get Elijah Lewis's death penalty revoked, and failing in the process, Father Huck breaks down crying in Missus Grandison's arms...then the next Sunday he lets loose with a SAVAGE Fire and Brimstone Hell sermon that convinces hardened sinners in the congregation to change their ways, and for the rest of the novel he drops several not-so-subtle hints in his sermons that Magistrate Angwin knows are meant for him (because Angwin was the one who pronounced the death penalty in the first place).
  • Big Eater: Father Huck, an American, has an intense craving for Jamaican food, as noted by Fritzie. His housekeeper, Missus Grandison, facilitates this, and at one point she convinces him to eat a whole chicken simply because she believes a man must be well-fed.
  • Big Fancy House: Most of the characters possess one.
  • Butt-Monkey: Two examples in O'Hara and Magistrate Angwin.
    • O'Hara's wife Roxanne, who's physically bigger than he is, frequently beats him up; he's manipulated by his maid Iris, with whom he's having an affair; and the stress of keeping said affair from his wife makes him a nervous wreck.
    • Magistrate Angwin is this every year during the yacht race, always having to forfeit due to some mishap with his boat.
  • The Casanova: Fritzie, once more. Or at least, he'd like to think so.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the novel, Fritzie has a quickie (literally so) with the O'Haras' maid Iris, establishing him as a Casanova Wannabe. Much later, after Iris gets pregnant and has had her baby, Roxanne O'Hara takes one look at the child and realizes that the baby is Fritzie's, motivating her husband Tyrone to challenge Fritzie in the regatta—especially because he'd thought all along that the baby was his and had sought Fritzie's help to get Iris out of his life, for a fee.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Father Huck.
  • Covert Pervert: Both Father Huck and his maid Missus Grandison, though neither is aware of the other’s thoughts until the end of the story. Fritzie suspects his secretary, Lilly Perkins, of being this, what with her antics with him during their trysts together.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The narrative goes into some detail about Elijah Lewis's past, including his having a physically abusive aunt and being tortured while in prison, both immediately before and immediately after he went mad in the latter instance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Fritzie and Alexander Biddle are this.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: The aim of all the regatta competitors is to dethrone Fritzie, the reigning champion—to the point that they don't even care who wins, as long as it's not him.
  • The Determinator: O'Hara during the yacht race.
  • Dirty Old Priest: Father Huck considers himself one, due to his persistent sexual fantasies.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Charlene Angwin tells one of the Laidlaw brothers that he must have some African ancestry, due to his brown skin. When Mother Laidlaw learns of this, in revenge she spreads a malicious rumor that Charlene is having an affair with Tyrone O'Hara, a rumor that nearly destroys the Angwins' marriage. After she confesses this to Father Huck, he has to break his vow of confidentiality in order to save the Angwins from divorcing.
  • Distant Finale: The story's epilogue takes place twenty-four years after the main plot, and outlines, through a conversation between a bartender, a minister, and a white expatriate, what has happened to the main characters and their children.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Iris sexually assaults O’Hara at one point, but the trope is subverted in that it's not treated as an okay thing. Played straight with Missus Grandison pulling it on Father Huck.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Fritzie is notorious in town for this. He ends up dying this way.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Fritzie is randomly selected to be Elijah Lewis’s defense attorney at his trial. Fritzie, who honestly believes Lewis deserves the gallows, sees it as a hypocrisy for him to represent the murderer.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mother Laidlaw.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: The Angwins and O'Haras do. And Father Huck and his maid later.
  • Happily Married: Magistrate Angwin and his wife Charlene.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Alexander Biddle.
  • Immodest Orgasm: Lilly Perkins, Fritzie’s secretary, has these constantly when they’re together, much to his chagrin.
  • Innocently Insensitive: During a social get-together, Charlene insists that most of the dark-skinned persons present have some traces of African ancestry, only stopping when Magistrate Angwin glares at her (and even then, she's still confused at the negative reactions). Being a Scottish foreigner by birth and upbringing, she doesn't realize that this is a very touchy issue for Jamaicans (as it was during the 1950s); indeed, it causes a great deal of rage in Roxanne, who's Trinidadian by birth, and it triggers Mother Laidlaw's Berserk Button when she finds out her sons were looped into that description as well.
  • It's Personal: O'Hara's participation in the regatta becomes this when he realizes that his maid's newborn child is actually Fritzie's.
  • Jerkass: Primarily Fritzie, but also Magistrate Angwin and Alexander Biddle.
  • Large Ham: Fritzie, whenever he's in court.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Charlene's mother was not supportive of her daughter marrying Magistrate Angwin, a black man and (at the time) an up-and-coming barrister. Charlene's father, on the other hand, didn't care, since his daughter was at least marrying somebody.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Fritzie has O'Hara pay him the standard lawyer's fee to make Iris sign an agreement that she'll leave Montego Bay and have the baby she's carrying for O'Hara. It later becomes a source of rage for O'Hara when, upon being paid a surprise visit by Iris with her newly-born child, he realizes that the baby is actually Fritzie's from an earlier fling.
  • Mama Bear: Mother Laidlaw is this for her sons. Simply put: do not mention any hint of their family having African ancestry even if it's true.
  • Men Don't Cry: In the epilogue, the minister is openly hostile toward the white expatriate for weeping publicly.note 
  • Parental Abandonment: Elijah Lewis.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Mother Laidlaw.
  • Sexy Secretary: Lilly Perkins.
  • Shrinking Violet: Winnie Leewong, at least at first.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Barrister Fitzpatrick sleeps with his secretary Lilly, and the hotelier O'Hara is carrying on a secret affair with his maid Iris. Father Huck later gets it on with his housekeeper, Missus Grandison.
  • Stock Foreign Name: Winnie Leewong, Alexander Biddle's girlfriend.
  • Suspiciously Specific Sermon: Following his Heroic BSoD, Father Huck starts preaching a lot of angry sermons about hellfire, with the intended moral—that God is merciful to those who are merciful—getting lost in the Fire and Brimstone Hell-themed speeches, and all of it is directed right at Magistrate Angwin because of his refusal to go back on the death penalty he imposed on the mad Elijah Lewis.
  • Tsundere: Roxanne O'Hara.
  • The Vamp: Iris, the O’Haras’ maid.
  • Where da White Women At?: Why Magistrate Angwin married Charlene. There's a (sort of) justification for this—his ancestors were white plantation owners, but one of his direct patriarchal ancestors had a fling with a black woman, "tarnishing" the bloodline as a result. The magistrate's relatives joke that his marrying Charlene allowed him to "put a little cream in his coffee," the deeper meaning of which is lost on her.
  • X Must Not Win: The attitude of all the other contenders for the regatta regarding Fritzie, due to him winning so many previous times and being a smug asshole about it. They literally do not care who wins as long as somebody manages to dethrone him this time around.


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