OFF TO THE RACES

posted from Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

ANTIGUA CLASSIC YACHT REGATTA

One of the biggest events on the Caribbean sailing calendar is the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.  We had an uneventful trip around the corner of the island to Falmouth Harbour.  I started looking around for a boat to sail on.  I sailed on Gaucho last year, but their boat was for sale and I really didn’t expect to see them back.  Earlier in the year I talked to Leonard from Saudade about crewing and he was for it if he was still in Antigua.  As luck would have it Gaucho didn’t show and Saudade was gone.

I walked the dock on the morning of the first race and found a spot on Ocean Nomad, a Carriacou sloop.  These are traditional wooden vessels a little over 40 feet in length and originally designed to carry cargo.  They are built largely by eye on the beach in Windward, Carriacou.

It turned out that Ocean Nomad is normally used for day charters in Antigua but was chartered for the regatta. The deal was put together  at the last minute because the crew were flying in to sail on another boat, but it left before the regatta started.  The boat was Saudade, so I guess I was destined to sail with this group one way or another.

Ocean Nomad at the dock

Ocean Nomad at the dock

Ocean Nomad at speed

Ocean Nomad at speed

The crew turned out to be a great bunch of people.  We sailed hard, had a lot of fun on the water, and eventually finished fifth.

I got a couple turns at the helm.  She sailed like a big dinghy

I got a couple turns at the helm. She sailed like a big dinghy

My favorite day of racing was a course out and back twice. Our fleet was one of the first off, so we got to see the rest of the fleet coming at us and often chasing us down from behind.

Classics racing in earnest (photo by Margaret Richardson)

Classics racing in earnest (photo by Margaret Richardson)

Another classic (photo by Margaret Richardson)

Another classic (photo by Margaret Richardson)

 

The Ocean Nomad crew

The Ocean Nomad crew

ANTIGUA SAILING WEEK

Another one of the premier events on the Caribbean sailing calendar is Antigua Sailing Week.  Classics ends on Tuesday and the Sailing Week feeder race from Guadeloupe is on Friday, so there isn’t much of a breather.  Overnight the classic yachts disappear and Falmouth and English fill with modern boats.  Some are pure racers, some are cruisers, and some are charters.

Once again I was scheduled to crew on Peter Morris’ Frers 43, Jaguar, but as with Classics things didn’t go as planned.  Peter and a delivery crew that included my brother Dave, and friends from DC Bob and Dee were to sail the boat from its berth in Trinidad to Bequia for the Easter Regatta.  They would then sail to Guadeloupe for the feeder race to Antigua.  The boat would do Sailing Week and then return to Trinidad.  Crew would join or leave the boat at various points along the way.  Bob’s wife, Terry, would fly into Antigua and she and I were to try to find a ride to Guadeloupe for the feeder race.  Once we were all in Antigua, Bob, Terry, and Dave would stay with Jackie and I on Compass Rose.

The trip started well, but while leading the first race in Bequia the rudder broke off.  The captain and crew managed to keep the boat off the rocks long enough to get a tow.  Peter arranged to have an emergency rudder made and took the boat to Grenada where a new rudder would be installed.

Jaguar's broken rudder post

Jaguar’s broken rudder post

As you can imagine this had a huge impact on everyone’s plans.  Terry had to decide whether to fly to Antigua before Bob knew what the situation would be with Jaguar.  Bob helped sail the boat to Grenada and then caught a flight to Antigua.  Dave and Dee found a ride on Merengue, a crewed charter.

 

Dave at the wheel of Merengue.  He claims the autopilot failed, but we think he just likes to steer

Dave at the wheel of Merengue. He claims the autopilot failed, but we think he just likes to steer

Terry and I started looking for boats for us and got hooked up with Hobart, a Bavaria 42 Match.  The owner, Rainer, wanted to do a long term charter, but couldn’t arrange for a boat, so he bought Hobart.  He, his wife Renata, and their daughter Alina sailed the boat to the Caribbean, did some cruising, and then stopped in Antigua for Sailing Week.  They were joined by the twins, Michael and Christian, their girlfriends Maria and Angie, and friend Franz.  They were looking for a grinder and foredeck person and Terry and I volunteered.  We practiced Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

Merengue arrived late Thursday night and since I was practicing Friday morning Jackie met their captain and crew at Customs and Immigration to get Dave and Dee transferred to our crew list.  The entire Merengue crew was there. Only the captain (or his agent) is supposed to go to shore before the boat and crew are checked in and Immigration decided to hold them to the rule.  They waited for hours to get processed and for Customs to search the boat – another unusual move.  Eventually all were free to go.

The Merengue crew waiting at Customs and Immigration

The Merengue crew waiting at Customs and Immigration

We practiced again Friday afternoon and Dave came along with us. I was inventing new ways to screw up spinnaker launches and drops, but we kept things sorted out.

Friday night was the Mount Gay Rum Red Hat Party where you could turn in the tickets you got for buying rum drinks during the previous weeks for Mount Gay Race hats and other goodies. Bob flew in from Grenada that afternoon and took a taxi to the party. Everyone was finally together on the island.

Saturday was the race around Antigua. We were in the first fleet off and were the second boat until we were about three quarters of the way around, when the bigger boats finally started catching us. We kept most boats behind us, but corrected to sixth place on handicapped time.

three quarters of the way around the island ICAP Leopard finally catches us

three quarters of the way around the island ICAP Leopard finally catches us

Around the buoy racing started on Sunday and continued through Friday, with Wednesday off.  Not knowing what crew he would pick up in Antigua, Rainer had our boat rated to use nothing larger than the #2 headsail.  Despite not using our largest genoa we still rated the fastest boat in our fleet.  That meant we had to finish in front of all the boats in our class and by enough margin that they wouldn’t beat us on corrected time.

The racing was tough and the wind was a bit light the first three days, so we couldn’t sail upwind very well with the small sail and gave up ground to the other boats.  We made a lot of it back going downwind, but not enough for any high finishes.  We had more wind on the last two days and that evened things up quite a bit.  We crossed the finish line in 5, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 3 positions for the races but never got higher than third on corrected time.  We had a lot of fun racing and saw some old Jaguar crew who were racing against us on Legacy, a Trini boat.

Crossing with Legacy

Crossing with Legacy

Hobart threads the needle

Hobart threads the needle

Getting the spinnaker ready to launch

Getting the spinnaker ready to launch – that’s me on the pointy end

Preparing the spinnaker - that's me almost in the water

Preparing the spinnaker – that’s me almost in the water

Out on the rail

Out on the rail

You will notice in the last three pictures that I’m the one wandering around out on the foredeck a.k.a. “adventure land” and when sitting on the rail I’m the first one in line to take the wave.  Brother Dave is farther aft kibitzing with the ladies.  Most of the time when I looked aft I would see Michael calmly steering the boat with a perfect poker face no matter what was going on around us.  The exception was when I would get soaked by a wave and he would get this little grin on his face and shrug his shoulders.

I didn't always get the big spinnaker up the right way around

I didn’t always get the big spinnaker up with the writing in the right direction

Flying the blue reaching spinnaker

Flying the blue reaching spinnaker – prettier and looks right either way

 

We get third on thursday!

We get third on Thursday!

 

Hobart crew

Hobart crew

I can’t say enough about the crew.  Everyone tried hard.  Mistakes were corrected and we moved forward.  We all wanted to go fast AND have fun.

So what was everyone else doing?  Part way through the week Bob found a ride on Cricket, a Benateau 35. We’ve met  Sandy and he is suppossed to be a good skipper, and we know other people who have crewed on the boat in the past and had a good time and Bob wasn’t disappointed.

Jackie and Dee have high standards.  Would they settle for your average forty foot race boat?  No way!  They hooked a ride on the Volvo 60, Cuba Libre.  Yes, this is a little smaller than Hotel California Too, the SC 70 Jackie did the Around Antigua race on a couple years ago, but she wanted something a bit sportier for the buoy racing.

Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre

Sailing Week is not just bashing around a race course.  There were evening parties and the lay day events at the beach.  We loved the lay day because it gave us a chance to rest our tired and battered bodies.

A restful day at the beach

The Legacy and Hobart crews team up for a restful day at the beach

We spent quiet evenings trying to gain back our strength.

The Carib girls stop by to suggest a brand of beer...

The Carib girls stop by to suggest a brand of beer…

...do you think it worked?

…do you think it worked?

Sailing week finally ended and people eventually found flights back to the US.  A calm descended over the Compass Rose crew.  Compass Rose had been in and around Antigua for over a year.  We spent some time in nearby islands, but we had spent the end of last cruising season and most of this season in Antigua.  It was time.  Dave, Jackie, and I prepared for our next move south.

Next: Marching into Les Saintes

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