Diamond Rock is an uninhabited island 3 kilometers from Pointe Diamant at the Southern end of Martinique, getting its name when, at certain times of the day the sun shines on the rock giving off reflections reminiscent of a precious stone. During the Napoleonic Wars the rock was taken over by the British and commissioned as a sloop under the name HMS Diamond Rock.
The caves on the rock acted as sleeping quarters for the men and a hospital was also established at the base to put sailors who were recovering from fevers and injuries.
The guns on the Rock completely dominated the channel between it and the main island, and because of their elevation, were able to fire so far out sea as to force vessels to give it a wide berth, with the result that the currents and strong winds would make it impossible for them to reach land.
We were hoping today that our voyage to, and around the rock would be a lot less fraught with danger and a more enjoyable experience.
With a crew of five we left Rodney Bay marina to congregate with the other boats in the bay that were to race across the channel. Unlike most mornings in St Lucia the wind was just a breeze and rounding up to the start line proved to be a slow process. At 7.30am the siren sounded and we set off, ten boats in total of all design. Handicaps would certainly be an important factor in determining the winner.
We all sailed alongside each other as we were leaving the bay, but very soon on reaching the open sea we began to split up and head off on different tacks to optimise the wind, The J24 headed off to starboard of the rock and we surmised that is was likely that they would be using their spinnaker to sail down wind onto the rock. With no spinnaker and taking the current into consideration we headed up wind of the rock for the approximate 3 hour sail across the channel.
It was perfect sailing conditions, a good steady breeze, a gentle swell and the sun interspersed with clouds. After an hour or so one of the crew spotted the rock, lying just in front of the mainland. We continued to sail upwind of the rock until we got a lot closer and then we took the rock on the starboard side of the boat. The waters surrounding the rock are deep and there were a few dive boats anchored close in.
There was only a small wind shadow as we rounded the rock so with one tack we headed back the same way we had come. There were 4 boats in front of us and as we headed back out into the channel we saw the J24 coming down, but with no spinnaker (we subsequently found out that this was their tactic, but their sail had ripped).
The helm was quite heavy and it was a little difficult holding the boat steady. As we neared St Lucia once again the swell North of Pigeon Island picked up and we surfed down the waves heading back into Rodney Bay.
With the boats being quite spread out and of different classes it was a while before we knew our position. We came in 7th, a little disappointing but it was only a fun race and nothing too serious. A few members of the crew will have a nice reminder for a few days, as sun lotion had not been applied as liberally as needed and there was quite a bit of redness on a few bodies.