Day 1: Mount Gay Friendship Bay Race
As we headed off from our mooring we were pleased to notice that the winds were a little less than they had been the year before. The seas had been a real challenge at last year’s regatta but hopefully they wouldn’t be so momentous this time around.
The yachts from all classes gathered on the start line and Cruising Class 2 were the third class to go so we listened carefully for the warning siren and the count down, we didn’t want to be getting confused with the timings which is quite easy to do.
We were light crew with 3 girls and 1 guy in the cockpit and one guy on the helm so the skipper decided to start with a reefed in jib that we could release as we went across the start line as we did not want to wear down the crew before the race.
We were in a great position as we crossed the line just passing the start buoy on our starboard side with the yacht Sail Le Vie bearing down on our port side. With the wind shift in the bay all yachts had to bear away from the cans and a group of them got into very close quarters, maybe even slightly colliding although from our distance it was difficult to distinguish, we just heard a lot of shouting. As we headed around the cans for the downwind leg we were out front with the melee behind us and Sail Le Vie just ahead.
Downwind sailing is not one of Papagayo’s strong points and we were lucky that some of the other racing yachts were having the same difficulties. As we headed around the headland and onto a close haul down to the island it was close with only a few feet between us and Sail Le Vie.
We bided our time and we were finally able to come up alongside them and overtake. As we rounded the island we knew it was important to choose our moment to tack. If we went too soon we would end up far too close in to the island and this would involve more tacking which we wanted to avoid. We kept an eye on the others as they all started to tack and we watched their lay lines to see where they would end up on the island. We held out and to our advantage we only had to do one long tack the whole way down into the bay whereas the others tacked another 2 or 3 times. As we took the long slow downwind tack back along the island we were ahead and knew that we just had to keep out in front to then take advantage of our best tack on a close haul back across the finish line.
We finished first across the line and with three minutes to spare in front of Sail Le Vie, but as we were soon to find out, the time we needed to win was going to be a lot greater than 3 minutes.
Day 2 – Around the island
A slightly overcast day was much needed to give a small respite from the sun and our burning bodies. Following the usual fun and games on the start line we headed out down the Eastern side of Bequia we yet again got into another over taking battle with a yacht, this time Brizo that had come in third on day one. It is an American owned yacht and has been cruising around the Caribbean and has been spending time in Bequia where they had got themselves a crew of local guys. One of them was named the Man Mountain so I needn’t mention his size. Again, we bided our time and finally overtook them although they were tough.
We had learnt our lessons from last year and knew that at some point we should tack in to the shore of the island as the current picked up as we got further into the channel. A few of the other yachts had already tacked in but we waited a while longer to see their positioning. One boat that seemed to come out of nowhere was Hot Chocolate, a St Lucian boat skippered by an American guy. He has been coming to the Bequia regatta for the last 20 years and he has certainly gained a little local knowledge. He came in very close to shore and as we tacked in he was tacking back out so that we were almost on a level pegging. I hadn’t even seen him on the other legs of the race. The boats that had been closest to us decided to tack in one last time but to us it felt like they would not be able to make it around the rock and we were proven correct as they got into some messy water near the shore and had to tack out again.
As we turned into the downwind stretch of the race there were 4 yachts all in close quarters to one another, trying to make the most of the light winds blowing from astern. This in when the sailing becomes very difficult (and hot) as we tried to catch the wind in our main and jib by goose winging whereby we put the sails out on different sides on the yacht and tried to use them as you would a spinnaker. A hard task and difficult not to accidently gybe. As we sailed along each yacht took in turns to go into the lead and then fall back. It really was neck and neck.
As we approached the head to turn onto a much faster upwind tack were ever so slightly ahead but with a much better angle on the headland. We sailed in very close and rounded the head with a good distance between us and the others. It was then an all-out race as to who could get closest to the wind. Sail le Vie and Hot Chocolate decided to tack into shore to get more upwind but this was not a good move as the wind died down closer to shore and they had to tack out losing valuable time. Brizo followed our lead but they could not sail as close to the wind as us.
For the second day in a row we finished with line honours and crossed the line well over 8 minutes in front of Sail Le Vie. When it came to the results in the evening we worked out that on a race of that length we would have to beat them by at least 12 minutes.
Saturday night was a night to let our hair down and party as we had the day off from racing on the Sunday which was to be spent relaxing on Bequia’s beautiful beaches and getting a spot of local fayre for lunch. Come Sunday evening the weekend was beginning to make us all a little exhausted. We decided on an early night which was a shame because the chance of sleep was thwarted when a party kicked off and continued until 2am at full decibels with an MC screaming over much of the music. It was horrible!
Day 3 – Admiralty Bay
Our last day of racing was kept in Admiralty Bay, racing around markers. We could see that Brizo was having difficulties as there was someone up in the boson’s chair seeing to something at the top of the mast (a halyard, we later found out). They managed to start 12 minutes late and it was good to have them in the race as we had been competing with them all week.
We raced neck and neck with Sail Le Vie, our nemesis, and we could tell that today was the day that they really didn’t want us to get line honours. It was pretty much in the bag that they had won on corrected time so we had to fight to keep our line honours badge.
It was a very tactical race and it all came down on when to tack. We raced all the way to the finish line and it wasn’t until the very last tack that we knew that we were going to pip them to the post. We cheered each other on and in the end we got our line honours for the third consecutive day, beating them by a mere 4 seconds.
They called us over and presented us with a bottle of rum as a congratulatory gesture.
Overall we came in second place, with Sail Le Vie and Brizo third. It was a fantastic weekend of racing and liming. A great excuse to come back again next year.