Independence Day Round Island Race

Round Island Race St Lucia
Ten foot waves and a "peaky" crew

It was the 36th anniversary of St Lucian independence and to celebrate the St Lucian yacht club was holding it’s annual Round Island Race. We had not entered the previous year due to work commitments and by all accounts this was a good thing as there was a high drop out rate due to rough conditions and broken equipment.

We motored out into Rodney Bay for the 9am start looking out for the other nine boats that had entered the race. There were a few around, hoisting their sails and a few we recognised from having raced them before.

On board were 7 crew, myself and Ben (the owners and skippers of the boat), plus 5 sailors of varying degrees of competency. Most had been on the yacht before, having competed in the Mango Bowl Regatta in December so we gave them a quick refresher in tacking and using our running back stays, a unique addition to most race yachts.

The countdown begun and so did the confusion. As the final horn sounded most of us were confused as to whether we still had a minute to go. We somehow passed the start line first but we were sailing a deep broad reach which is not our strongest point of sail due to our small jib.

As we passed Pigeon Island the swell started to pick up as we left the protection of St Lucia and headed out to meet the Atlantic. The wind had been blowing consistently over the past few weeks, which is nothing unusual, and the waves had grown in height, so that as we were rounding the very North of the island we were getting 10 foot seas. Some of our crew were looking a little nervous whilst others had begun to turn a nice shade of green.

The east coast of st lucia
The desolate east coast of St Lucia

As we tacked to head down the East of the island we noticed that quite a few of the boats that had set sail with us had not tacked. It was then that we realised that they were on their way to Martinique and were in fact never in the race. This left us just 4 boats, a disappointing turn out. It was a beautiful sail down the East of the island, the side we very rarely see. It is mostly uninhabited with dramatic scenery; large mountains, sheer rock faces and breaking waves hitting deserted beaches.

Two of the competitors were way off ahead of us, whilst the only catamaran was slowly making time on us. The crew were feeling the worst of the waves, taking in turns to sit on the stern quarter to relieve their seasickness! One member didn’t quite make it and as he sat on the windward side of the boat we quickly shouted to stop, but it was too late. Being thrown up on wasn’t in the script! In the end the only two people to helm were Ben and I as all other were pretty much incapacitated.

Rounding the Southern tip of the island we were hit by a big squall which washed us all down and I think refreshed everyone somewhat. We headed into Laborie, a small fishing village of the South West of the island, coming in third place.

Anchoring was slightly daunting as the bay is surrounded by reef but some of the fishermen came and guided us in. They also took us into town that night for a spot of dinner, some well deserved beers, and entertainment put on by the local youth culture club.

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