On the 20th November, a sunny Sunday, a flotilla of boats set sail from Castries Harbour in St Lucia to celebrate the beginning of the annual ARC Rally that each year travels across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to St Lucia. To mark the occasion IGY Marina in Rodney Bay organised a flotilla for the local boats to mark the occasion. Of course more than one boat on the water immediately indicates a race so the sailing boats, ignoring the motor boats, set sail to race back to Rodney Bay. Once back the marina put on a party with live music and much rum flowing. The first boats are expected to make it across the Atlantic within the next 8 – 10 days, hoping to break last year’s record.
Mango Bowl Regatta 2016
We were aiming for our second Mango Bowl Regatta win, after taking home the first prize in our class last year. We had a crew made up of past and present students, so as in other years, we had a relatively novice crew to do all the work. For some it was a steep learning curve.
The weather was perfect on the first day, a few clouds in the sky that gave a much needed respite from the sun and some good, strong wind. The first two races of the day headed out of Rodney Bay and up to the North of the island where a choppy Atlantic swell crashed waves over the bow. We had rounded one of the marker buoys and were heading back down to the bay when we looked behind to see a yacht making way for the marker on a starboard tack. Another boat was heading straight for them, side on, on a port tack (the starboard vessel had the right of way). There was a lot of shouting and we watched on, peaking through our fingers as our hands were covering our faces as the boats continued to head to a full on collision. Just as we thought they had made it we saw and heard and almighty crash as the boat hit full on to the back quarter of the starboard yacht. It was a sickening sound and we immediately heard over the radio that the sails were being taken down as steerage had been lost. We could see that no one was injured, but we got on the radio to Dive St Lucia, who had fast speed boat, and told them to come and check on the boats.
Meanwhile we continued on our way taking care not to gybe in the swell that was following. One of our crew was standing on the foredeck when he turned and asked, “Is that a man overboard?” In the near distance we could see someone floating. We immediately started heading over the person and then noticed a yacht doubling back on its self to come around and pick up the person. With super human strength the young guy somehow managed to drag himself back onto the deck of the boat as the sides were low and the crew were able to drag him in. I later spoke to him and he was pretty shaken by the experience as his shoes and clothes were pulling him down and the waves were big for him to fight to stay above water.
These two incidences made for a very exciting and somewhat nerve wracking hour.
Day two of the racing couldn’t be more different from day one. The wind had calmed considerably and the down wind leg of our races were slow and hot. With two of the boats having had to retire due to their collision, the race was between the three remaining boats. With only two races we were finished by lunchtime and back on the dock for a cool, rewarding Piton.