There is always an excuse for a party on St Lucia, and what better mix for a Sunday than a boat “race” and a few drinks to celebrate the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2017.
With a crew of 8 we headed out of the marina in Rodney Bay and joined the other boats as we headed down to Castries. The trade winds have yet to kick in and we were a little worried there wouldn’t be enough wind to sail, but luckily we had a very pleasant 16 knot breeze to take us on a nice beam reach sail down to the capital.
Arriving with plenty of time for the midday start we decided to tack down the harbour channel after getting clearance from the lighthouse that no aircraft were taking off across the entrance to the harbour. The crew were put to work, having not sailed for a few months they were a bit out of practice.
We joined the catamarans, monohulls, speed boats, J24’s and hobies that had congregated in Castries harbour. Plenty of loud music and rum was flowing on the party boats as we waited for the gun to trigger the start of the race.
I say race in the loosest terms as racing against motorboats and yachts under engine doesn’t really work, but as the old joke goes, “What do you call two yachts on the water”? A Race!
We motor sailed out of Castries with the wind behind us, then let the jib fly as we all rounded the entrance and out of the channel.
It was a great close haul sail back with many yachts racing each other. We got into close quarters with some friends of ours on a J24, not normally a yacht we would race against but a great deal of fun.
I am not sure where we finished, but when you are sailing alongside a drilling barge, I don’t think it really matters.
Bequia Easter Regatta 2017
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.
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.