Posts Tagged ‘caribbean’
Back in January we told you about a new mosquito-borne illness in the Caribbean, and while we haven’t heard reports of any yacht racers being stricken by Chikunguya this winter, we expect next year to be a different story for the Dengue-like disease. The latest report from the Associated Press says that there are ”currently more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the fast-spreading chikungunya virus in the Caribbean, most of them in the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin. Another 31,000 suspected cases have been reported across the region of scattered islands.” From 3 cases in December to up to 35,000 in May…and that all happened during the dry season.
The good news is that, like Dengue, Chikunguya is rarely fatal and generally only knocks you down for a week. But like Dengue (and Malaria), even if you get off quickly, victims may suffer lasting pain and other effects for months or years. International health authorities are doing what they can to stave off an epidemic, but as anyone who has spent any time in the tropics knows, it’s impossible to ‘wipe out’ mosquito diseases, so this one is here to stay, at least at some level.
So wear your long shirts and pants and hose yourself down with the DEET next time you’re down in the Islands (especially the French ones), and be thankful there’s no malaria!
May 5th, 2014 by admin
Ok, lets get this out of the way: Balearia got her new sail! It’s a beautiful, paneled-spectra, 3di-looking high performance cruising sail. Faster than the number 4? In under 13 knots yes, over 16 knots, no. We put it up, again nailed the start, dropping True in our wake. Got to the windward ahead of everybody else and very close behind ICAP Leopard. We found a good speed boost and started savoring that huge bullet bonus!
As it turns out, we were a little early for that. A small navigational slip had us going fast in the wrong direction in the first long downwind leg. We lost all our gains and then some, as we had to hoist the jib (a tough job as this is no light weight race sail) and close reach up to the actual mark. To add insult to injury, what followed was a slalom of 2 back-to-back reaching legs where a Code 0 really paid off! Guess what? Our Code 0 is still in the planning stage. Our competition picked up and left us in the dust. True was particularly brilliant and had speed to burn; from were we were standing, they literally appeared to be riding the wake of twice-as-big ICAP Leopard.
Too bad we could not end our racing misery with just a single bad nav call on the day…In race 2, after a much-too-short lunch break, we had a less than stellar start. We went on to destroy another chute on the hoist, leaving us now with only one kite for the final day of racing: A big, light A2.
To remind you of just how close the fleet is here in Class 0, True came within 2 seconds of getting a bullet in the last race. And that valuable bullet would have given them not just equal points with us but the tie breaker in their favor. Thank voodoo for little favors! With our competition beating us in both races, we destroyed the nice points lead we had on both True and Scarlet Runner. It’s now do or die for Team Varg on Day 5 of Antigua Sailing Week.
1) Make sure Tonnerre beats True
2) Beat Scarlet
3) Get the race committee to spare us from anymore Code 0 reaching legs.
4) Keep the A2 in one piece in 17 knots
No problem, right?
May 2nd, 2014 by admin
Two AC wins and the informal title amongst San Franciscans as the AC’s sexiest sailor haven’t gone to Angtiguan Shannon Falcone’s head; the musclebound monster is still as humble and down-t0-Earth as he’s ever been, and he’s an easy guy to cheer for – especially when he’s using his connections to help kids in the islands get more into sailing. Shannon was instrumental in getting the big Cup to town for a quick visit as Sailing Week comes into its final days; check out the video profile above for a look at Shannon and his family, with thanks to Roddy and the ASW video team.
May 2nd, 2014 by admin
Longtime Puerto Rican sailing and paddleboarding cheerleader Jaime Torres took a break from his Caribbean Melges 32 fleet building to hitch a ride on a TP52 for Antigua Sailing Week. Here are his first three days of reports along with photos from Tim Wright/Photoaction.com. Like Jaime’s Smile and Wave Sailing Team Facebook Page here for a fairly constant stream of year-round content from the Caribbean. Results are here.
ASW Day One – Sunday
The Caribbean sun and heat is not-so-slowly converting our laminate sails into a pile of trash. Two races, three sails down. At this rate I’m hoping the engines works so that can go out to watch the races on the last day of Antigua Sailing Week!
Acquired by Sailing Experiences just last year, Balearia is a 2005 Botin/Carkeek TP52 that has found new life in the race charter business, a business that is just exploding in the Caribbean. Set up with new sails and rigging, these super fun and fast boats make great platforms a group of amateur sailors to get a feel for the grand prix racing experience without having to spend huge dollars. This light green boat rates very well under the Caribbean Sailing Association rating rule and its fairly easy to sail. With a few good guys and few more enthusiastic crews you can truly have blast and even a shot at some silver.
The week started with a royal screwing by British Airways who deemed that 2 kilos was too much over the weight limit and did not allow our new sails to travel with our arriving crew. So here we are, nailing the starts, sailing in the right direction, killing it on the corners and yet our performance is literally torn to pieces as sail after sail meets its timely death in under the loads of the TP52 in. In fairness, the headsails are almost as old as the boat, but still.
After Saturdays 7-hour Around the Island race, the group was stoked for some short course racing in classic Antigua conditions. We sailed away from the competition as we trucked upwind after winning the start just outside of English Harbour – A nice lane, flat water, sunshine and going fast. In the words of perennial ASW writer Louay Habib, “it’s still champagne sailing!” And then, the a sailor’s wet dream alarm goes off….the heartbreaking sound of a ripping mylar and exploding carbon strips as a jib tears from leach batten to luff. The boat’s pro crew jumps into action to put a peel into play; it’s an excruciating and exhausting 5 minutes before we have the #4 up, one of the few remaining sails onboard. We managed to stay ahead of the pro-sailed True but Scarlet Runner capitalizes on our break and sneaks past.
At the weather mark, it’s the monster Leopard, the Volvo 70, Scarlet, us and then True and Tonnerre. The goal here is to get a piece of Scarlet while keeping True behind us…Not on this leg! On the second beat we struggle as the breeze drops to about 11 knots, still outside the range of the aging light jib we have below and way light for the #4 we have up. Positions remain the same. At the last windward mark, the A2 gets wounded on the hoist and a peel gone bad kills it for good.
We gybed on every lift and kept the boat going but Scarlet just sailed away from us. Day 1 ended with Tonnerre winning on corrected, Scarlet Runner in second and Balearia in third.
What is really cool is how this big group of older sailors, asking the right questions, hiking like they mean it and just stepping up their game every day. Much credit goes to Juan Navarro, the young Spanish dynamo/boat captain that Hitlers everybody in hiking and runs from the foredeck to the stern and back again, keeping this crazy train wreck going!
The boat gets lighter every day as we narrow down our available sail choices. We are now hopping for less than 10 or more than 18 knots so that we can work with what we have while waiting for replacement sails to arrive. The forecast is standard Caribbean: 12 to 15 from the east, partly cloudy with a chance of showers. Horrible, right?
Round the Island Saturday
This was one long-ass, nearly 7 hour marathon of a race with light to moderate shifty winds including a massive hole in the leeward side of Antigua. A decent start off the huge cliffs of Shirley Heights was a sign of things to come: With a 90-foot luxury cruiser/racer on our windward quarter and solid rock about 150 ahead we started asking for water. Their response: ”What?”
Us: “We need to tack!”
Us: “Ok, we’re tacking”
Right around that time, we realized there was a bigger problem: The VO-70 on their windward beam. They were perhaps not prepared for a few minutes of wild puertorrican gesturing – that got them and the Volvo on the right page and everybody tacked over just in the nick of time. Get clear on the rules, people!
From then on it was a chase after the well sailed Kernan 47 True and the RP 52 Scarlett Runner. Our first race as team came together nicely with the only casualty being an old medium jib that bit the dust.
ASW Practice Friday
We are racing with a charter crew that was just as long on age as they are in enthusiasm. They hit the grinders under the eyes of Nic Bol…a high level pro racer brought in to give this fun charter a chance to not only survive the week in one piece but maybe even collect some silver along the way. The crew boss, a young spanish kid barely into his low twenties yelled non-stop for everybody to hike like their lives depended on keeping the boat flat. Yeah it was bit of bitch but we managed to get though it. By the time we hit the dock at nearly 4 pm we had tacked about 150 times and gybed way too much. I thought you could never get enough of TP52 sailing but now I know you can.
We are looking forward to fun day on the water tomorrow in the Yachting World Around Antigua Race. We will be racing against some talented crews on very fast boats including the 100’ ICAP Leopard. I like our chances,but that is only if we can drag our tired souls back on board for a 8am off the dock call.
April 28th, 2014 by admin
Les Voiles De St. Barth continues to provide one of the best all-around regattas around, provided you can afford it. Here’s another spectacular drone video from the boffins at Pigeon Vision who are pushing sailing drone coverage further than anyone we’ve seen yet; be sure to watch it through right to the end or you’ll miss the best part of the vid. There’s also a mediocre event-sponsored vid here, and a completely unrelated but awesome drone vid here. Then check out Sam Roger’s story below on the hard-charging team of Gunboaters aboard Jason Caroll’s Elvis at Les Voiles. Carroll, Chad Corning, Scotty Bradford, Dave Allen, Dave Hazard, Weston Barlow, Anthony Kotoun, John Baxter and Sam Rogers nearly made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but continued the Elvis tradition of pushing everything - on and off the water – to the redline. Check out more from Sam at 42 Marine.
Growing up in tornado prone Minnesota, there are a few safety measures engrained in one’s psyche when summer weather sirens begin to sound. If caught indoors, find a stable structure to ride out the storm; a basement, bathtub or when all else fails, a doorway. While racing the 62 ft Gunboat Elvis at Les Voiles de St. Barths this past week, I didn’t imagine a scenario where deploying tornado safety measures would be needed, but on a windy Day 3, when danger found us, I found the doorway.
For cruisers and racers alike, Gunboat catamarans are an appealing option. For cruisers, the modern, chic layout and design both inside and out allow the boat to hold its own in the swankiest harbors in the world, with a brand that’s known throughout the yachting world. Staterooms are comfy and roomy, there are plenty of nooks for relaxing, and as the many who have stepped foot aboard Elvis know, there is space for a sizeable party, complete with an impressive sound system, disco lights, and a dance-inducing 16-gallon rum tank and tap.
At 62 ft long, 30 ft wide, with carbon fiber throughout and a full compliment of racing sails, Elvis easily goes from Grand Ballroom to Grand Prix, capable of sailing 15 knots upwind and rumbling into the high 20s when cracking sheets. As a sailor used to fast boats but without the leverage of being 30 ft wide when heeling 10 degrees, or having lead underneath them and simply waiting it out when a wipe-out occurs, the Gunboat sent me accroos to the lap of Anthony Kotoun when lifted 60 foot of starboard hull out of the water for the first time. The comfortable mix of cruising and white knuckle sailing attracts owners like Jason Carroll who are looking for more than a standard racer/cruiser.
Our practice session and the first two days were in 11-15 kt tradewinds with moderate seas that gave Voiles competitors idyllic Carribean racing in and around the surrounding islands of St. Barths. Racing the Elvis at full steam took the max effort of 9 capable sailors, as we ran the gamut of our sail inventory on the winding courses. The bow team was busy on the trampoline completing sail changes, as well as the pit/trim team managing sails, dropping and raising boards and pushing to maintain max vmg at all times. With a favorable rating on a Seacart 26, we found ourselves with two 2nds, and 2nd overall heading into the lay day.
The lay day is exciting moment for sailors. For some it provides a relaxing evening followed by a day of exploring which is often not afforded at most regattas, and for others it essentially is a hall-pass for a night on the town without a harsh wake-up for boat call. After a fun night at Baz Bar, we posted up at noon for a regatta sanctioned “lunch” at the famous Nikki Beach, gawked at the menu listing 30,000€ bottles of champagne, and washed down our body surfing sessions with magnums of Rosé. Yes, Rosé, its what they do in St. Barths, and we were in no position to question it. If we knew what was awaiting us on the racecourse the next day, we may have opted for a pot full of calming herbal tea.
Sipping our coffee on the morning of day 3 from the perch of our villa, we could see the Trades were in full effect, and the Carribean at full noise. With my experiences on Elvis being new, different and very smooth up to this point, I had veiled excitement as we headed to the racecourse; I did not know enough to be nervous. With the wind instruments reading 25-28 and monster seas rumbling through the straight between St. Barths and St. Maarten, it was enough to drop the rig on the mighty 72 ft. Bella Mente. Still not fully grasping the potential of the Elvis in this condition, we hoisted sails and put her on the wind.
Once sheeted on, the speed ticked up quickly, and from the comfort of Anthony’s lap, I felt our starboard hull lift for a few moments, then gently touch down. Racing 38 ft scows that can touch 25 kts on a lake and easily capsize, or a Melges 32 down big waves in big breeze does not make me nervous. The magnitude of racing a 62 foot Gunboat with the potential to tip over in big waves in the Carribean Sea made me nervous, and I instantly felt the weight of this for the first time. With a monster puff descending on us and entering it unprepared on a fat angle without sheets ready to ease, we lifted off again but this time we kept going, with the heel angle reaching 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 degrees….
It was a forgone conclusion that we were going over as the worst case scenario loomed. With some braver team members reaching for their knives and winches to cut sheets or find a last ditch effort at salvage, others braced for impact, and when we reached the point of what I thought was no return, I found the nearest place to ride out the situation which happened to be the windward cockpit door frame, finally putting my childhood tornado education to use.
From our estimation, and from a handful of other sailors who witnessed our starboard hull rising from the water the heel angle reached somewhere in the low 40s before it stopped, held for a few moments, and quickly descended back into favorable numbers, like 0. As the Elvis sat for a few moments, sails totally luffing, our team stared at each other in a mix of nervous laughter, and total shock that we were still floating upright.
Seeing steady breeze in the high 20s, the Bella rig go down, and potentially our near capsize, the always fearless Carribean/French RC sent all racing boats to shore for a postponement. With every crew-member wound like a coiled spring ready to explode at any back-pat, sound or hint of trouble, we motored to Columbie’ (a beautiful beach lined natural harbor around the corner from Gustavia). Once we got settled, the team quietly separated to different areas of the boat, reflecting on what went wrong, what could have been, and how fortunate were to have our only damage be bruised egos.
In the end, our momentary lack of respect for the boat and conditions got us close to capsizing. Being too cavalier, pushing the boat at 100% while not being prepared with having everyone in their racing positions, with someone calling puffs full time, and the driver and trimmers ready to react to the smallest wind increase or direction change was careless, and we fully understood that. The Gunboat is a very fast, exciting boat that can be sailed in big heavy seas, but if a team is going to push it as hard as we intended, everyone needs to be on high alert any time the sails are trimmed; you can’t race this boat in the same way that you party on it.
With a few hours at anchor to calm our nerves, thank our respective spiritual leaders and share some more nervous laughter, we headed back out at 2:30 for a start in a breeze that had died slightly. Pushing the boat at 85%, we completed the course and slowly got our confidence back to tame Elvis in 20-25 kts.
The final day saw similar conditions, and using our experiences from the day prior, we came to the racecourse more prepared, pushed harder, and enjoyed the sailing. Once the magnitude of the boat and the conditions were fully understood, the Elvis seemed perfectly at home in similar conditions that caused us trouble a day earlier. With satisfaction that we could push the boat hard and get it back to the harbor in once piece, we returned to our mooring in Columbie’, relaxed on the comfortable layout of Elvis, put on some reggae, clicked on the ice maker and watched the gauge on the rum tank slowly go down.
After an amazing week of Red-Lining our sailing and on-shore activities on the Elvis team, it is very apparent St. Barths and Gunboat sailing are a stellar combo. It might just be the perfect place for the first ever Gunboat World Championships in 2016…who’s in?
April 21st, 2014 by admin
Bite One: With a new one in the oven, It’s the swan song for George David’s much-conquering Rambler 90. David’s gotten more out of the big water-ballasted beast than could ever have been expected, though not at Les Voiles de St. Barths, where light air early in the week meant a distant second place behind the Aussie-stacked 69′ CAOL…something we can’t pronounce. This little boat bite was an easy early morning epoxy-and-tape fix, apparently a powerboat just had to get a closer look while the Rambler was on her mooring before Les Voiles.
Bite Two: Last month Hap Fauth’s big Bella Mente ran off to a Caribbean 600 win as explained right here by Mike Sanderson. This month, she loses her rig on the way out to the race course on Day 3 of Les Voiles. Fauth had a good shot to win, but not without a rig! An expensive week for maxis at the very expensive island of St. Barths. More in the thread.
April 21st, 2014 by admin
The droneistas at Pigeonvision follow up their great work in Sint Maarten with this aerial reel from the St. Barth’s bucket. A very pretty view of these jewel-encrusted heavyweights, but they do remind us more than a little of a bunch of hippos wallowing in a watering hole.
April 3rd, 2014 by admin
Professional racer Steph Roble checks in with her final report from what was by all accounts a barnstorming St. Thomas International Regatta, and we advise you to watch this one; Roble has a keen mind, serious competitiveness, and a great attitude in a hell of a package, and we urge you to go and like her Epic Racing Facebook page to follow her pro sailing and Women’s Match Racing exploits this summer. Congrats also to Jaime Torres and his Melges 32 Smile and Wave for following in his father’s footsteps to win the Rolex…ironically, the year they no longer give out the watch. Follow SnW’s Facebook Page to watch the Caribbean M32 fleet grow. Photos from Dean Barnes, and you can see all the galleries from the STIR here. Dean Barnes photos.
What a day! Team Line Honors started the final day of STIR with a 2 point lead over Puerto Rico’s Cachondo, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to beat them. All week, it had been tight between us and today would be no different.
We sailed out to Jersey Bay this morning feeling good with our waterproof speakers blasting. The race course was much more open than yesterday’s tight courses, and we knew this would be more boatspeed and shift, and less boat-on-boat tactics. We won the first two races by winning the very favored boat end of the line and staying on starboard, getting out to the left where a nice geographical shift helps. The RC had 6 races scheduled – we knew we had to pace ourselves, but after two bullets, we were feeling pretty darn fine.
In the start of race 3 we played with the Cachondo boys for a bit, but at a minute to go, he went off for the crowded boat end while we went mid-line. The boat was so favored that Marco took the lead at the gun and basically sat on us the entire rest of the way; we grabbed a third place in this one.
For the final buoy race, we wanted to put some more point separation between our boats, and as befits the Match Race World Champion at our tiller, we went after Marco and his boys on Cachondo. And we misjudged our time and distance to the line…starting behind Cachondo…and then we missed a right shift on the last run, and lost 4 boats. We were extremely annoyed, and now, instead of a nice lead, we had a 3-point deficit going into the distance race that would end the regatta.
The race started in Jersey Bay, went up and around Great St James Island, through the awesome Current Cut, and to the finish line directly in front of the St. Thomas Yacht Club. “How the f%^$ are we going to make up that point gap??” we all thought to ourselves. Naturally, we all thought the same thing: “Let’s match race him,” and somehow, magically, put 3 boats between Cachondo and us before the finish. Sure…no problem.
Taylor went on to manhandle Marco in the pre-start, and on the beat, we pushed him hard to the right side of the course while the rest of the fleet went hard left. Our only hope was to keep sending him back, hoping we could somehow squeeze boats behind us. But with such a gap and so much leverage on the fleet, we didn’t know if we would be first, last or somewhere in between. We tacked about 12 times up the beat while Marco tried to break loose; finally we got to the layline to the cut of the island and left him to extend. We caught up to the fleet but left enough distance between us that exactly 3 boats were between us; we were all wound so tight as it unfolded! We hoisted the kite and snuck in front of a couple of boats, which we managed to pass on the reach, and coming into the final run to the club with spectators stacking the beach, we had 5 boats between us and Marco.
No one said anything; we all knew what was happening, but we had to keep our cool until such an unlikely scenario actually came true. Taylor’s dad and regatta organizer Bill Canfield was on the finish line boat for our final race, and what an experience – live music blasting from the stage, hundreds of competitors already partying it up, Bill on the RC boat with a big smile, champagne sailing conditions, and just enough boats behind us to take a hard-earned win.
We could have easily given up and handed the regatta to Marco, or fight hard against the odds and send it. We sent it, and it goes to show that hard work pays off, and aggression is competition, and to never ever give up no matter the circumstances. We are proud to represent Line Honors Yacht Racing Outfitters as the champions of the St Thomas international Regatta. One final shout out to the team: Mike Rehe, Taylor Canfield, Matt Clark and Taylor Ladd. And a big thank you to Sailing Anarchy for giving us a lot of love. Now it’s time to fill the glass with rum and celebrate!
March 31st, 2014 by admin
Thanks to a European feel, long, reach courses, and the most festival atmosphere of any regatta, the Heineken continues to be one of the only regattas in this hemisphere to attract a vibrant big-boat multihull racing scene. Nils Erickson’s quick M&M Formula 40 cat Soma has owned that scene over the past few years, and he checks in with the best race report we’ve seen in a long time. We’re not sure if Soma is still doing charters as her website advertises, but if you ever have a chance to get aboard, jump on it. Top shot from YachtShots, the rest from Soma’s co-owner Meredith and Gunboat crew Jamie.
I learned an old German proverb a few years ago that I think applies to multihull racing in general, and this year’s Heineken Regatta in particular: “A smart horse jumps only as high as it has to”. If you remember the first season of the Extreme 40 class not a single boat flipped. By year two, a handful. Nowadays it seems like a boat flips every race. On a racing multihull you’d better be ready to press harder than your competitor and peer over the edge into the abyss we call the ”mineshaft” if you want to win. Just don’t go further than you have to, or you’ll be that dumb horse.
This year’s Heineken Regatta in St Martin saw the best, most modern assembly of multihulls in its history. The five Gunboats entered have (rightfully) gotten lots of love and press with their stories from Multihull Racing 1, but in addition to them were another 24 multis in 3 other classes. In Multihull 2 we had a Seacart 26, a sexy new Toro 34, a wicked fast Open 40, and perennial attendee and threat Carib Cat. We rounded out the fleet on our 30-yr old Formula 40 catamaran, Soma.
Not only was the list of boats formidable, but there were some industry bigwigs in attendance. Out of the blue, two weeks before the event, we got an email from Gino Morelli asking what it’d take to get an invite to sail on Soma. I doubt anyone doesn’t recognize the name, but Gino is the designer and builder of Soma, as well as, um, sum lesser-known boats like the first generation Gunboats (48, 62, 66, 90), Playstation, Stars and Stripes ’88, Alinghi and those quick little AC72s ETNZ and Luna Rossa/Prada. Why one of the greatest designers in the history of sailing would want to slum it with a bunch of rank amateurs like us was beyond me, but it was an honor we couldn’t refuse. He was Soma’s Dad, and we’ve just been borrowing her.
We gave Gino his choice of jobs aboard and were happy to have his expertise on the mainsheet. Also sailing with us was multihull guru Torbjorn Linderson (ex-Marstrom, currently Future Fibres). Calle Hennix, owner of Seacart was racing his Seacart 26, Gunboat company owner Peter Johnstone was back on his 1st Gunboat, Tribe (GB6201). Designer David McCullough was racing on Slim (GB6606), multihull legend and the sailmaker for Soma and just about every fast multihull in attendance Paul “Whirly” Van Dyke was on Tigerlily (GB6603). Elvis/Team Argo (GB6204) had more collective world championships aboard than the rest of the 215-boat fleet combined. This wasn’t the usual collection of rum drunk Caribbean sailors like us on Team Soma. We needed to come correct.
The first day’s race was the Around the Island Race. There’s something pure about an around the island race. No handicap squabbles, no BS, first to finish. That’s been our trophy 8 out of 9 years and we had no intention of letting it slip away this year. Conditions were on the high side of what’s comfortable on Soma with a puffy 18-22, and big gusts in the low 30s. Full main weather, but marginal in the puffs. The Gunboats had the first start in the 215-boat fleet; we followed 5 minutes later. After a short mile-long beat to weather we turned downwind for a run to the west tip of the island, Basse Terre. We had piled bodies at the back of the boat trying to keep her nose out of the water, and the wind was nuking. We were quickly reeling in the frontrunners Coco De Mer and Elvis. Just as we evened up with Coco we had our first HARD stuff, both bows digging in and the rudders coming out of the water. Torbjorn, the giant 105 kilo Swedish mast designer, was launched from the aft beam right through our tiller cross bar, breaking it like a finish line tape. The boat came crashing back down suddenly. In full-power, downwind conditions I only had the use of the weather rudder. I jumped to leeward and drove off the leeward rudder/tiller that was more likely to stay in the water as the crew scrambled to effect a repair. We used every scrap piece of spectra aboard and lashed a boat hook to the cross bar as a splint. I had a sinking feeling we wouldn’t last the race. “Are we pushing too hard?” I wondered. We got back on the throttle and began the upwind leg past Marigot. Conditions were great, flat water and reasonably steady wind.
The course takes the fleet into the full brunt of the Atlantic as you head up around the NE corner of the island, past the offshore island Tintimarre, and down the East coast to Phillipsburg. Seas and breeze were up, with ESE winds above 20 knots and gusting much higher. We had pulled one daggerboard up on our last tack to the weather mark, then cracked sheets and began the hot reach down the lumpy east coast of the island. We tried to crank up the weather daggerboard while barreling along at 25-28 knots but it didn’t want to budge. We blew up the uphaul line, then hurried to get a halyard to the top of the board to try to get it up. In the meantime my wife was sharing driving duties with me, getting blasted by spray sitting to leeward supporting the splinted tiller cross arm and following my lead on helm. The trimmers were ready to blow sheets at a moment’s notice in the marginal conditions, while our “floaters” were working on getting the board up. There was a LOUD crack and without looking I knew it was the daggerboard. I turned and, sure enough, saw the bottom half of our board roiling out of our wake. That sinking feeling again; we were snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and it was getting really expensive. I pushed those feelings away. We stacked bodies aft and pressed on. A steep sea was running, making the just-past-beam reach difficult in full power. If we sailed the course to the corner of the island we’d bury a bow and be upside down for sure. If we heated a touch we’d get fully airborne launching off the waves. If we dove deep we’d end up on the beach at Orient. We’d commit high for a mile or two (so we could shed power), then dive deep and soak down to the route, and repeat. We were living, but it was hairy.
At the end of the reach we met the current running around the S tip of the island and the waves got steeper. We had stuffed the bows several times already, but she had popped up unscathed each time. One mile from the finish we had our hardest nose dive yet, parking the boat, burying the bows to the main cross beam, and totally submerging our 22’ sprit. The sprit snapped just aft of the jib tack attachment. Both our furled code zero and screecher and half our sprit were underwater. The drag at the bow wanted to heat us up into the death zone and wanted to pull the bow under. The jib tack was 5’ in the air and to leeward. It was mayhem. I dove deep trying to depower. We pulled and yanked but nothing we did could get the sprit and sails out of the water. We turned head to wind, got the main off the lock, dropped the main, and began floating haphazardly in the vague direction of the finish line. We cut all the spectra lashings holding the sprit on and recovered the broken pieces. After 15 minutes of damage control we lifted our heads to see 2nd place Elvis sail around us. That was it. The trophy would be lost. The regatta would be lost. That sinking feeling was here to stay. A black pit in our stomach, we had gotten too close to the edge. Not only was the weekend going to be a total waste (the flights, hotels, effort to get to the start line), we had done thousands of $$$ in damage. Keep in mind, Soma is paid for on professional boat crew’s wages. My wife and I aren’t wealthy, we don’t have trust funds, and we just sank all of our money into buying our first house on a nearby island. She looked at me with tears brimming her eyes. We do this because we love it. The name Soma is a drug reference, it’s means the perfect drug, in this case the high you get from sailing fast. It’s an expensive addiction, and luckily my wife shares the addiction. This time the addiction got the better of us.
Just as we contemplated starting the motor and leaving in defeat, someone shouted out that Elvis had started 5 minutes ahead of us, and they were only a few hundred yards ahead of us with ½ mile to the finish. There was a chance! We dragged the main up 1/3 of the way, holding the leech away from the shrouds and limped across the finish line doing 10 knots. We later learned we finished 3m30s behind Elvis, but pulled off the fastest elapsed time by a mere 1m30s. We were elated. The weekend may be lost, but the Around the Island trophy would be ours!
We returned to the dock thrilled about our elapsed time win but dejected about the reality of our breakages. To add insult to injury, our French competitors protested us about our rating. Our rules adviser/tactician Jim Ryan and I went off to the yacht club to defend our name in the protest room. Waiting for the protest we learned that we had taken 1st on corrected despite the disasters on the water. Suddenly defeat didn’t seem inevitable. I rushed back to the boat to see if anyone was up for a late night. Gino, Chris Curreri, and Chris Hanson were a step ahead of me. While Jim and I had gotten the protest thrown out they had scrounged materials for a repair. The Gunboat crews had graciously offered tools, materials, shop space, expertise, whatever we’d need. We had a pizza party in the parking lot as the wives and girlfriends cut carbon and peel ply and mixed epoxy, the boys took a grinder to the carbon sprit and laminated a repair. Gino pitched in ‘til the very end and we walked away at 1:30 AM with hopes of sailing again.
At 5:30 AM we were back at the boat groggy and tired for a final hot-mixed layup. We bolted her back together, shoved the broken stump of a daggerboard down as far as we dared (and past Gino’s recommendations) and limped out of the bridge for race 2. We managed a 1st on day 2, a downwind course that avoided our weak point of too little daggerboard. Day 3 turned into a lottery. A short beat, a long run, then a big rain cloud that sucked out all of the wind. We saw the big brains on Elvis chase the gradient to the south, and watched as Highland Fling and Peter Holmberg found the same escape route. We followed, found some breeze, and secured a comfortable 1st for the 3rd day in a row to win Multihull 2.
Looking back, this was probably our best Heineken yet. No despite of the breakages, but because of. We went through hell and high tide. Our “shore crew” of friends, wives, and girlfriends (Sasha, Tara, Jill, Mindy, Jamie, Matt), the Gunboat crews that helped (especially Elvis), Gino’s expertise, advice, and good humor. What breakages? All we’ll remember are the good times and great people.
In hindsight, we probably drove the boat a little too hard day one. Alright, maybe a lot too hard. As we learned, a smart horse jumps only as high as it has to. I guess that makes me a dumb horse. Good name for a boat, that. Hmmm….
Epilogue: The Tuesday after racing my wife and I were motoring in glass calm conditions from St. Martin to Virgin Gorda aboard the Gunboat 62 we work on. She called out, “look, a shark, err, wait, no, a log, wait, no, our FRIGGIN’ daggerboard!” That’s right, 4 days later and 15 miles to leeward we almost ran over our stump of a daggerboard. We recovered it, but I doubt it can be fixed. Maybe we’ll make a bench out of it for our new house. Our first piece of furniture. Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
March 18th, 2014 by admin
If you’ve never raced a Caribbean regatta, the Heineken Regatta is a great place to begin, and for 2014, the crew of El Ocaso were ready for what the regatta labels ‘Serious Fun’. Our race on El Ocaso began with Wednesday practice day and then the windward/leeward one-day Gill Commodore’s Cup. We won our class (Series 3), and were awarded the overall trophy for the single day event. This really set the tone for Team El Ocaso as the full power of the Heineken Regatta began the next morning.
March 14th, 2014 by admin
Sailing videographers have been fighting with drones for years now. Fighting to try to get them to fly reliably in 15+ knots, fighting to get them to deal with salt spray environments and boat launching, fighting to keep their $2000 toys from turning into melted circuit boards when they inevitably hit the drink, and fighting against local and national governments who don’t want them up there unless they’re spying on you for the NSA.
But from this excellent video, it looks like the guys at Pigeon Vision may have solved many of these problems. The video is so good that we’ve lifted our lifetime ban on any videographer who uses the most uncreative, overused song in the history of sailing videos as a soundtrack. It’s nice work from one of the Caribbean’s great regattas, and a good opportunity to congratulate Miami’s Rick Wesslund’s and his all-conquering El Ocaso (in a new-to-him J/122 for ’14) on winning yet another overall Caribbean regatta with core crew Bob Hillier from Line Honors on the mainsheet and the world’s best 40′ handicap cruiser/racer tactician, Anson Mulder, calling the track.
March 11th, 2014 by admin
If, like many of us, you’ve just about HAD IT with this insane winter weather, now’s about the perfect time to register for the St. Thomas International Regatta and save $150 off the entry fee if you sign up by this Friday the 31st. You’ll be in good company regardless of what you race; the big boat IRC class is looking ultra-competitive with Highland Fling XII, Tonerre, Scarlet Runner fresh across from Cape Town via Rio and loads more, while the STIR always gets awesome turnout from the diverse cruiser/racer crowd racing CSA. Add in the triple threat of Melges 32s from Puerto Rico, a great beach cat class, and the big IC-24 fleet and you’ve got a recipe for success in the 41st year of the “easy button” for Caribbean racing. “St. Thomas has the best combination of high quality race administration, great competition, and affordability, and the STYC is an awesome atmosphere whether you’re with the family or the party animals,” says Melges 32 owner/driver Jaime Torres. For more information, visit www.stthomasinternationalregatta.com. Or, follow for the latest information on Facebook www.facebook.com/rolexregatta, Instagram #IRRSTYC and Twitter @IRRSTYC. Dean Barnes photo.
January 29th, 2014 by admin
The 41st St. THOMAS INTERNATIONAL REGATTA is set to once again provide some of the best racing in the Caribbean, with warm water, hot racing action, and most importantly – a truly EASY regatta to come and sail. Based out of the legendary STYC inside Cowpet Bay, there are tons of apartments, condos, and hotels within walking distance or a short drive away, and rental cars are cheap and easy to pick up when you fly into the airport – which is an easy hop from Miami or dozens of other direct US cities. If you’ve done the logistics for St. Barths, St. Maarten, or even the BVI you know it can be a challenge to get everything sorted out on time and on budget, but not in St. Thomas; it’s just easier here!
With a strong big boat lineup planned and consistently awesome racing for beach cats, IC24s, and cruiser/racers in the 30-45 foot range on CSA handicap, we’ve also got big boat legends like the Kerr 46 Tonnerre De Breskins 3 on the list as well as already three TP52s: Highland Fling of Monac0, Near Miss from SUI/FRA, and the Aussie Scarlet Runner, currently racing over from Cape Town. Get your 52 or other IRC weapon on the list right away and take advantage of some of the best race courses anywhere in the world; we’ve got flat water and swells, the awesome Pillsbury Sound between St. John and the West End, the exciting race to Charlotte Amalie, and more ’round the rocks’ action; everything a real racer wants from their Caribbean fling.
Want to have some REAL FUN with your J/70? Ship it down from Florida with the special deal arranged by Kestrel Shipping, with a simple roll-on/roll-off from Palm Beach to Roadtown in the BVIs. Bring her over for the action in St. Thomas and then back for the BVI Spring Regatta; warm water and big breeze is what these things are made for! Contact Steven at Kestrel or Chris at Island Shipping for more info.
January 7th, 2014 by admin
Question Of The Week
Longtime Anarchist, occasional Anarchy I.T. Department head, and now Caribbean cruiser BJ Porter asks “Did I do it right?” after receiving a Mayday in the southern Caribbean over the weekend. Got an answer? It goes here. Note: The photo is NOT of the fisherman in the story; just something random and descriptive that we liked.
Saturday afternoon we left Trinidad for Aruba. About 11:18 p.m. on Monday night as we are sailing about 20 miles NE of Bonaire (12° 34.715N, 068° 13.732W), conditions were 22-28kts of wind from around 100°, seas 6-8 ft. and somewhat disturbed. We were sailing along on a broad reach at 8-10 knots with reefed sails. Then I get a Frantic “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” call over the radio.
After trying to get a response back from the guy, I finally got a burst of frantic Spanish. I tried slow English…more Spanish. OK…by now someone has dug up our copy of “Spanish for Cruisers” and I am able to get a few phrases like “We speak very little Spanish” on the air. Slow pigeon English from the other boat…”No fuel! No water! No Food!”.
As I was responding and trying to raise a response we saw a boat…distance was tough to tell, but it was disappearing and reappearing. Eventually when I asked for their position they said “You just passed us” and I knew that was the boat. So we pulled off the preventer, turned the boat around and beat back to them. When we arrived we lowered the sails and motored around him in the rolls and chop. The boat was roughly 20′ long, center console…sort of, there were tarps on it, with three fisherman on board. Given the location (NE of Bonaire, nearby some of the remote Venezuelan islands) we figured they were Venezuelan.
It did enter in our minds that this COULD be a problem, there have been some incidents off the Venezuelan coast. But given the relatively rough conditions boarding would be something only someone pretty desperate would try. We fetched the machete we bought for opening coconuts up and left it in the cockpit…
Conversation came to it that we couldn’t easily get him fuel, as we only had six gallons of gas on board in our dinghy and no good way to get any of it to him, if we could even pour or siphon some out without spilling it. Given that they had what looked large twin outboards, the two gallons or so we might be able to get to them wouldn’t get them all that far even if we could figure a way to pour it, store it, and get it to them uncontaminated. It was rough enough that there was no way the vessels were coming together intentionally, someone was going to get damaged if we got within six to eight feet of them.
So they asked us to “Give us food, give us water.” Their vessel was sound and not sinking and clearly just out of fuel and they did not ask to abandon it or get rescued.
So we scrounged up some fresh water and what food we could find that was in cans with pull tabs (there was no way we were going to be able to have a coherent discussion about can openers!) or in packages that might survive a dunking and put it in a water proof container. We tied this whole mess to an orange PFD and an inflated white trash bag (for visibility and more floatation). When then dropped it in the water upwind of them, at which point we very quickly figured out that their boat was drifting a hell of a lot faster than a little package of food and water…oops. So we circled around a few times and fished it out then tried again from down wind which worked much better since they drifted down on it quickly. They recovered it on the first try and thanked us on the VHF.
At this point we felt there was little we could do beyond relay their position to someone else who might be able to get them. They didn’t want off their boat, and no one else had heard their call in the area. If we stayed all we could do was circle them and try to call someone with our higher VHF or SSB. So we talked to them and they asked us to relay their position to someone, and we headed back to our regular course.
I wasn’t completely sure this was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t see what we would do hanging around them either, except stay on station in case their boat started to sink (unlikely) and they needed to be pulled off. But we could do nothing more to affect their rescue, except try to get in touch with authorities on their behalf which wasn’t working too well with VHF from this area. Wind and currents were both pushing them West, towards Curacao and Aruba.
I spent the next hour and a half trying to get in touch with ANYONE in authority. At one point I hailed “Coast Guard” on 16 and received a scratchy, inaudible but lengthy reply which made it clear the recipient could hear and understand me even if I could not hear them. So I relayed all the information I could; our boa name, last position of the other boat, name of the captain (we could not get him to understand that we wanted his BOAT name, or it didn’t have one), number of people, their problems, our actions, etc. I was trying VHF 16, and all of the SSB Emergency Hailing frequencies.
Nothing. Not a whisper of a response. I even went so far as to send Winlink e-mail messages to a bunch of people I knew, on the off chance that they might be awake still and able to at least forward the info to the USCG who would know how to contact the proper authorities in Venezuela/Bonaire/Curacao. Alternatively I was contemplating breaking into some yammering hams and asking them to do the same for me, but we got a hail back before I needed to try that.
Eventually I got a scratchy hail. Turns it out was from a freighter named Malmo about eight miles away from us; he could hear me but I could barely make him out but he’d heard my boat name and that we’d helped a boat in distress. He was able to relay to Curacao authorities the position and situation, and speak with me to clear up the details. And his course was going to take him right back through where we left the boat, so I think Curacao asked him to check in on them. I don’t know where it went from there, as we were passing out of VHF range and could not follow the conversations after that. The last thing we hear was that Malmo had “Made contact with a boat with Spanish guys they could not understand” which sounded a lot like our fisherman.
I am still second guessing myself on my actions. Questions and thoughts for discussion…
1) Should I have stayed on station? There was no immediate or even short term risk of life or injury to the fisherman, they were out of fuel in an area with reasonable shipping traffic and not insanely far from shore and now had some food and water. Could I have accomplished anything at all by continuing to circle or drifting with him all night? Eventually we would have raised Malmo as she came through, but I couldn’t know that at the time.
2) SSB/VHF – OK, I’m going to look into Sat Phones now. This was a real eye opener for me that they really can be quite useless as no one seems to answer the damned things. Or no one can hear my SSB, though I talked to a guy in Moscow with it a few months ago. Two minutes on a Sat phone and I could have reached the USCG or local authorities if I had a number to call.
3) On board procedures. We are still more reliant on me than we should be – while at the helm I can’t operate the SSB, but I’m the only one that knows the detailed operations of it. No one was comfortable taking the helm in close quarters with another boat in 25+ knots of breeze in 6-8′+ seas. My wife went to sleep reading “The Guide to SSB for Idi-yachts” tonight; we’ve decided that EVERYONE needs to know how to operate it and we will be doing some training and practice.
4) The other discussion this brought up with was quick accessibility to food and water if we had to ditch – based on my wife’s experience trying to gather food and water in a pitching seaway. Yes, there is a ditch bag with a PLB, VHF, GPS, Flares, food rations, some water, hand pumped watermaker, etc. etc. ready to go. But if we have to ditch we’d also want to grab as much as we can that time and conditions permit. And if you open a cabinet to grab some canned goods and everything comes piling out on you, or you need to dig three layers deep under the floorboards…this could be problematic. We realized that we had two types of emergency water – the stuff deep in the boat in case the water maker pukes, and the regular drinking bottles in the fridge; 10L or so of water we can grab quickly and toss in the life raft. And some discussions about what to grab…bags of salted snack peanuts for example should never end up in the life raft!
So, that’s the story with my concerns and misgivings and thoughts. I’d love to hear what others would have done.
November 14th, 2013 by admin