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Posts Tagged ‘caribbean’

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It took less than a decade for the world’s big charter fleets to go almost entirely multihull, and why not? For the same length and weight, they’re bigger, more comfortable, more open, and just plain better for cruising regardless of experience level.  When we saw this wholesale defection underway, it made us happy – tens of thousands of know-nothing once-a-decade charterers would learn that sailboats could go faster than the 5.7 knot top speed of a Moorings 390 shitbox, and who knows – maybe some fraction of them would be inspired to go racing once they got back to Duluth or Green Bay or Chillicothe?

One problem with our wishful thinking – the charter companies ordered overweight Fontaine-Pajot/Leopard/Lagoons by the shipload, with tiny rigs, diaper-cut sails, and no downwind sail inventory at all, ensuring that the boats are almost never used for sailing.

And this one, stuck under a Sint Maarten crane last week, looks far better than the usual.  Fortunately, there are a few companies doing real performance – check SA’s preferred one here.

April 6th, 2015 by admin

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Paradox and Phaedo^3 are currently oblitering the existing Caribbean 600 race record while both Rambler 88 and Bella Mente are ahead of the monohull record; it’ll be over almost before it started so track ‘em all here and have a look at the people involved in the video above.  Ask or talk about this race over here.

UPDATE: Phaedo Start video here.


February 23rd, 2015 by admin

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After two years of fleetbuilding, Caribbean Melges 32 President and former Mr. Clean crewmate Jaime Torres checks in from San Juan.  Meanwhile, the 20 year-old Prince of Monaco is leading the M32 Gold Cup fleet after 2 races in Miami Beach.  Joy Dunigan photo.

In 2012, there were a handful of Melges 32s scattered all over the Caribbean, many of them either fading away under the hot sun or barely being used in their local waters; the one exception being Mark Plaxton’s Intac. Plaxton had been racing his boat very successfully against handicap competition in the northern Caribbean while getting his one-design fix stateside, but he was looking for more, and he and his team were instrumental in convincing the International Melges 32 Class Association to bring their roadshow to the Caribbean in the spring of 2013. This 3-event tour opened the eyes of local sailors to the phenomenal experience of racing this kind of ultra-high performance one design racer in the world-beating conditions at our wonderful Caribbean venues.

I was the first to jump at the chance, picking up what would become Smile and Wave and a largely Puerto Rican team to help represent the Caribbean at the 9-boat-strong events.  When Puerto Rico’s Luis Juarbe saw the kind of fun we were having he jumped in, though his new (to him) Soca ran into shipping issues and only made the last event.  I kept pushing for other owners to join the fun, and usually after a few hours aboard Smile and Wave, they were in.

For the 2014 season, Ian Hope Ross from St. Maarten revived the aging Jurakan, renaming her Kick ‘em Jenny, while extremely successful  handicap skipper Sergio Sagramoso joined the fun with Lazy Dog.  And just recently, Midwest racer Tom Elsen bought Catapult and will be making his Caribbean debut soon.

As it stands today, we have 5 boats racing with a 6th boat in the Dominican Republic making plans to make the move East for the Spring 2015 events.  In Trinidad there’s a 7th boat looking for an owner…

To focus all this energy, we’re getting the local Melges 32 fleet organized. We built a simple website, came up with some proposed Class Rule changes to reflect the specified needs of Caribbean owners, and we’ve planned a ranked series using some of the awesome events that call the Caribbean their home.  Our first warmup event for the 2015 season was last week’s Discover the Caribbean Regatta [which Torres won -ed] at Ponce’s gorgeous Yacht and Fishing Club in PR, and in a couple of weeks, we’re off to the St. Croix International Regatta.

2015 should be a big year for the local Melges 32 Caribbean fleet as all the well established northern Caribbean events have pledged full support for Melges 32 One Design racing, including dedicated courses and events tailored to the needs and desires of the owners.  If you are a Melges 32 owner looking to put your boat and crew through the paces in some of the world’s most popular and beautiful race events, you have plenty of time bring your boat to these amazing events and the Melges 32 Caribbean group will be there to assist you in any way you need.  We’re dedicated to providing very inclusive, high-quality racing for the Melges 32 fleet, and we can help you learn how to do it at a surprisingly low cost in the best sailing spots in the world.

Check out our site here and Facebook page here, or email me with questions here.

Jaime Torres, Smile and Wave

President, Caribbean Melges 32 Association


November 8th, 2014 by admin

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Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.01.01 AMWanna win a 7-day charter or a 7-night resort stay in St. Vincent & The Grenadines?

We do, too, and this sweepstakes hopes to raise awareness for the excellent charity Hands Across The Sea, which aims to eradicate illiteracy in the Eastern Caribbean.

Head over to the ASA’s contest page and scroll down to the bottom right to enter for free.  And if you’re a kind soul, donate!



September 4th, 2014 by admin

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MosquitoBack 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

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_pfa6965Jaime checks in from the penultimate day in Antigua.  

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.

Here’s the Team Varg /Balearia ’to do’ list in order for us to take 2nd in CSA Class 0:

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

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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

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Balearia Antigua Round the Island Race 2014

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/  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

Balearia Antigua Round the Island Race 2014This 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!”

Them: “What?”

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

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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

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RAmblerBiteBite 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

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