Beach Party

Beach Party

From our good friend, Olympian, and former SCOTW Carrie Howe:

This past weekend I raced on the Farr 40 ‘Flash Gordon’ in Miami, and took the Sunday redeye straight after the last race to my somewhat new “residence” outside of Amsterdam. Two days of work (Monday I still had my bathing suit on from Sunday) and the METS boat show Tuesday for some important Magic Marine meetings, and here I am – again – in Miami at gate D45 three days later! Happily enough, I’m eating American food (boy I miss it), but I could certainly have skipped the London stopover from last night.  Apologies to my British friends, but London should ALWAYS be avoided when flying overseas either direction.

Why am I doing this? I’ve always had to explain to non-sailors how “I don’t mind the flying, I know I am a bit crazy…“ I have had a few escapades in my life connecting far away lands, taking on ridiculous journeys for work, sailing, and pleasure. A lot of people have seen me lately, but maybe only to hear where I came from and where I am going, and maybe to ask how they were.

Well this “escapade” will undoubtedly be worth it.  I’m headed to the St. Barth CataCup, an event largely credited to the French Sailing Federation, who thought it would be great for some of the world’s best cat racers to leap to the tiny island of St. Barths for an F18 race!  Considering the difficulty of shipping 30+ boats to meet on a lavish and not easily accessible island, there’s no way this event could ever have happened were it not for some creative thinking.  The organizers created a "must-do" event for the invited teams.  Free container shipping for our Wildcats, included food and hospitality, amazing housing on the beach, race entries, a car to cruise around in, and supposedly some of the most ridiculous restaurant and night clubs in the Caribbean.  For 200 Euros.

In a few hours, in the same clothes as the METS on Tuesday, I will be on the final ferry to the beach. 

Update 1: How Big Is St. Barths?

9 a.m: Meeting for around St. Barths race. 35 F-18s learned just how big – and it’s about 4 1/2 hours through small rock islands flying a hull the entire time. The course allowed for plenty of up and down, double trap reaching and navigation without a GPS. We had to use visual navigation and a photocopied map which I taped on my mainsail. Several times the leaders (including us) were confused with the course direction (which island the next mark was near)  . .  so this allowed for plenty of lead changing.

The fleet is stacked with the top Belgians, French and Dutch, with our own boats.  Our Hobie Wildcats, Nacra Infusions, and other F-18s are here along with us in this honeymoon paradise. Let me try to give you a visual…You know those beachfront night clubs in Miami or Puerto Vallarta?  It’s like that – music, dancing, food, drink – and a row of high-performance race boats with their sails still up sitting on the beach just inches from the club!   I will try to give a visual. I’m now sitting in the beach club with the boats in front, music, sails still up – all just inches from us.  The landing strip for max 16 passenger prop planes for the rich and famous ends on our beach and the passengers strip their clothes off and jump in the crystal clear water right off the plane, with white sand reflecting the green colors of the mountains and cliffs (maybe we have done the same thing as well).  After the quick dip the social atmosphere kicks in, and topless is a way of life here – as is total chaos!

I am one of 4 girls sailing and I have been out of the cat for a few months so I had some interesting moments organizing my main sheet and handling the overpowered spots when reaching. Overall, I was happy with our performance today, finishing 5th.  John Casey, is co-helming with me, and he might say today was not as good as we would have guessed. I was a piece of work today, a bit out of rhythm but there are still two more days. It didn’t help that my trapeze harness was giving me a major wedgie. I didn’t tighten enough.

But . . It was impossible not to smile today, even during the most difficult moments. The course designed made for some tough legs, double trap reaching, kite up, with a cliff to leeward – that means no safe zone at all. The Belgian team with McDonalds as a sponsor on their sail nailed the navigation so he was able to edge out Mischa in 2nd. More tomorrow, after the party tonight. Time to put on my dancing shoes.

For some great non-sailing pics of St. Barths from the awesome Pierrick Contin, click here.  For racing shots, try this gallery.