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smiling

clean report

smiling

My head is spinning a little right now, and it has almost nothing to do with the DonQ rum drinks chef/boat captain Carlo Hernandez has been pouring all night. Effective as that may have been, the spinning is coming from something more powerful still, an emotional state I haven’t been in for far too long. It’s pre-race jitters.

I know I’m pretty lucky when it comes to sailing opportunities, and I’m pretty sure I have one of the world’s best jobs. Just yesterday I was in Miami with one of sailing’s legends, flying a hull at the helm of the newest super-beach cat on the market, and tonight I’m overlooking the Caribbean in an Antiguan villa on the eve of an ocean race. It doesn’t suck.

Except for the part where I hardly ever race anymore. It’s so easy to be seduced by monster boats and exotic teams, and over the past couple of years, I failed to make just racing boats – whatever boats were around – a priority. Even as a lowly media person, sailing Open 60s and MOD 70s and Volvo 70s is a rush – but if you’re not part of the crew, it just doesn’t work the same magic on your spirit that racing as part of a team does. And once bitten by the racing bug, I think we need that magic to feel sane. I certainly do.

So I made a decision this year to start racing again, enjoying sailing the way I did when I wrote my first story for Sailing Anarchy more than 7 years ago. And the first step on my road to recovery is here in Antigua, where I’ll be racing with the Puerto Rico’s National Offshore Team aboard Jaime Torres’ Beneteau First 40, Smile And Wave. “Just a little cruise around the islands,” Jaime joked about the 600 NM loop of the Eastern Caribbean ahead. It’s a race that, in just four short years, has gone from an unlikely gamble to an instant classic. It’s the Caribbean 600, run by England’s RORC and the Antigua Yacht Club, and the challenging and picturesque course, brisk winds, and utterly perfect weather have rocketed this race to the top of many sailors’ bucket lists during its short life. About the length of the Fastnet or Sydney Hobart, the entry list for this year’s C600 includes full raceboats like Ran and Rambler and the Class 40s, superyachts like the 200+ foot Hetairos and Sojana, classics Adela and Windrose , and cruiser/racers like our humble little Bendyslow, the second-smallest in the fleet.

Torres is an interesting character – the San Juan native and watersports shopowner is fiercely proud of the program he’s put together in just a year and change, with podium finishes at nearly every regatta they’ve entered and a great vibe that they’ve spread across the Caribbean. Jaime brought me in to share that vibe – he wants everyone to see just what their brand of ‘real Caribbean racing’ means.

It’s a panic of a crew, one that I’ll get to know along with you as the race goes on. Five non-stop comedians from Puerto Rico are already meshing well with the five gringos aboard (including North Sails Lauderdale’s Anson Mulder and Line Honors’ Bob Hillier), and there’s no shortage of experience, athleticism, or latin fire aboard this boat. They want the win, and they want it bad.

Media Crew Monster

I can’t do it like the Volvo guys – I am here first and foremost to race, and hopefully, to win. That being said, I can’t let the magic box supplied to me by Andy Cool from Explorer Satellite go to waste, so I’m going to do my best Rick Deppe impression for the next three and a half days as bowman/media bitch. We’ll be sending in daily edited videos along with photos and written reports from aboard Smile And Wave, and they’ll be right here on Sailing Anarchy every morning, as well as in the Ocean Racing Anarchy thread. Those reports and others will also be available at the C600 website, where organizers have put together a slick reporting system for the fleet. It’s worth checking out, and we hope you enjoy. Personally, I’m hoping to bring onboard, ocean racing coverage from a little boat to the next level. Or at least to make some of you laugh as hard as we’ll be laughing in the cockpit.

We look forward to having you all aboard for the ride.

You can follow the team on Facebook here, and a special shout out to Smile And Wave’s sponsors: Banco Popular, the Caribbean’s largest banking institution, Discovery Bay Resort & Marina , Sebago, and Line Honors.