Smile And Wave snapped this morning with the Zero pulling hard in 16 knots and a 85 degree AWA, and other than one of my cameras getting doused by a wave with my name on it, it’s the first breakage we’ve suffered in the first 500 NM of the 2012 Caribbean 600. Part of the credit certainly goes to good crew, solid prep, and a committed owner, but it also highlights why this race is so different than the other ‘great’ 600-mile races: Because it’s pretty darned easy! Easy on crew, easy on gear, and easy on boats. My crew might not agree, especially after last night’s atrocious 50 NM beat in 25 knots and open-ocean swell and waves. Steaming hot and putrid down below and soaking wet on the rail above is not a recipe for happiness, but it was really the only physically tough part of a race that is essentially a very long version of a round-gov’t-marks race on your local bay, in summer, with no threat of bad weather. That’s definitely the key to the C-600’s success.
Of course it is a challenge pushing a boat for 70 or 80 hours through big seas and moderate to strong breeze will never be easy – a highly attainable one, with relatively few risks. There are no Southerly bombs in the Caribbean, or intense cold front/troughs to worry about. You could sail the Caribbean for a decade during February without ever seeing 40 knots, and this race served up typical fare: 14-20 knots for 75% of the race, a few squally bits in the mid 20s, and a few portions of 3-6 knots to keep us on our toes. Every island you round is different, each prettier than the next. Mountains, caves, beaches, marinas, ports – they’re all just part of the grand, blue landscape painting that is the Eastern Caribbean. As if that weren’t enough, the race starts and finishes in Antigua. Unfortunately for us here on the Smile And Wave, we are out of runway to get the lead our forty footer just couldn’t keep up with the longer boats on the 50 NM beat to and the 80 NM reach to Barbuda, and we’re guessing we’ll be lucky to get on the podium now, despite having been in the fight for the lead for the first 50 hours of the race.
But in this race, like perhaps no other, the journey’s reward will have more than made up for any disappointment at the finish. There will be no frowns on Smile and Wave tonight. A few big rum drinks won’t hurt, either.
Check out the Puerto Rican Offshore Team at the website, and go to Caribbean 600 site for results, tracking, and blogs from the course. Also a huge thank you to Explorer Satellite for the gear we used to send in two fun “MCM” video reports from the course and to check the tracker. Hit Explorer Satellite if you’re in the market for permanent Inmarsat equipment, or a more versatile portable Hughes unit like the one we used onboard. You can also 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, where you can find reports and videos from the race, and check back on the front page on Saturday for our final, much higher quality final highlight reel from the race. Guaranteed to make you laugh. Photos thanks to Bobby “Napster” Hillier from Line Honors.