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.