Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   May 2005
 


BEQUIA EASTER REGATTA 2005

Record Yacht Turnout,
J/24 History and Maximum Action!
 

by Ted Bull


After a long absence from the Bequia scene, Mary Ann and I decided that Easter Regatta 2005 was our chance for a break from St. Lucia. As St. Lucia's former agents for the Compass, we had also missed many opportunities to attend the Annual Writers' Brunch, and this year's gathering would be a special 10th anniversary celebration. A combination of both events had to be the way to go!

Weeks ahead, the St. Lucia Yacht Club was buzzing with plans to get its racing boats to Bequia by March 24th. Early advertising by the Bequia Sailing Club had put us on the alert in good time. Our good friends. Ginny and Frank Capers, with the J/24 Loose Cannon were firm entries, as Loose Cannon had been the 2004 Easter Regatta's Racing Class winner. A total of eleven boats were on their way from St. Lucia to do battle and party: watch out, Bequia!

The Easter break was magic! Bequia has its own special charm and from the moment we stepped off the ferry on the 23rd, the atmosphere was electric. Some old friends and our Hibiscus guesthouse transport were all on the dock to greet us - every thing went click, click!

The Bequia Regatta Committee had really done their homework and information was readily available. Pre-registration was already underway; indeed, their PR had been so good that 38 yachts signed up to race - a record in the event's 24-year history. Then of course there were 32 of those absolutely magnificent local fishing boats, plus 12 Optimists, many gumboats and 50 coconut boats - not to mention all the Crazy Craft - making dozens of classes altogether.
But it didn't stop! We went to meet our St. Lucian contingent and the balance of the J/24s - there were four from St. Lucia, and one each from Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados and Bequia - in total, eight entries. This earned them their own class, the first time that Bequia Regatta has included a one-design yacht class, and the maximum number of J/24s to race at any regatta in the southern Caribbean!

Day One - Friendship Race
What a change to be a spectator and not an anxious skipper or crewmember. Down at the Frangipani at 0900, picked up one of the numerous water taxis and out to our friends' Moody 40 to view the racing from the water. Claire and David are themselves experienced race officials from the UK and it was great to have their knowledge as we watched the racers maneuver at the start and then pile around the windward mark. Yachts from St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Martinique, Barbados, St. Vincent, Canada, England, Australia, South Africa and the USA were racing in four classes.

Our personal involvement with the newly established J/24 Class was paramount. Rounding the windward mark, Loose Cannon hoisted her new red-and-white spinnaker and sped off to the leeward mark which was only just visible in the swell on the horizon.

Hang on where is St. Lucia's own Olympic sailor Mike Green on Grayling? Only seven J/24s started? Must be a problem! No - there they are, late sure enough, but coming up on the fleet like a train, round the mark and up with their new chute. By the end of the windward/leeward leg they were hard on Loose Cannon's tail, having worked up through the fleet to challenge last year's champion! A reach away from the leeward mark took the whole fleet out of sight to Friendship Bay and Bequia's southern islets, and then back to the finish at Lower Bay. Thirty-eight boats in a 20-knot breeze and confused, choppy sea gave the crews a proper warm-up. What a gorgeous start to a perfectly controlled race meeting. Well done that, Race Committee, keep 'em moving!

A couple of hours or so later, the first of the Racing Class boats started to round the headland on their way to the finish. Ideally positioned just south of the finish line, we watched as the boats reached under spinnaker from the last mark up the harbour - what a spectacle after three-and-a-half hours of racing!
The J/24s were spaced out a bit over this long passage, as being small and very competitive, they usually race windward/leeward courses. Even so, their times were incredibly fast, coming in with some of the Racing Class. Mike Green did not lose his commanding position in Grayling; in fact, he increased his lead on the second boat by a good seven minutes. Boats from Trinidad and Carriacou fought for second and third, with only seconds separating them, while Loose Cannon tallied in fourth.

Other class winners were Rawle Barrow's Beneteau 38 Petite Careme of Trinidad in Cruising Class I; Eddie Barreto's Bermuda 40 Moonshadow from Antigua in Cruising II; and Martinique's B28 Crédit Moderne, skippered by Eric Michel, in Racing Class.
After the day's prizegiving celebration at the Trade Winds Cruise Club, the party kept going for the 50 St. Lucians as they enjoyed the hospitality of the Bequia Rotary Club at a splendid meal and drinks at Rotary headquarters in Lower Bay. The Bequia Rotary Club sponsors the Bequia Youth and the Sea (BYATS) sail-training program, whose young crew were racing the J/24 Yellowbird. The Lucian J/24 racing crews and supporters all enjoyed a typical Bequia welcome. Very, very well done and appreciated by all.
My day was done, but not the rest of the crews, who I understand kept on going, making (as they say in St. Lucia) "a daybreak"!

Day Two - Round the Island Race
The wind had picked up and the swell outside looked short and challenging, but the committee got everyone away to a good start. This time leaving the leeward mark to starboard, the fleet went clockwise around the island.
Under the watchful eye of our host and captain aboard the Moody, we also cracked some canvas and tailed the fleet out into the Bequia Channel for a couple of delightful hours. Taking up our finishing position again, we watched the return of the battered fleet as they beat up to the windward mark and reached down to the finish. This had been a hard race and took its toll on some.

Grayling sailed another superb race and again came in well in front of the other J/24s. The pattern was also repeated in the hot eight-boat, all Martiniquan Racing Class, with Luc Coquelin on the Open 50 Caraibe Greement taking line honors as he had on Day One, although he was beaten by the Surprise Silmaril on corrected time. Petite Careme scored its second bullet in Cruising Class I, as Moonshadow did in Cruising II.

Day Three - Lay Day
For some it was lay day, but the show went on with all the enthusiasm of a major fête! Lower Bay was a fiesta, with the Sandcastle Competition, Gumboat Race, Crazy Craft Race and Optimist Race all vying for attention. People packed the beach, the roads were jammed up, and beach bars and barbecue booths were going at full tilt, selling all sorts of food to the partying crowds.

The Single-Handed Around the Island is the traditional yacht race for Easter Sunday in Bequia. Having had a taste of the conditions on the previous day, I honestly thought that the entries would be very few, but ten hardy souls came out intent to pit themselves against the odds and to finish - where else - at Lower Bay. While all this was taking place, the double-enders were now all along the Lower Bay beach. What a colourful sight!
The whole atmosphere was one of a seething mass of happy people having fun! The beauty of all this was the total absence of any disorder, no noisy police sirens, no fighting (that I saw) and the ability to completely relax without having to be looking constantly over your shoulder.
Bequia, you got it right, Man! But you ain't finished yet!

Day Four - Admiralty Bay Triangle Race
The climax of the racing action was the triangle course inside Admiralty Bay. Now, the competition really started! Repairs had been made, ambitious plans and tactics evolved, and they were off again. The bay course was welcomed by the racers for the bit of shelter provided, and it gave the crowd a better chance to watch the racing. Sailing is not often a spectator sport, but in Bequia there are several hillside vantage points where you can see almost all the courses. The morning's steady 30 knots of wind, gusting higher, provided thrilling spectating. As one watcher exclaimed as a Racing Class boat left a con-trail of white water on the spinnaker run, "That's not a wake, that's the paint burning off the bottom!"
The race committee in their wisdom had introduced a sausage into the course for the Racing and J/24 Classes. This created a great chance for tactical skills to come forward, and competitors are still talking about the exciting shifting of places that occurred - and they will be talking until Bequia Regatta 2006!
The day was a gear-buster, though, with five yachts retiring due to breakage - a separated headstay, a broken spreader, a damaged rudder and two dismastings. When the spray settled, Grayling had added another bullet to end up tops in the first-ever sub-regional J/24 event. Petit Careme and Moonshadow again dominated their classes, and after having fallen to second place on Day Two, Crédit Moderne came back strong in Racing Class.

The final prizegiving was a marathon event to arrange, with seven double-ender classes and four yacht classes, all the smaller vessels, plus all the fun and good-will prizes to give out, so the whole show took at least an hour-and-a-half to complete. No one can complain about the generosity of the sponsors (Heineken, Mount Gay, Pepsi and many local businesses) and donors in Bequia. As one of the committee commented, "No one goes away empty handed from this event!"
For the majority of the competitors and their mother-ship crew from the other islands, the following day was a working day, so a night-sail exodus got underway. On Tuesday morning the departures on the ferries and flights were hectic, and Bequia slowly returned to normal. A call from Loose Cannon at 0530 confirmed their arrival off Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, in plenty of wind. Hey, this is where we came in.

Cheers, Bequia, till next time!


Bequia Easter Regatta Results
 

See the Easter Regatta 2005 Photo Gallery


Challenging Conditions
for Open Local Boats

by Elaine Ollivierre
In 2004, I took a break from regatta organization and enjoyed watching the Bequia races from the comfort of my porch. This year, I returned to the grindstone and Good Friday 2005 found me sitting in Kenneth Allick's rum shop with entry forms and pens, waiting to register the Grenadines' famous open, double-ended sailing boats for this year's Bequia Easter Regatta.
Thirty-two boats eventually registered, six from Canouan, two from Mayreau, one from Carriacou, one from Petite Martinique and the rest from Bequia. Twenty-eight set sail on Saturday morning in the Pepsi Challenge race: the four missing were because of injury or religious persuasion. An advertised 9AM start meant, in practice, "start to get ready". A couple of boats didn't even reach the beach in Friendship Bay until after 10AM but the races eventually got going at 10.30. Classes 4 and 5 (the 16- and 18-footers) made a triangle off Paget Farm while the longer boats of Classes 6 and 7 sailed to Hope Rock before making their triangular lap. The 12- and 14-footers of Classes 1 and 2 started last because of their shorter, more direct journey, and all boats ended up in Admiralty Bay.

I joined the committee boat at Hamilton Point to take results. Ten boats didn't make it to the finish in the 20-knots-and-gusting-higher winds. Braveheart had arrived at the start with a bamboo sprit which looked rather fragile and, in fact, the first gust of wind as they left Friendship Bay put paid to that. Nine other boats either swamped or got damaged and had to be towed in by the three rescue boats which worked hard all morning to make sure no one was ever in danger. First across the line was My Love, closely followed by Never D, both of Class 2. Knowledge in Class 1 beat the only other finisher in that class, Lady G, by 21 minutes! The newly renovated century-old Trouble and always popular Perseverance easily won their classes 6 and 7 while Tornado and Shanna-lou came first in Classes 5A and B. Marion was the only Class 4 boat which finished the course.

After a night of hurried repair, 31 boats were ready to sail on Sunday morning in the Heineken Challenge. Braveheart decided to call it a day and did not start. We decided to change the mode of starting for Sunday's race after Saturday's water start proved a bit tricky for some. On Sunday, the boats were held on the beach while the red flag showed, then released as the yellow flag went up just giving enough time to cross the start line with the green flag - much better! And a prettier sight for spectators, too. Sunday's race revived the old Admiralty Bay triangular race and it was a fantastic spectacle to see all the boats out in the water. Conditions weren't too tough. Only De Challenger and More Worries of the bigger classes swamped and the crew of More Worries (which has integral flotation devices) managed to right the boat and finish in third place. De Reef in Class 1 started the race but immediately thought better of it and returned to shore. A wise decision in hindsight, as two others of that class had to be towed ashore. Sailing a 12-foot Bequia dinghy in windy conditions is certainly no picnic. But everyone else made it to the end although we had to wait quite a long time for last across the line Progress!

The most exciting finish was that of Class 2 when My Love approached the finish line on port tack and Never D on starboard tack. Never D had to come about to cross the line, though, and was pipped at the post by not more than a couple of inches. Other winners were Knowledge in Class 1, Scope International in Class 4, Tornado again in class 5A, Arrow in class 5B, Limbo in Class 6 and Perseverance in Class 7.

The rescue boats had done so much work in towing and travelling up and down the course that they were low on gas. I should have realized how windy conditions were on Monday morning when, while at the gas station waiting to fill the containers for the rescue boats, I saw a sudden gust of wind throw down a motorbike parked there.

By the time I reached Lower Bay, everyone was waiting for a decision on whether the race would go ahead or not. In a steady 30 knots of wind, never mind the gusts, it was certainly not possible for these open boats to race around West Cay - the sea off Paget Farm and Bequia Airport was too rough. The owner of Passion of Carriacou had already made his decision and was taking down his rig ready for the trip home. Would it be possible to change the course for a shorter one in Admiralty Bay? Remember, the yachts were doing their triangular race, so the change would have to make sure the double-enders didn't get muddled up with them out in the bay. Not possible, really. Then when Arnold Hazell appeared in his speedboat to tow home Perseverance and when DeLacey Leslie, 80-year-old skipper of Devine and a man who loves his sailing, said there was no way he was going out, it was time to call it quits. The Mount Gay Challenge was postponed to another day when conditions would be (hopefully) more favourable. Safety first must be the motto!

The Mount Gay Challenge race is now scheduled for May Day so, by the time you read this, the double-enders will have had their full complement of Bequia Easter Regatta races. Despite the postponement, the Regatta weekend was enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to all our sponsors for their continued support.
 
 
     
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