October 18, 2009

The Race

After motoring clear of Horseshoe Reef, The Race, was on. We had given 2 miles to the boat in front of us, having raised anchor later and following it our through the reef. Winds were 15-19 knots out of the ENE, finish line was 18 miles away bearing 27 degrees, seas were running 4-5 feet in a NE swell. The competing boat, and the one in the lead at the start due to their earlier anchor ups, was 40 feet in length and carried a cutter rig.

Given we are still a cruising boat and the kids were below watching movies, we had to be careful about the angle of heel as we made this beat to windward. Thus we began flying a single reef in the main and a triple reef in the genoa, effectively cutting the sail to a 95% jib. Our competitor was flying full canvas, main, jib and cutter. We were easily making 5 knots with the gusts pushing us to 6 knots. For the fun of it we were also fishing as well as for the electric energy towing our water generator. The first hour yielded very little change in the relative position of the two boats.

As we came out of the lee of Canoan, the wind dipped ever so slightly, and we shook out a reef in the geona. Suddenly we were closing the gap. We gave them a faint, showing a pass on their lee side, then hardened up, took yet another reef out of the genoa and ran up onto their stern, barely a half a boat length away. After a momentary stare down, we effortlessly moved up their windward side. We put them in our wind shadow and our lead quickly grew.

The the squall came. 35 knots of wind, lashing rain. We reefed ourselves back down, slowing to 4.5 knots. The competitor still slogging after losing their wind to us, took in their jib.... and turned on their engine! Powering forward dead into the squall. Needless to say our lead vanished and we were again behind by 1 mile, with only 11 to go. We knew though from watching the squalls pass while we were anchored in the Tobago Cays that the strong one brought a temporary but nice SE wind shift. We prepared and when the shift hit, we let out our reefs and pointed up to 50 degrees, picking up speed to 7 knots.

The wind slowly shifted to the ENE again, settling just below 15 knots. We shook out the remaining reefs, working now under full main and genoa. We rounded Admiralty Point 1 mile in the lead.

We are now anchored in Bequia, enjoying this beautiful island and its favorable orientation towards boats of all kinds, having formally a successful whaling station, a strong fishing tradition and a good boat building tradition.

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