A breath of fresh air in the Grenadines (Bequia Easter Regatta) Click for the chartlet
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The leap season doesn't only bring wind, but rain as well. However that is not the reason that business in the Caribbean is extremely slow at the moment. In the bays, pubs, restaurants... taxidrivers complain bitterly... and all this during high season. The “bad weather” (more rain and wind than average) can't be the reason because charters are booked at least six months in advance, when no one knows how the weather will develop. But the economy of the US seems to be this low that charter yachts are mainly occupied by Europeans and - just like us - they don't feel like visiting those especially for day-charters erected huge establishments. And while those poor islanders sit and wait for loads of tourists who will never arrive, the boatboys also keep waiting for clients as they are too lazy to go fishing or to drop by with merchandise against ridiculous prices. A bunch of bananas had to cost 6x the price. By acting like this, they price themselves out of the market, end up with empty hands and in doing so Union Island will remain the same poor place as we found it last year, and with bad outlooks.

Although winds of 10 to 15 knots were forecasted, we sailed all the time with our #4 and reefed mainsail, so the weatherguys were slightly mistaken. Pity that they say little about the direction of the swell, as it was quite bothersome. In Salt Whistle Bay (Mayreau) the boats were rolling so badly that we didn't even try to anchor and fled to the westcoast. The diving postponed to beautiful Bequia where we could dream away sooner than expected on our little bench at the Frangipani. A wonderful spot.
In March the wind starts to shift eastward. We now made good profit out of this, but we hope the trend won't go through too quickly because we don't want problems again on our way home to Surinam. But now we could sail the 26 miles to Bequia without tacking. Even more pleasant was our meeting with a Twister, on her way to Antigua to join the Classic Yacht Races. Amidst all those puffy charter yachts a striking appearance, this classic 27-footer, and even more with her crew: two very funny ladies. We made photo's of each other and upon arrival on Bequia even Mark (who had arrived the same night from Halifax where he was shuffling snow only the day before) knew about their existence.
Mark was for a couple of months our neighbour in Las Palmas, and who could have thought that we would meet again three years later on the other side of the ocean?!

He now sails with his daughter Anna on “Kula”, a Tartan (S&S) 41 and he invited us to crew in the Bequia Easter Regatta.
The Bequia Easter Regatta is one of the biggest yacht racing events in the Eastern Caribbean. The most spectacular part are the traditional boat races. Bequia has a history of whaling and fishing and the traditional boats are cherished by mainly the elder generations as if they were their own daughters. Neatly painted and polished daily, the race is on. The other classes are: racers with spinnaker (a French party), measured cruisers without spinnaker and unmeasured yachts. Plus a lot of J-24’s including Olympic champion Mike Green. The boats in our class varied from 26 to 80 foot and ratings (a multiplying factor similar to what we were used to in Holland) from 0.64 to 1.20, and we were rather average with Kula's 0.81 .
The organisation was perfect and the generous sponsoring impressive. Free drinks and snacks, there were T-shirts, bags etc. and every participating boat received a goodies-bag filled with Mountain Top water, a tray of Heineken cans, Mount Gay Barbados rum and caps from the same sponsor. Very classy caps, by the way.

We were very well prepared. Kula's hull was rather dirty so we were happy to have our diving gear. Armed with scrapers it took the three of us about two hours to remove the slimy bulbs, mountains of calcium, waterplants and various crawling and itching species. In all a satisfactory job.
Studying the courses we saw that there were some crucial parts where local knowledge would distinguish winners from losers. Anna’s big friend boatboy African told us all we needed to know about where to tack at which moment and of which parts of the island we should stay clear. Sometimes he even called us during the race to advise certain tactics when conditions had changed.

The regatta started on Good Friday with a complex course and the J-24’s caused quite a stirr when rounding a downwind landmark. We also wondered if we had on starboard tack right of way over modelboats? In our cruising class sailed the most beautiful yachts, especially the various Hinckleys`of which 57-footer Bandera was stealing the show.
But to windward we lost more than we could compensate for on the broad reaches. A couple of mistakes, old-fashioned deckgear (for instance no selftailing winches) but mainly an old and too large furling

genoa. We ended in fourth place (of 13), in our opinion absolutely not deserved but nice to celebrate during the get-together.

On Saturday we sailed around the island. Partly due to African's advise we had a dream start! A different foresail (secondhand and perhaps even older than the one we used the previous day, but less big and that was most important) and we were passed after not less than half an hour (by the 80-footer). We made only a few small mistakes so a third prize was well-deserved this time. The photoboat had positioned itself strategically in the area where we had the heaviest seas. The photographer was too late for the first big wave into which we vanished completely, according to spokesmen on Bandera (behind us), but in time for the second wave over which we jumped with such force that you could see the keel of the boat. Later when broad reaching we found time to make photo's of the traditional classes; spectacular., and

On Sunday 23rd of March, JW's and Mark's birthdays were celebrated with a big chocolate birthdaycake with the text “Happy birthday 109 years” (Mark 54 and JW 55). It was also the day of the single-handed race for the die-hards. For Mark it was a great opportunity to prove how fit he still is and he was the first to sign up (and he won the third prize). For the rest of the crowd it was “lay day” on Lower Beach with many layday-activities such as a sandcastle competition, crazy craft race, BBQ’s, music... In short: a great day for a birthday with a marvellous birthday lunch (a present from Mark) together with Anna, African and his friend Vincent, who we coincidentally already met last year in St. Lucia!

The regatta was concluded on Monday with two triangle courses and of course the overall prize-giving. As the numbers 1 and 2 in our class: Hot Chocolate and Appleseeds where regarded as “untouchable”, we were ready to give them a scare. So we only saw Hot Chocolate (too far) behind us and of Appleseeds we made applesauce. Thus we won the first prize and became third overall. The overall prizes were quite something: 1st prize full model traditional boats, 2nd prize halfmodels and 3rd prize a framed photo of your yacht. In our case one of the spectacular photo's on which you see the keel coming out of the water.
More photo's and info: www.begos.com/easterregatta

       

Mayreau and Bequia/travel stories 2007       Previous    Next