Presentation on theme: "60 th Anniversary Family Islands Regatta, Georgetown, Bahamas, 2013 Brenda Carter and John Spencer We had a good cruising season this year, reaching Georgetown."— Presentation transcript:
60 th Anniversary Family Islands Regatta, Georgetown, Bahamas, 2013 Brenda Carter and John Spencer We had a good cruising season this year, reaching Georgetown at the Southern end of the Exumas Island chain in the Bahamas. Just 3 nautical miles north of the Tropic of Cancer, the weather was marvelous. Captain Kidd, the pirate, was an early Harbormaster here and to our delight our anchorage was adjacent to the ‘Chat ‘n Chill’ beach bar, a cruisers dream!
The highlight of our season was to be in Georgetown for the 60 th Anniversary Family Island Regatta which took place from Wednesday April 24 th to Saturday April 27 th. The Regatta features races in 4 classes of Bahamian Sloops, A,B,C and D Classes, all of which are hand made of wood and based on the sailing workboats that were used locally for Sponging and Lobster fishing in the first half of the 20 th century. From all over the Bahamas, they are built, owned and captained by Bahamian Citizens. The biggest cohort is A Class. These boats are 28ft long, have full length keels, 60ft masts, 32ft booms, huge mainsails, small jibs, large crews and ‘Prys’, two long planks which are slid out to windward for the crew to occupy to keep the boat upright when sailing upwind and on other points of sail. Classes B and C are similar but successively smaller with less crew and less ‘Prys’. Class D is a small two person boat for training new crews and for children to race We were very impressed by the Pry’s, they would probably work very well in Y Flyers, but class rules would fortunately prevent their use, we wouldn’t want them to be as fast as our Cats!
The fun started the week before the regatta with the construction of many temporary bars and food stands on the town dock. Freshly and brightly painted and built out of half inch plywood on a foundation of 4 or more wood pallets these served such delights as Conch Salad, Grilled Snapper, Grill Sheep’s Tongue, Grill Wild Hog, Crab Soup etc. Sampling these delicacies over Race Week we discovered that the main ingredient in all of them appeared to be vast quantities of hot chili peppers, most probably Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, as the first taste gave a slight indication of the name on the dish rapidly followed by a red hot mouth, profuse sweating and an unquenchable thirst for beer. Luckily every second booth sold beer; those on tap were Sands, Kalik and Strongback Stout, Strongback being popular at the same price as the others but 7.5% alcohol. All on the dock seemed to be very happy and satisfied with life in general.
Most of the competing crews and their boats, masts up,came in on the big mail-boats at the beginning of race week. One of the mail boats boat came off the main channel and though the outer rows of our unorganized anchorage off Stocking Island, narrowly missing cruising boats while the incoming race crews danced and cheered at the cruisers, with the cruisers responding in kind. Also appearing at this time, in the hands of inexperienced locals, were 30ft go-fast boats with a few hundred outboard horsepower, which would continue through the week to race around at high speed and maximum wake close to beaches, through the anchored cruising boats and the racing fleets. This to the hazard and dismay race of regatta spectators in all boats, especially dinghies. It also caused a noticeable drop in the number of those out for a languid swim in the pleasantly warm tropical waters.
Winds at race times through the week were 10 to 20 knots, making for some fast and exciting races. The courses are two laps of a triangle with legs of a mile or so, the first leg upwind. The start line /finish line is close to the town dock and spectators on shore. A Bahamian start is used, each boat having a ‘gate’ along the starting line at which it is anchored in perhaps 15ft of water with about 100ft of rode out and it’s sails down. Each crew divides into two, some to pull in the anchor and some to get the sails up. There are two starting gun signals, the first to warn the boats to get ready and the second, a minute later, is the start signal. At the start signal the anchor rode is pulled in fast, some say it almost brings the boat onto a plane! In the meantime the big mainsail and the jib are hoisted, preferably before the anchor is fully up, the sails will be dead into the wind and the boats momentum has to turn it to fill the sails, a must to have any chance in the race. Because of the upwind leg the pry’s come into use immediately with almost all the crew sliding out on them as the sails fill, and off they go in the most spectacular way. (A few of them don’t, in the most spectacular way)
Regatta rules say a boat must immediately pick up anyone who falls overboard. No life jackets are worn, many Bahamians don’t swim and they don’t want the many sharks getting a taste that becomes a habit. However, in the case of a tight race, as boat closes on the finishing line as many as may wish to volunteer can jump overboard to lighten the boat and speed it to the line. Bahamians are laid back, relaxed and jovial, right up to the beginning of the race, then they get downright competitive, taking risks they (and we) would not normally dream of. There are two locally famous ‘A’ Class boats from Staniel Cay, ‘Tida Wave’ and ‘Lady Muriel’ who between them win many of the regattas they enter. To the degree, some say, that by tacit agreement one will win the first race, the other the second, then serious competition will take place in the third, the winner taking the Governor’s Cup. True to rumour ‘Tida Wave’ won the first Race on the Thursday, Lady Muriel the Second Race on the Friday, with other boats not far behind. The script was set for the third and final Race on Saturday.
B oth boats made immaculate starts in Race 3, staying close on the first upwind, with both well ahead of the fleet as they reached the first mark neck and neck, with Tida Wave just ahead to round the mark to port. The boats, with their long full keel and small jib, take a while to turn. Lady Muriel upped and upped ‘Tida Wave’, calling for room as they reached the mark, causing both to go into irons and drift off to starboard away from the mark, a real disaster in big winds with mainsails so large. A great deal of shouting and screaming was heard from them by spectators at the Mark (rather like the big Fleets of Y’s and Enterprises at SYC years ago) as the rest of the fleet passed inside them making the rounding successfully. Further insults were traded when they both finally got headed in the right direction and the Race Marshalls told them they had to round the mark again as they hadn’t done it correctly the first time. They both managed to pass a few boats as they made their way back to the start line ready for the last lap, but neither could now win or place in the regatta, so they dowsed their sails in disgust and headed for shore. With a total local population of less than 80 back home on Staniel Cay it’s probably still a little tense there! But it all made room for ‘Red Stripe’ from Black Point to win First Place in the ‘A’ Class Regatta and take home the Governor’s Cup
A night of great festivity followed the last race with parades of the High School Band & Cheerleaders and the Police Band. As there is not really anywhere to parade to in Georgetown the participants take up about a hundred feet of the road and march in around, past and through each other whilst gyrating and making excellent music. Great Fun.
This was followed by formal presentations of the trophies in the front of the tropical Government building followed by a rush back to the town dock to consume the last of the chili peppers and all of the beer before the temporary food stands and bars were removed the following day. Great weather, great people, great competition, great sailing, great spectating and a great party. Hope to be back there next year! - Brenda and John – See http://www.nationalfamilyislandregatta.com for more information and photo’shttp://www.nationalfamilyislandregatta.com