by Sue Pelling
The 2014 Mount Gay Round Barbados Race Series, incorporating a series of coastal races as well as the iconic Mount Gay Round Barbados Race, and a final 300-mile sprint to Antigua to tie up with the Superyacht Cup, was deemed a huge success.
Team Mount Gay Monster Project win the skipper’s weight in rum for setting a new outright round Barbados record
Organised by the Barbados Cruising Club in association with the Barbados Tourism Authority and Mount Gay, this annual event (15-24 January 2014), played its part in kick-starting the Caribbean racing season, and looks set to become an annual favourite.
With just under 50 boats from all around the world including the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand plus a strong Caribbean contingent from BVI, St Lucia, Antigua and local clubs, close competition prevailed throughout the week.
One of the strongest classes was the J/24 with 10 boats racing neck and neck throughout the series. Big winds and big seas really put crews through their paces but the impressive standard of sailing, made it extremely spectator-friendly. One of the most memorable days, was day two of the coastal series when a 30kt gust hit the fleet on a spinnaker run. Boats fell like dominos all over the course, with one boat – Die Hard Island Water World – suffering the biggest knockdown and remained on her side for five minutes. Thankfully no one suffered any ill effects, and Robbie Yearwood and team were out racing again the next day.
The overall winner of the series was the well-sailed local boat Banks Esperanza with Ian Mayers on the helm. Although they only clocked up one win, it was consistency that paid off. Their overall win was even more impressive because they finished the last race of the series in second place on the water, with a broken boom. Fellow Barbadian Neil Burke and his team on Impulse took second place, Hawkeye finished the series in third place overall, with the most number of wins. The Mount Gay-sponsored boat – Bunga Bunga – with Cyril Lecrenay at the helm started to improve their results as the series progressed and concluded with a final race win, which placed them in fourth overall.
Ian Mayers commenting on his overall: 'We had a worrying long last run in the final race because of our broken boom. It failed just before the windward mark and it was a marathon of a run. However, we did it and held our position to the finish. The racing throughout the series was great and extremely competitive so we hope to encourage more J/24s from other islands next year. If we could have a charter fleet for the best sailors from Europe to use in the future too, that would be amazing.'
Local team on Rapajam, Ralph Johnson’s Beneteau First 53, enjoyed some exceptionally close racing in Racing class against Peter Lewis’s J/105 Whistler from the UK, and another British boat – Idea – Reichel Pugh 78 – owned by John Wilson and skippered by local Clint Brooks. With two firsts and a second, Johnson (74) and his family and friends team on Rapajam were deemed overall class winners.
The Cruising class, although lacking in numbers with just three boats, enjoyed equally close racing. Tom Slade’s Santa Cruz 52 from the USA – Renegade – took the overall class win, but she didn’t have it all her own way. One of her closest rivals was Happy Morning – David Onyons’ Sigma 36 from Maldon, UK – who won the first race of the series.
Bryn Palmer, from Barbados, was out and about zipping around the course in the Supercat 30 – Silver Bullet and, although he did have competition from Ben Armstrong in a Hobie 21, he finished the series with three wins. Unfortunately for Amstrong, he had to retire in the final race of the series when his boat suffered damage after being in a collision with Spirit of Venus – Beneteau 40 – soon after the start.
Another popular class with 10 boats racing was the Non Rated class. This fleet produced some interesting racing particularly at the top end of the fleet between David Spieler’s Beneteau 47 Leonora from BVI, and Bill Tempro’s Bavaria 46, My Mistress. With three wins in the bag, however, Leonora was the overall winner while My Mistress had to settle for second. In third place was the well-sailed local Catalina 40, Ten Seven, sailed by Ian Hickling whose best result was a second on the final day of the Coastal Series.
Spieler commenting on his win said: 'We are thrilled to have retained the trophy we first captured last year, and even more satisfied to have won it with three clear wins. It has been a first class regatta in all respect with great competition, great winds and great parties.'
The Mount Gay Round Barbados Race held on Tuesday 21 January, was spectacular with 36 boats heading off on the 60-mile course clockwise around the island. First across the finish line was solo sailor Peter Allen aboard his catamaran, Stiletto, who completed the course in 7 hour 53 minutes 55 seconds. However, the biggest prize of the day – for an outright win based on elapsed time – was taken by Raphaël Grisoni and his Mount Gay team aboard the British VO70, Monster Project.
With Loic Blanken on the helm, and Fabrice Cornic on tactics, Team Monster Project completed the course in 4 hours 42 minutes 28 seconds, knocking 21 minutes off the previous record established in 2012 by Idea – Reichel Pugh 78 (John Wilson, UK). Idea, however, broke the CSA record for corrected time.
Andy Budgen, owner and crew boss of Monster Project said he was absolutely delighted with the team’s performance. 'To be honest it was a bit of a shock to have broken the record. The team sailed exceptionally well, which, of course, was the key to our amazing achievement. Hopefully we’ll be able to return next year and defend our title, that is assuming we are still around after drinking our skipper’s weight in rum which was our prize for winning.'
All in all the 2014 Mount Gay Round Barbados Series was deemed a huge success and Peter Gilkes – Consultant to the Barbados Tourism Authority for Yachting Development – said he couldn’t have wished for a better regatta. 'The feedback from many of those who visited Barbados for their very first time to take part in this regatta is glowing.
'The Minister of Tourism our Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority and with the full support of the Government of Barbados have been wonderful in their support of this regatta and it is with this support that the organising committee could plan and execute an event to world class standards.
'It is a youthful event but with tremendous possibilities for growth and development. I don’t see a Barbados Round The Island Race Series ever being a massive regatta with 500 or 600 yachts but what I do forecast is this event in the next few years attracting some of the elite of world sailing to our shores and, as we saw from this year's event, some of the owners of some very smart yachts made a special effort to visit Barbados to do this event.
'Following on from the success of this event the Government has already pledged its support and it is our intention to be the driving force to move this regatta to the next level, one that is good for our sailing visitors and for Barbados Tourism. I look forward to welcoming visitors to the 2014 event.'