by Sue Pelling
Sailors taking part in the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race Series (15-23 January) couldn’t have hoped for better conditions for the opening day of the regatta. A warm east-north-east breeze reaching 28kts at times made for an exciting day for all with the potential of plenty of thrills and spills to keep crews on their toes right from the start.
Renengade, winner of Cruising class, to windward of Happy Morning, Sigma 36
First off at 1000 was the 10-strong, and highly competitive J/24 fleet. Both races were close with the fleet enjoying some thrilling downwind racing along the west coast. Although the racing was neck and neck particularly at the front of the fleet, it was consistency that really paid off today with two local Barbadian teams – Impulse (Neil Burke) and Banks Esperanza (Ian Mayer) – who had the slight edge with two firsts and two seconds respectively, leaving them in equal first place.
Practice race - 2015 J22 North American Championship
Mayer and team, all in their 30s, who have been racing Banks Esperanza successfully over the last five years including finishing second at the 2013 J/24 national championship, said today’s racing couldn’t have been better: 'We led both races but Impulse sailed well too. It seems that consistency is going to be important so that is what we as a team are going to work on this week. It was very exciting in the breeze on the plane, under spinnaker. The courses were great too with the race committee setting a 50-minute opening race, then a two-hour race which worked well.'
Although some of the bigger boats signed up for the event have yet to arrive at the event, including the VO70 Mount Gay Monster Project, there is an interesting mix of boats taking part in opening coastal races leading up to the 70-mile Mount Gay Round Barbados Race next Tuesday. From beach catamarans including the current round Barbados record holder – Silver Bullet – Supercat 30, to a cruising fleet, and bigger out and out racing machines such as the British Reichel Pugh 78, Idea, there is plenty to keep spectators entertained.
Winner of today’s Cruising class was the British Sigma 36 Happy Morning sailed by David Onyons and team from the River Blackwater at Maldon, Essex. Although they had a tough day on the water holding off Tom Slade’s Santa Cruz 52 – Renengade – and Mike and Alene Krimholtz’s well-sailed British registered Dufour 38 – Dragon Magic – they are clearly enjoying the challenges of Caribbean sailing. Onyons said: 'We love it here, we’ve done this regatta three times and we always have fun. The fact the organisers have opened it up to include more racing makes it even more attractive for us.
Although we are members of the Maldon Little Ship Club and Marconi Sailing Club in Essex, we did the ARC a few years ago and decided to keep our boat in St Lucia for a while, which gives us the opportunity to race in Barbados. Some of the crew have not sailed before so it is a bit of a baptism of fire for them, and the sails have done over 6,000 miles so we thought we would be hard pushed to do well today but the team worked hard. The trick out here is to flatten it all off and go for speed.'
In the non CSA rated class local sailor David Spieler and team on a Beneteau 47 – Leonora – had a great regatta opener with a first in class beating Beneteau 51 – Other Business – skippered by Richard Inniss also from Barbados. Inniss chatting after the racing commented: 'This is the first time we have really raced the boat since we bought her four months ago. We enjoyed a blustery race today, which is fairly typical and we had a good race with Leonora and My Mistress, a Bavaria and we’re looking forward to racing tomorrow.'
Competitors, with many recovering from tonight’s highly popular Mount Gay Red Cap party at Barbados Yacht Club, will be on the start line bright and early tomorrow for the Two Restaurants Race. The J/24s will sail two races while the remaining fleets sail one, all starting from a committee boat stationed in Carlisle Bay. Back on shore after racing party time begins once again with a reception and Mount Gay Rum in full flow.