Broaches, breakdowns and a few bruises among crew were the order of the day, with winds gusting to 33 knots across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. But Jeff Gouzer, from France, mainsheet trimmer aboard the Kerr 11.3 Minnie the Moocher, put the scene into perspective; 'There's lots of times we have these kinds of winds back home, but we don't have the warm water and sun to go with it like we do here. It was really a beautiful race day.'
Sailors from Trinidad are used to sailing in light winds. That didn't stop Peter Peake, who owns Peake Marine, and his crew from trumping the other three hot boats in the Spinnaker Racing A class. Peake sailed home with a second place class win from this regatta last year and is hungry for a win.
Carlo Falcone's Vallicelli 44, Caccia Alla Volpe, is an old heavy boat. That, and a hot experienced crew, is likely why it did so well in the Spinnaker B class. 'I'm not sure the weight of the boat helped, it was pretty windy out there,' said crewmember, Karl James. James, an Olympic Laser sailor, confessed his eyes are not on Beijing but big boats instead these days, regularly sailing on the 128' Sojana.
Less than half the class completed all four races in Spinnaker Racing C. That meant it was really a race between two of the five boats, with Global Yacht Racing taking the lead.
In Spinnaker Racing D, St. Croix's Carlos Skov says his boat, the J/100 Bad Girl, did 'real bad. We changed to Dacron sails before the first race and missed that start. Then on the second race, even with the Dacron, our head foil separated, so we just bailed out and went in. You could call it a real gear busting day.'
Their class is called Spinnaker Racing E, but of the eight boats that dared put up a spinnaker today in the heavy breezes, St. Thomas' Chris Thompson on his J/27, J-Walker took the lead. St. Thomas' Paul Davis was pretty pleased with his boat's showing, finishing third. Davis, celebrating his third season skippering his J/27, Magnificent 7, a vessel fellow islander, John Foster, drove to a boatload of victories, says, 'We've come a long way as a team. Today, we accomplished our goal. That is, we finished every race. Sure, we had some breakdowns like everyone else. But, we finished ahead of most of the boats that beat us on time.'
Rick Wesslund's J/120, El Ocaso, scored four bullets to lead Spinnaker Racing F. Unfortunately, his biggest competitor barely made it out of the gate. Antigua's Jamie Dobb's, Lost Horizons II, back racing in the Caribbean after a year's hiatus, lost the a furling swivel and had to call it a day before even getting to the start line. 'Repairs are underway and we're looking forward to getting back out sailing tomorrow,' says foredeck, Nicola Pears. Dobb's has been dubbed the 'most winning Caribbean skipper' for his many years of both class and C.O.R.T. (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle Series) wins, so today's setback isn't likely to put a big dent in his 2008 season's performance.
In the Beach Cat class, only two brave soles even attempted to race. St. Croix's Chris Schreiber, on his Hobie 16, AutoWorld Express, says, 'Paul (Stoeken, Islandsol.net) and I want to be out racing this weekend. Let's just say we're being conservative and staying in today.'
Pat Nolan, owner/operator of Sistership, sailed her Beneteau 445 in the Jib and Main class. 'We had originally planned to take the J33 Boormerang but with the conditions the way they were and the wind so high, and our crew a little bit on the rusty side, we decided it would be a real gear breaker for us. So we decided to take Sea Biscuit, a Beneteau 445, which is very well suited for these conditions.'
When asked what was it like out there Pat replied, 'One thing that we all talked about today was how well Sea Biscuit did in these BVI conditions compared to when we have raced her in both Antigua and St. Maartin. We all decided together that we love these BVI conditions. We had St. Maartin/Antigua winds but we had beautiful BVI seas in our channel and it made the for the best combination of racing conditions Sea Biscuit has ever had. I had more fun on the boat today than ever because the conditions were perfect.' Leading the Jib and Main class after just one race today is Mary Jane, the Beneteau 50 sailed by David C. Heuter.
Winning today's race In Performance Cruising A was Bad Wine, a Beneteau 40.7. Also sailing in Performance Cruising is Pi Squared, a First 47.7 that is being skippered by Fin McGurren and sailed by a crew of four women, including one who has never sailed before. According to Penny Pariso, first mate, even short-handed, they plan to set a spinnaker and/or their Code 0 if the winds lighten a little.
'It was not too bad out there even though we didn't have much weight on the rail. We hadn't been down to that part of the island before (West End and Little Thatch) and the girls were like, 'I like that house and oh, I like that house.' When asked how Fin was dealing with all the women, Pariso replied, 'He's doing okay. He often refers to dealing with us like trying to herd cats. One of us wanders off to the shop and one to the loo. I think he's having fun.' When that same question was posed to Fin, jokingly he replied, 'Ask me on Sunday afternoon.'
In fourth place in Performance Cruising B is one of the most enthusiastic crews out there, the Bitter End Team on Cosmic Warlord, an Express 37. Skippered by Geoff Werner, the oldest member of the crew is 29 and the youngest 18. This crew can't wait to go back out there and do it again tomorrow. 'We're really excited to be back in the racing. The team is really pumped. We broke a couple things but it was some 'knarley' racing.' He went on to say, 'We were pretty powered up upwind but screaming downwind. Gile Starley stepped in to hold out the sail for us; he was our human pole. He was a powerhouse.' Bowman Sebastian Perry added, 'It was wicked'. (For those of us that are over 30, that means he loved it.)
Winning today's race in Performance Cruising B, Augustine is currently in first place.
Neil Harvey, sailing with Bert Keenan on Arcadia Southern Comfort is currently in second place in the Bareboat B division. In his Australian brogue, Neil told me this morning that the wind was strong enough to 'blow the dogs off the chains'. This afternoon he said, 'It was forecast to be a bit breezy and a bit breezy it was. It's what we come here for. It was nice to see such a big fleet of Bareboat A and Bareboat B. It was a perfect day for our course that took us down around Thatch. We had a very close race with Chess; we both had a great race. I didn't see a third boat in our class when we finished.' When asked if the had fun, Harvey answered, 'That we did; even though the average age on the boat is approaching 70. Four, out of the eight crew, did the 1978 Fastnet race together on Acadia.'
Pending protest against Chess, Acadia Southern Comfort is in second place in Bareboat B.
Eddie Proctor, sailing with his family of three young men as a team for the first time, has come from the UK and is enjoying their sailing BVI vacation. The family has chartered an IC24 and is racing in one of the regatta's most competitive classes. Currently eighth in class, Eddie says that 'Tomorrow we'll do better and on Sunday we'll be unstoppable. ' He went on to explain that their starts were fine but upwind, the fleet moved away from him. He continued, 'I'll get some pointers from some of the others in the class. They're a great group and we'll get the long haired general (referring to his wife) out on the race course tomorrow. She'll whip us into shape.'
Complete results are on line at http://www.bvispringregatta.org/race_res.html