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Westerhall White Jack Grenada Sailing Festival - Day 1

by Louay Habib 2 Feb 2020 05:59 PST 1-2 February 2020

The first day of the Westerhall Rums White Jack Sailing Festival was held in beautiful conditions on Grand Anse Beach. The trade winds were pumping over the mountainous north of the island delivering 12 knots and flat water pumping up to 20 knots in the gusts.

There were some thrills and spills during five separate races which were held for all classes. The BBQ grills fired up at 1100 serving delicious Grenadian food including local lobster, turkey and bakes, and the Grenadian national dish oil down; a casserole of vegetables and meat cooked in a traditional coal pot. The bars were serving ice cold drinks to cool down the race fans, but the racing was red hot and highly competitive.

The opening day of the regatta featured community rounds were teams from the respective regions race against each other in similar boats. The class of boats ranged from classic designs with double-ended hulls with short gaff rigs, to sportboat designs with powerful wide hull shapes and enormous sail area requiring full shrouds.

The reaching start was just a few feet off Grand Anse Beach with all bar one of the crew in the water before the gun goes off. After the reach off the beach, the workboats haul in for a windward leg, followed by a leeward leg then back for a reach to finish. Races take roughly 45 minutes.

One of the stars of the first day was in the Gouyave Sloop Class, aptly named 'Classic' the workboat scored four race wins out of five. Gouyave is the capital of the Parish of St John on the North West Coast of Grenada. The population of Gouyave is less than 4000 and it is a traditional fishing town. Gouyave have been the team to beat in recent years, having won the Westerhall Rums White Jack Sailing Festival for the past two regattas.

A close look at 'Classic' reveals some of the devil in the detail. Built in Gouyave over 20 years ago, Classic's hull is made from White Cedar which grows on the highest mountain peaks, of Grenada's interior. Cedar has been used for centuries as boat building wood, probably the most famous of which was the schooner 'America', which was built from Bermudan Cedar over a balsa core. Cedar is light but also strong, however it does expand in water so 'Classic' has an epoxy resin coating over her cedar planks which are screwed into place.

With a beach start all of the workboats have detachable transom hung rudder. The pivot for 'Classic' is a purpose built in a metalwork shop and the spade rudder, crafted of hardwood, is designed to generate faster turning and greater moment.

Whilst the boats have no keel, bags of sand are used on board as well as the righting moment of the crew. These bags can be moved fore and aft to aid upwind and downwind performance.

Classic's sail plan is gaff rigged with an aluminium mast and a deck to full height bamboo gaff. The rig has one detachable shroud for support on the windward side of the boat. Removal of the leeward shroud allows closer hauling of the sails to improve upwind performance, the shroud is attached to the hull by a bottle-screw connected to internal chain plates.

Today, Sunday 02 February, the teams will have two more races to complete the seven round community qualifiers. The community champions will then race each other in one design GSF16s, ratified by World Sailing. The standard of sailing is phenomenally good with races decided by boat lengths. Some of the skippers have been racing for decades and there are young guns strutting their stuff, taking on the old-timers.

The winner gets a cash prize of US$1000 and other prizes include outboard engines and plenty of White Jack Rum from sponsors Westerhall Rums. Well over a thousand Grenadians and visitors are expected to watch the finals, it is going to be some party!

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