One Fleet, Two Very Different Stories

12 November 2014

Falcon, the 80’ Cookson, did the expected and beat the rest of the fleet to the BVI. The ex-America’s Cup training vessel, now a tricked out cruising yacht, sailed the course in just over seven days, arriving Monday night around 9pm.

“We had the perfect passage,” said the yacht’s owner Cary St. Onge. Never more than 10-15 knots of wind, close reaching or close-hauled. Falcon does great in those conditions.”

“Any hobby horsing?” asked Ron Horton of Lone Star, the third boat to arrive almost 24 hours after Falcon, on Tuesday afternoon.

“None at all!” answered skipper Ryan St. Onge, Cary’s son. “No, we’re long enough and narrow enough that we just slice through the waves,” he added.

Crazy Horse, who recently circumnavigated with World ARC, was the second boat to arrive. Rosemary Thomas was quick to remind Lone Star who won.

“Crazy Horse defeats Lone Star - the Indians finally beat the Cowboys!” she exclaimed, as she helped Lone Star tie up to the dock.

As I write this, this eighth boat is making her way into Nanny Cay Marina. Winedown called us a short while ago as the yellowshirts were having lunch, very excited to have completed the passage south.

“Winedown, this is Rally Control. You’re loud and clear on channel 72. Proceed into the marina and towards slip B One Six. We’ll see you on the docks shortly with your cold rum punch!”

“Make that a double!” exclaimed skipper Dale over the VHF.

Besides the three early arrivals, until early this morning it’s been awful quiet in the marina. The yellowshirt team has been on island since Friday. However, due to the one-day delayed start (which, in fact, was two days later than in 2012 and 2013), the fleet started arriving later than usual, and we had several days to get caught up and actually enjoy some of the amenities of Nanny Cay Marina. Yesterday was spent playing volleyball on the beach and swimming in the ocean.

But it’s not all fun and games. In fact, the quietness inside the marina is not a good sign for us rally staff. While on the surface it’s provided us with some rare free time, we know it’s only really delaying the inevitable rush of arrivals later this week, which will also force a re-arranging of the arrivals program. But no worries – we’re on island time!

The other reason for the later arrivals is of course the weather. If you’ve followed the blogs that the boats are sending in from at sea, as well as our frequent Facebook posts from here in Nanny Cay, you’d have seen that the weather is not exactly favorable, especially for the smaller, slower boats towards the back of the fleet. A contrary wind has been blowing from the southeast for days now, severely slowing the progress of the fleet and reminding anyone watching from home why the traditional sailing directions say GO EAST! while you have the chance. Certainly some of the fleet would wish for a mulligan on the first half of their trip south to do just that.

As it is, they’ll just have to do their best to find the favorable tack and make their way south. Some of the smaller boats, like the sister ship Vancouver 42’s Moonshadow and Mystic Shadow, still have over 400 miles of ocean between them and Tortola. And with a VMG of only around 3 knots, that’s a lot of hours remaining on the water.

“After 8 days of sailing only 350 miles left to go!” wrote Opportunity, one of the smaller boats, a Corbin 39, bringing up the rear of the fleet. “But only if we sail in a straight line, and not the zigzag upwind path of the last couple of days. The winds have been light to moderate and just lately we have been enjoying a stiff 20 knot breeze, all from the southeast, with lumpy seas, so not the best conditions for getting anywhere fast.”

Regardless of the time they’ve got left, they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.

“Every day has been sunny and warm and every night softly moonlit, we have fresh mahi-mahi on the menu thanks to Duncan, and even caught a few squalls today to rinse away some of the salt from the boat and ourselves! We have sea and sky all around and haven't seen another boat in about three days. All in all a great week of sailing!”

I will readily admit that it is a big relief to me to hear such positive thoughts from the crews at sea. One of the hardest things to do as rally organizer is to remain ashore as I send the fleet off into the wilderness. I’d love nothing more than to be there with them, to lead from the front so to speak, and take my lumps with everyone else. As it were, there’s just too much work to do ashore, especially communications wise. At any rate, I sympathize with them, but still feel like, on a trip like this, it’s as much about the sailing and about being on the ocean as it is about getting here. I’ll take the mid-Atlantic on a sailing boat over Nanny Cay Marina any day of the week. And I mean that.

The arrival programs kicks off in earnest tonight with the first happy hour at the Beach Bar just before sunset. Club Carp, who arrived earlier today, have already familiarized themselves with the place earlier today, sampling the local libations over a much-deserved cooked lunch at the bar. We expect another half-dozen boats between now and noon tomorrow.

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