On Veterans Day in Hampton, the yachts in the 22nd Caribbean 1500 are finally at sea. Five days of delays thanks to Tropical Storm Sean have allowed the boats plenty of time to think about - and prepare for - the 1300+ mile ocean passage that now lies ahead.
Vendange, a custom-built wooden deadrise, was the race committee boat on the day, and took up station just to the east of Old Point Comfort in blustery but sunny conditions. Many of the rally boats were already away from the dock as the committee boat set her anchor, hoisting sail and timing the run to the line.
With a gusty northwest wind, timing was key in order to make the line. A typical upwind start makes it easier on crews to control speed, so many of the boats were conservative and allowed plenty of room between themselves and the line. Steve Black, founder of the Caribbean 1500, took the start aggressively, and his Pacer 42 Madrugada was first over and led the fleet out the bay. Black, enjoying his first year as a participant without organizational duties, surely had plenty of time to plan for strategy, and his crew was ready. They favored the committee boat side of the line - no doubt for the benefit of all the spectators on board - and were across within seconds of the gun.
Blackbird, the largest monohull in the fleet at 78', crossed a minute or so behind Madrugada, under mainsail only and blazing along. Blackbird appeared to have difficulty raising their mainsail in the run up to the start, but they quickly gained back whatever ground they may have lost due to the delay.
Three other rally boats were already into the Gulf Stream. 1700 Somewhere, NYCTEA and Lexington all took the start a day early, heading out of the Chesapeake late yesterday afternoon. Though 1700 Somewhere does not appear on the fleet viewer, the 65' MacGregor and crew are safely at sea and likely leading the fleet.
Fat Cat, the Morelli 80 catamaran, who last night apparently challenged Blackbird to a line honors race, never left the dock. They radioed rally control shortly after the gun to announce engine trouble and that they would be delayed. The non-competitive Open class took the line several minutes after the official start in less-hectic conditions, and followed the Cruising fleet out the Chesapeake.
Most yachts will take 8-12 days offshore, and have a fun-filled program awaiting them in Tortola. World Cruising Staff with be on hand to greet each boat, day and night, as they arrive in Nanny Cay. The prizegiving ceremony is set for November 21. The fleet heading for Green Turtle Cay have a shorter passage to the Abacos, but will receive just as warm a welcome.