A Job Well Done! - Caribbean 1500 2017

29 November 2017

Another Caribbean 1500 has come and gone! Last week concluded the 28th Caribbean 1500 with Zenlatitude arriving to the docks around 8:00AM. The crew of Zenlatitude was greeted with loud toots from the airhorn and a rowdy crowd lined up on the dock. All this, despite having headwinds and sporadic squalls for the last several days of their journey…But with their successful completion of the rally, all boats have now arrived into Nanny Cay safe and sound and the yellowshirts can breathe a sigh of relief.

We did have one boat divert this year… the sailing vessel Equus. After having some engine issues at the start of the rally, Equus diverted to Beaufort, NC to get some repairs done, and await a weather window. Once their repairs were completed, Equus departed on the same day as our final prizegiving in the BVI. After running into some unfavorable weather soon into departure, the crew decided to turn back and instead hug the coastline to Florida, cross the Gulf Stream down South, and spend their winter in the Bahamas.

This year, the Caribbean 1500 had beautiful winds and seas, in the beginning, that 11 days later turned southerlies. For some of the quicker yachts like Merlin, a J42, and Blue Pearl, a Hylas 54, the trip couldn’t have been better. The southerlies were never an issue because they were in Tortola by the time the winds had turned to the South. For the latter half of the group, the Southerly winds proved to be a problem forcing boats to tack their way upwind for a few days. “In the years that I have been involved with the Caribbean 1500, I have never seen sustained winds from the South for this long” said longtime C1500 sailor, Miles Poor of Karina. In the end, all of our participants conquered the winds, to arrive in the beautiful Caribbean.

It was a little different this year in Nanny Cay compared to previous years. There was no more A, B, or C docks, no more Peg Legs Restaurant, and the damage left by Hurricane Irma was very obvious. With all of this being said, our fleet was extremely impressed and happy with the services that Nanny Cay marina provided for us. Every day, they were able to provide a different function for our group including pizza happy hours, a beach BBQ, and a final prizegiving at Gennakers Café. On top of this, every one of our boats had their own slip with water and power, WiFi available throughout the marina, and excellent facilities to take a hot shower after the long passage. At all of our events, the beer was flowing and the crews were exuberant, all excited to greet the next yacht to arrive.  

A few other highlights from the event include our Volunteer Day, and our Hurricane Irma “Relief Tour”. Our volunteer day included a trip to Her Magesty's Prison in Road Town in order to clean up the site. Her Magesty's was the first prison in the BVI, and has been operational since 1774. In 1995 the prison was turned into a museum. After our cleanup, the museum is now on its way to reopening. A special thanks to OneMart for organizing our transportation and lunches for the day! We were happy to support the economy and help with the road to recovery.

Our island tour was very different than in previous years. Organized by BVI360, the tour took us to the same places we always stop, but many businesses were still being repaired from the damage caused by Irma. Even with some of the business still closed, we stopped at Cane Garden Bay. There we all kicked off our shoes to walk in the golden sands and enjoy the turquoise waters. On our drive back to Nanny Cay, we found a small roadside stand selling Johnnie cakes, fish, and bbq chicken. We immediately stopped our bus, hopped out, and filled our stomachs! Although the BVI has a way to come, we as sailor are the first to come back to the islands, spend money, and help get the tourism industry back up and running.

We finished our event with a final prizegiving at Gennakers Café. Luis, the manager of Peg Legs Restaurant, organized a delicious array of food for our participants, rum punches on arrival, and plenty of wine on the tables. Highlights from the night include awards for family boats, Merlin and Numada, Movember Award for Dave on Cotinga, and the Navigators award to Taiko. Due to a saildrive failure, Taiko was unable to put their engine into the forward gear, only reverse. After sailing close to Nanny Cay, Nigel and Suan dropped their sails, proceeded into the marina, and docked their boat without the assistance of a tow... in reverse and without the ability to go forward!

The more competitive awards included Galileo winning 1st place for Multihulls, Merlin taking 1st for Class B, and Avanti taking 1st place for Class A and the Steve Black trophy for the overall best finishing time. After receiving his award, Jeremi Jablonski of Avanti stressed to the participants how important it is to share their experiences with future participants. This was the 8th Caribbean 1500 for Jeremi, and he is very much looked up to as a C1500 veteran. We were very happy to have you Jeremi, and we look forward to having your boat with us again next year!

The prizegiving marked the end of the 2017 Caribbean 1500, a bittersweet moment for many in the fleet, and indeed the organizers. “This is my first year as Event Manager” said Jake Albano. “It is always great to see the evolution of the group as a whole. In the beginning event, crews are unfamiliar with one another, but by the end in Nanny Cay, they are like one big family!” It is true… Having an amazing experience to share, like sailing from the Chesapeake to the Caribbean, really brings people together. Although the rally has come to an end, I know that the bonds made between participants and staff alike will last a very long time. Many sailors decided to go home for Thanksgiving and the holidays before returning to spend the winter cruising the Caribbean. Others, like Ruud Bosman on Blue Pearl and Dave Higgins on Air Power, are headed to St. Lucia for the start of World ARC in January. They will be joined by 40 other boats who are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime sailing around the world. Whatever our participants decide to do after the rally, they can be proud of what they have all accomplished!