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Friday, February 22, 2013

Feb. 19, 2013-RORC Caribbean 600 Race

Wings is tied securely to the dock in Jolly Harbor, one of the most protected harbors in Antigua, on the leeward side of the island behind the hills and miles from the rough and windy Atlantic Ocean. It is 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday. Dinner is being served; a bottle of French red wine is opened. We are looking forward to a nice meal and a quiet night in this, the most peaceful of locations.

Yet even in this sheltered harbor we feel the wind. It sweeps over the island of Antigua and moans in tops of the rigs of the nearby yachts. A gust causes Wings to shudder, like a dog giving a little shake.

It must be rough out in the Atlantic.

And on this night there is a race going on out there, the Caribbean 600. It is the second night of Caribbean 600 race, which will take three or four days in total to complete. So on this night, while we contemplate a quiet evening of wine and good books and after that, a snug night in our warm bunks, there are sailors out there crouched down on the weather rail of their race boats, in their foulies, shivering maybe as the night’s chill sets in. They are facing another night of pounding to weather and ducking spray. Probably there will also be some hard work when “all hands” are called to change a sail or put in a reef. Little sleep can be expected for those sailors tonight.

Start of RORC Caribbean 600.

And I am glad I am not out there.

Maybe I could have been. We were there in Falmouth Harbor the weeks prior to the start and some crew positions might have been available, for someone who wanted to hustle for one. I didn’t do that. I even made up my mind that if I was offered a spot, and at one point it seemed likely that I would be, I’d turn it down. The Caribbean 600 is one of the prestige races in the world, like the Sydney Hobart almost, or Fastnet. Something most sailors would like to have on a CV, me included, and at one time in my life I would have done anything for the chance. But not now. However I have to admit that as the preparations reached a fever pitch I was excited, and I felt the pull. I am glad that the offer did not come through and my will power was not put to the test.

Because when night comes and sleep calls I want to be in my bunk, not out on the rail of a race boat pounding into the dark Atlantic Ocean.

We did go out for the start on Wings. It was rough. We set the main and sailed around the starting area taking a few photos and looking at the scene. The boats were mostly big ones, 80 to 200ft in length, crewed by a dozen or more hands. A few smaller ones, 48 to 50 ft. Everyone was dealing OK with the conditions prior to the start, even us on Wings, but it was a handful for us with the waves, the wind, the traffic, and trying to get some shots. We did it, see here for some of the photos, but afterwards, when the racers set off to weather towards Barbados, we turned downwind and sailed to Jolly Harbor, glad to get into port before nightfall.

I guess I’ve gotten lazy, hopefully wiser, probably just older, but I’m OK with it.

Click here for a few photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Antigua.

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Blogger jan roswold brown said...

Your photos capture these huge yachts bending to the wind, so many in just this one race.
I think of the number of these big racing yachts there must be all over the world, racing or cruising at this same time. Unfathomable.
I am glad you are a part of it.
And thank you for bringing it to life for us.

22 February, 2013 16:46  

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