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16th West Marine Caribbean 1500 Departs for the BVI

It’s hard to believe that West Marine’s
Caribbean 1500 is actually in
its 16th year. How these years fly by! Dave and I participated in
the 1993 event (in fact we won) on a gorgeous 54’ Alden,
Jessie
. We made many friends from that
Rally that we still keep in touch with, which is one of the event’s great
assets – making cruising friends that you can tandem with throughout our
warm Caribbean waters. The purpose of this
rally is to gather all yachts together, in one location, that want to spend the
2005/2006 winter sailing the Caribbean: leaving from
Hampton VA,
this fleet makes the 1500-mile sail in tandem. Believe me, this is really a
safe and fun way to do some great Bluewater sailing and
to get your “sea legs” for future months of sailing.

The 16th
The West Marine Caribbean 1500 will again be sailing to hospitable Village Cay
Marina on Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands
where Mt. Gay Rum will be the sponsor. The fleet gathers at the
Bluewater
Yachting Center
in Hampton,
VA, for several days of briefings and final
preparations leading up to the start. All participants are requested to arrive
two days early (November 2nd) for additional briefings and inspections.
Following the start, planned for Nov 7th, participants share positions twice
daily during scheduled chat hours. Problems and solutions are discussed, as are
privately arranged weather forecasts. Those yachts sailing to Hampton
from New England do so in tandem before the event,
with weather and positions shared underway.

One of
the great things about the 1500 is the Required Briefings for skippers. They
include such a wide variety of topics such as Inspection Briefings, Medical
Topics, Communications Briefings (procedures, schedules, frequencies),
Sailing Instructions and Navigation & Landfall Review. They also spend a
great deal of time going over Weather Briefings and Gulf Stream Analysis. The
women are never left out as there are Women’s Roundtables and evening
socials that encourage the making of friends that will share this great
adventure together. Also, there are additional briefings for Skippers &
Crew such as Offshore Fishing Techniques, a Life Raft Demonstration and
Distress Signal Workshop, a Sail Repair Workshop and a great Diesel Engine
Troubleshooting Workshop – a favorite of those with the “blue
jobs”.

Steve
Black, founder and organizer of the event tells me, “Over 750 boats have
chosen to join the Caribbean 1500 in making their passage to the
Caribbean and they find it a very special experience. Our
fleet this year will be our largest since 9/11 and for the first time will have
more veterans than first timers. Village Cay Marina has done a great job of
hosting the event in the past and together with Mount Gay Rum plan nightly
awards parties for each class as the boats finish. We can see the event
improving each year.”

Once
the fleet arrives at Tortola, nightly awards
parties bring participants together to swap experiences and exchange cruising
plans. The passage typically takes 7-12 days. The event is open to seaworthy
yachts of any type or nationality with a lower size limit being 33 feet LOA.
All boats must pass inspection and must be sailed by two or more sailors, with
final determinations made by the Event Committee and there must be at least one
experienced offshore sailor on board.

Skippers
have the choice of entering the Cruising Class or the Rally Class. Boats
sailing in the Cruising Class do so for the adventure of making a good and safe
passage and are judged on performance or handicaps and are not required to
maintain engine use logs. Their safe passage is recognized in alphabetical
order of boats completing the passage. Boats sailing in the Rally Class are
assigned PHRF handicaps and report engine usage nightly. Unlike races, the
rally permits the use of engines with running time added to the elapsed time as
a motoring penalty. The corrected time for each vessel reflects her time
allowance and engine usage. Skippers can elect to change from the Rally Class
to the Cruising Class. The Cruising Class has a stop in Bermuda
for taking on fuel.

ALL AT SEA wishes each of the entrees
well – stay tuned next month for the results and, of course, tall tales
from this adventure.

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