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Elusion Takes Top Honors as 19th Caribbean 1500 Greets Tortola

A Hallberg-Rassy 49, Elusion, owned by Kirt and Gayle Schuldt from Virginia Beach VA, took Overall Handicap Honors in the 19th Annual Caribbean 1500 Rally.  First to finish and winner of the Performance Cruising class was Between the Sheets, a Hallberg-Rassy 62, owned by Tom and Diane Might, Phoenix, AZ, who completed the passage from the United States in six days 22 hours and 24 minutes.  

“Davis Murray completed his 19th Caribbean 1500 and the fleet had a fast trip south,” said event founder and president of the Cruising Rally Association Steve Black, referring to the St. Thomas, USVI-based compass adjuster who has joined every Caribbean 1500 since the rally’s inception.  “We managed to avoid the lows and kept brisk easterlies for 12 days, fueled by a nice high to our north.”

All ralliers received cold champagne and a warm welcome at Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola, BVI, where Mount Gay Rum hosted nightly parties for the sailors.  “Village Cay did a great job of hosting our arrival,” said Black.

The Awards Ceremony and Farewell Dinner honored participants for meeting the challenges of the offshore passage to the Caribbean.  The Phat Virgin Party, sponsored by Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, followed.

This year’s fleet, with boats averaging 48.5 feet in length, included participants from 17 states, four Canadian provinces, Germany, the UK, and Chile. Over 40% of the boats were owned by veteran Ralliers.  Seven multihulls and a schooner joined the fleet of sloops and several ketches.

After a week of preparatory briefings, safety inspections and social events in Hampton on the Chesapeake Bay, the rally left Virginia on November 7 and arrived in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands six to13 days later. Two boats joined the Rally in mid ocean after a Charleston, SC departure.

“The heavy weather played to Elusion’s favor,” said winning skipper Kirt Schuldt of his Hallberg-Rassy ketch.  On top of that, I had an excellent crew.”

The fleet sailed in two divisions. Owners chose to enter either the Cruising Class to enjoy a cruise in company, or the Rally Class to participate in the fun race. Those in the Cruising Class receive the same safety, weather and communication benefits as the Rally Class. All Cruising Class boats were presented awards in Tortola that recognized their achievement of safely completing an open ocean passage of 1500 miles.

The Rally Fleet was divided into three handicap classes: the Performance Cruising Class (Class I), Class II, and Class III.  In the Performance Cruising Class, Between the Sheets led the pack.  In Class II, Watercolors, an Outbound 44, owned by John and Susan Bankston from North Carolina, placed first and was also fourth overall handicap winner.  Elusion led Class III. 

Ken and Janet Slagle on Aquila received the event’s Tempest Award, presented to the crew that best exemplifies the “Spirit of the Caribbean 1500.”  The Slagles, with their crew member Aaron Galvin, stood by when Clover III, a Swan 56, experienced rigging problems and diverted to Bermuda. Ken and Janet have completed a nine-year circumnavigation and are five-time veterans of the Caribbean 1500.

The award for Best Performance by a Double-Handed Crew went to Tom and Harriet Linskey on Hands Across the Sea, a Dolphin 460 Cat.  Tom and Harriet will spend their winter managing a nonprofit organization dedicated to donating school books to children in the Caribbean.

The Ellsay Family (Chris and Christine with their kids: Cari, Ryan and Andrea) on Stray Kitty, a PDQ 42 Cat, out-fished the rest of the fleet and earned the event’s Fishing Trophy.

With Axonn wireless transmitters on each yacht, positions were broadcast via the Globalstar satellite network six times each day, every four hours. Each boat’s track was displayed on the Caribbean 1500 website using software customized by Magnalox that incorporates features from Google Earth.

A return rally, the Atlantic Cup, is planned for May 2, 2009. The Atlantic Cup will leave from Village Cay in Tortola and finish in Bermuda. 

Next year’s Caribbean 1500 will mark a milestone—the 20th annual running of this Rally, slated to depart November 2, 2009.  “I am glad to say that we have a lot of interest in our 20th next year,” said organizer Black.  “A lot of old friends are coming back for another trip south.”

 Other Cruising Rally Association events for 2009 include Ocean Sailing Seminars on March 7-8 in Annapolis, MD and on March 14-15 in Newport, RI.  For 2008 complete results and 2009 information: www.carib1500.com

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