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Heavy Weather Hits West Marine’s Caribbean 1500

It is always good to see Steve Black and the cruisers from
the West Marine Caribbean 1500 pull into Village Cay Marina at the completion of their 1500-mile sail from
Hampton, Virginia
to the BVI. I have covered this cruising rally for the past decade and never
tire of Steve’s optimistic face and new sea stories. This year was no
exception. As in the past, each year presents larger and faster boats.

Such an
example is Alacrity, a 50’ trimaran built by Lone Star and raced by owner
Rex Conn (Maryland)
and his crew, who won line honors. This was Rex’s 3rd 1500,
finishing in 2nd place twice before. He tells me, “The other
two times we raced this regatta we came in 2nd – both times to
Steve Dashew on Beowulf We competed in a 43-foot
catamaran and a 51-foot catamaran before. We are now on our 3rd mast
as we were dismasted in the St. Martin Heineken Regatta last year and also in
the Charleston Bermuda Race. The present mast is carbon fiber, is 64’ off
the deck and weighs about one half of what an aluminum mast weighs. I was a
little nervous during the last three days of the rally, when the winds started
piping up to 35 knots during the squalls.”

“We
went further east than everyone else so we had a good angle. My crew was Peter
Garcia ( Maine), Steve Black ( Virginia),
race organizer and Greg Smith ( Texas)
who has crewed with me several times before. The first three days, the winds
were light and we only made about 125 miles a day. The last 3 days, we averaged
about 300 – 350 miles a day. We were way behind until the last three days
when we caught up and crossed the line before the fleet. We only carried 15
gallons of diesel because we are a race boat and didn’t want to power.”

The
handicap winner was Agua Dulce, a Hylas 54 sailed by
Charles Cunningham of Park City,
UT. They had previously won the
West Marine Atlantic Cup last spring. 
Runaway, a Conser
47, sailed by Bill Danilczyk topped the multihull class.

I also
had a nice chat with Tom Robinson on Sunshine,
an Atlantic 42 designed by Dick Newick, who started
designing 40 years in St. Croix. Tom and crew, Bill Biewenga
finished in 2nd place. Sunshine,
a trimaran, was built by Bongers Marine in
South Africa
and even though they blew out the battens on a jibe they still finished with
top honors.

Susannah Galewas
dismasted 211 miles north of Tortola.
Fortunately, no one was injured; they cleared the
wreckage and Blueprint Match transferred
fuel to them
so that they could motor on to Tortola. Merlin showed outstanding seamanship after losing their rudder by
adjusting their trailing warps as they proceeded. They did run low on fuel,
however, as they used the engine to help balance the boat.

Steve
Black sums up this year’s rally. “It was a case of too much of a
good thing. We were happy to have high pressure dominate the weather for nearly
all of the passage, but it was so strong that the Northeast winds locked in at
15 to 30 knots for a week creating an endless stream of large waves. I was
proud of the way the sailors offered support to one another and very happy to
see everyone safe and sound.”

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