The St Lucia Yacht Club this year celebrated Independence Day, February 22, by resurrecting the traditional Prime Ministers Cup race, initiated many years ago in the time of the late Sir John Compton. Using a new trophy, it was retitled the “Sir John Compton Memorial Trophy” with the kind consent of Lady Janice Compton.
Along with this annual event, it has long been the intention to have a special race to the Diamond Rock just off the southern end of Martinique. Our sponsor, Diamonds International, had intimated that they were prepared to assist when we were ready.
The race was arranged as a three-part event, with first a race/cruise to Le Marin Martinique from Rodney Bay, the home of the St Lucia yacht club, on the 22nd. The combined second and third race was to start on Sunday, the 24th, at 10am using the same line, (where the race ended on Friday 22nd) with a fast Dash to Diamond Rock before turning to complete the leg to Rodney Bay. The finish at the Rock was a self-timed position as identified in the race instructions and was a “Line Honour” race, for the fastest yacht to reach this line irrespective of handicap.
The actual event produced only five starters, which was a little disappointing as about 12 yachts had shown interest. The weather was surely one negative point, as the build up during the previous days had produced strong winds and a heavy sea. However the start was reasonable steady inside Rodney Bay as they crossed the line en route for Martinique.
The smallest yacht in the fleet was a J24, Loose Cannon, and they, in great racing style, made a perfect start leading the fleet out to the turning point of Pigeon Island. There, conditions presented as strong gusty winds and with a more than normal sea state. The weather favored the heaver boats and even they experienced some high winds recording a gust of 36 knots at one stage.
Martinique beckoned as they rounded Pigeon as the visibility was good but it was four-hour slog for the first two boats to make the finish—and a spectacular finish of just 30 seconds between them! The brave J24 also did a fantastic time in those conditions to finish on correct time only 14 minutes from the winner and first boat.
Saturday being the “lay day” between the races left the crews to sample some French cuisine and some shopping etc. Reports from that day are sketchy but suffice to say it was enjoyable and gave them all a chance to dry out!
Sunday 24th: With the full muster of boats turning out on time, the race was self timed off the starboard navigation buoy MA2 at the lead in to the Le Marin Channel; the game was on—the start for the Diamond Dash sprint and for the final leg of race no 2 and the finish at Rodney Bay.
An easterly wind gave the yachts a chance to show their mettle in the changed conditions which were much lighter than two days previously. This was J24 weather and Loose Cannon did not miss a trick on the way to Diamond rock, nipping at the heels of the lead boat Breezeaway. She finished there only three minutes behind, winning fastest passage to Breezeaway but making a good second place.
Conditions improved in the crossing making some good times for all, a beautiful Caribbean sailing day. The crowd at the yacht club gathered anxiously to see if Loose Cannon would catch Breezeaway boat for boat. Wait! Who is this approaching in second finishing order? Amongst a spate of new arrivals arriving in the bay from Martinique it was the lovely old ketch Crusader in full flight for the finish! But where was Loose Cannon?
The red hull of the J24 poked around Pigeon Island and, straight to the ODM through the yachts at anchor, the red devil approached bent on making every second count. Pulling up the rear, the two cruising boats Restless and Settima finished in fine style and had to wait for their position from the race desk.
The Club was honoured to have Lady Janice Compton, wife of our departed honorary Commodore to present the prizes. It was Breezeaway’s day with a monotonous sweep of the board winning both trophies and a hoard of assorted bottles kindly supplied by our supporting sponsors. Diamonds International marketing Manager Mrs. Sharon Leonce-Valmont kindly presented the Diamond Dash Trophy and generous gift vouchers for 1st and Second places.
The race had been a success and from the feedback it looks very promising for the event to grow into a major annual race in our local racing calendar.
Breezeaway’s owner and captain, Bernard Johnson, in accepting the trophy from Lady Janice, remarked that this revival was truly what we needed in the club again and only a token of what is to come.
The Commodore then called for a toast to the memory of our departed Honoury Commodore Sir John. Finally, a bouquet of flowers was presented to Lady Janice by one of our junior lady sailors, Raina Bergasse, bringing an excellent weekend of sailing to an end.
Race report submitted by Ted Bull and the St. Lucia Yacht Club