More than just a good wind contributed to the success of this year's Diamond Dash Race. The St. Lucia Yacht Club (SLYC) saw it as an opportunity for participants from the recent Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) to become involved in the local sailing community.
Twelve boats signed up for the race. The organizers said they were thrilled by the number of entries and the response they received from the local yachting community, as well as ARC participants.
First over the start line was Loose Cannon, the veteran local J24 which quickly set a spinnaker as they headed to Pigeon Point. Next across was the Ranger 29 Red Fox. Among the starters was Spiica, a gaff rig 31 ft Twister, which prior to race had not been sailed for ten years!
A large swell gave the smaller boats a hard time but they soon got into their stride as they raced to the rock some 22 miles away. The bigger boats excelled in the brisk conditions and were able to push through the swell more easily, opening up a gap with the bulk of the fleet. First around the rock was Coal Ila but due a tactical mistake, Silver Bullet was able to tuck inside and take the lead ahead of Hanse. Following behind was eventual race winner Sweet Surrender, a Beneteau 46.
Danielle O'Loughlin of Sweet Surrender is sailing around the world with her husband and they first visited St. Lucia when they crossed the Atlantic in the ARC 2010. Danielle, a former European Dinghy Champion has extensive racing experience. However, she says her crew has even more experience as they are accustomed to racing bigger yachts.
The return from Diamond Rock to Rodney Bay proved to be the most difficult part of the race for Sweet Surrender. When a squall packing winds of almost 30 knots struck the fleet, O'Loughlin said they found their Beneteau was suddenly carrying too much sail but they had managed to stay in control. "It is a big boat, not like with the dinghy. So I was scared to go too fast. It was a new experience with such a big boat. Though the crossing was easy, turning around the rock was difficult because we had no wind so we had to wait about 15 minutes for the wind to pick up again," she explained at the prize giving ceremony.
The win is a sweet memory for the O'Loughlin's to take with them on the next leg of their circumnavigation, which will take them through the Pacific to Australia.
The first three skippers to finish the race received 'goodie bags' from title sponsor Diamonds International.
"We are very proud to again be the title sponsor of the Diamond Dash," said Sharon Leonce-Valmont, representing Diamonds International, St. Lucia. "My company has been involved with the St. Lucia Yacht Club and, in particular, the Diamond Dash from its inception – the name having mass appeal to us: Diamonds International – Diamond Rock,"
Whether it's the competitive spirit, the historic factor or the good old trade winds that gets people involved in the Diamond Dash, you can rest assured that next year more sailors will come forward to make the dash!
(Sean Fuller contributed to this report.)
Christy Recaii is a St. Lucian journalist who has a passion for sailing. She is a Hunter College graduate with a BA in Media Studies. You can find her either on the water or the docks seeking out the next marine scoop.