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The Inaugural OECS Rally

On December 28, 2004, six yachts
left St. Lucia for the inaugural OECS Rally. The brainchild of Dr. Len Ishmael,
the goal of the OECS Rally was to “provide participants of the Atlantic Rally
for Cruisers (ARC) with an opportunity to be given a guided tour of the OECS
islands.” Participants left St. Lucia for Bequia, Carriacou, Grenada, made a
provisions stop back in St. Lucia and then hit the last leg of the rally that
included Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe and Antigua & Barbuda. Daphne
Vidal, Tourism Policy Officer stated “Given that participants of the ARC would
normally sail from St Lucia to the other islands of the OECS, it was felt that
an organized journey could be arranged in collaboration with member states in
order that they (the member states) could reap the economic benefits of the
yachters visits to the respective destinations. The main purpose was to make
the journey an interactive visit…and ‘personalized’ experience.”

The six participating yachts were
a wholly international group. Dries and Else Visser from Holland captained SV Thetis,
the smallest of the vessels at 35′. An absolutely lovely couple, the Visser’s
were full of humor and a passion for life. Doreen and Archie Annan from the SV Asolare
are based out of Port Solent in the UK. Another lovely couple, the Annan’s had
been to the Caribbean two years ago and loved it. Julie and Peter Turner came
to the rally aboard Okura. Peter had made the crossing from Grand
Canaria with his daughter and was joined by his wife in St. Lucia to
participant in the rally. Colin Hunter and Milan Lim from sailing vessel Nae
Hassle
added to the international flavor of the race…Colin is from Scotland
and Milan is from Malaysia! The teams from Heller West and Moonshadow
Star
registered for the Rally but were not official participants of the
race and did not continue past the first destination.

On December 30th, the
participants reached the first destination of Bequia where the Bequia Tourism
Association treated them to a welcome reception. While on island, the teams
participated in the traditional Bequia Old Year’s Night festivities to everyone’s
enjoyment. By January 9th, the four remaining yachts went forth to
Grenada for an official stop over before embarking on “leisurely voyages”
through The Grenadines (stopping in Carriacou, Union Island and Mystiques) on
their way back to St. Lucia. The news from Grenada was encouraging, although
the weather wasn’t! The teams were led on an Island Safari tour they “were
reluctant to end,” and all signs pointed to a healthy recovery process. The
inclement weather continued back to St. Lucia and had the Asolare and Nae
Hassle
teams asking if they had ever left the UK!

With provisioning completed for
the last leg of the rally, the teams set off for Martinique. Arriving on
January 19th, the teams had a full and exciting schedule awaiting
them. A welcome reception was hosted at La Marin Marina and the following day,
they began their island tour which took them to the beautiful village of
Vauclin, lunch at Habitation Clement (home to Martinique’s Rhums Clement),
finally off to Trinite and Chateau Dubuc. Back onboard, the boats then headed
to Grand Anse and Fort de France.

The next destination was Dominica
where everyone participated in the Rainforest Ariel Tram tour (a 70 minute
guided tour one mile above the rainforest) bordering on the Morne Trois Pitons
National Park. To say this was a “high”light of the trip would be an
understatement! Others tours in Dominica included the Roseau market, Carib
Territory, and the Emerald Pool.

The four teams arrived at their
final destination of Antigua and Barbuda on February 9th. Again, the
weather was less than desirable (why so much rain this year?) but that didn’t
“dampen” anyone’s spirits as they celebrated their journey with a welcome
reception at HQ2. The most exciting event of the Antigua visit was the Wobbly Club
BYOB race (see accompanying article) in which the OECS team won the “Most in
need of rescue” award! Well, you can’t say this crew doesn’t finish a race! At
the prize giving ceremony, held at Life in historic English Harbor, the teams
were surprised to discover that they had all been declared winners and were
presented trophies by the AMTA director, James Benson. The four teams then
surprised the Rally organizers and stakeholders by awarding the OECS
Secretariat, the Antigua Marine Trades Association and The Antigua Yacht Club
with awards of their own…certificates of appreciation that reinforced their
experience. All four teams enjoyed themselves during the rally and would
encourage other yachts to participate in future OECS Rally’s.

The second OECS Rally will begin
in December of 2005 and continue through to the first few weeks of 2006. Dates
and routes are yet to be determined but all interested parties are asked to
contact the OECS Tourism Policy Officer, Daphne Vidal at dvidal@OECS.org. With the smiles and
receptions the inaugural teams met through out their adventure, I can only
assume the next rally will be bigger and better!

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