Queen’s Baton, having visited Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Grenada
and St Vincent and the Grenadines, paid St Lucia a visit last weekend. Even the
horrendous weather failed to dampen the spirit of St Lucia’s sailors.
The baton will travel more than 180,000
kilometers for a sporting first where it will visit all 71 Commonwealth nations
in a year and one day, making the Melbourne 2006 Queen’s Baton Relay the
world’s longest and most inclusive relay.
The baton began its 9a.m. charge from
Rodney Bay’s Village Inn. After a power breakfast with Minister for Education,
Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports, Mario Michel, the baton was
handed over to St Lucia’s cyclists.
Police outriders heralded the approach of
the baton as the cyclists, with baton held high, sped past our East Caribbean
Village vantage point on their way to Banan Bay. It was then the turn of the St
Lucia Athletics Association to deliver the baton to government house—which they
duly did—minutes before the heavens opened.
Rain beat down and in the distance thunder
rumbled as we waited patiently aboard the powerboat Mission in Castries’ sodden harbor. It was to be the Yachting
Association’s task to deliver the baton into the fists of St Lucia’s boxers—in
St Lucia Yacht Club’s commodore, Mike
Green, collected the baton from government house and, once through Customs, the
baton was delivered aboard the Mission,
kindly donated (just for the day I hasten to add) by benevolent businessman,
Sean Kessel along with SLYC’s sailing
captain Nick Forsberg put on their heavy-weather gear, as did the man charged
with delivering the baton—Jonathan Everett—as we thundered toward Soufriere.
Jerry Galazi, Shannon Stacey and Peter
Dikschei, the baton’s custodians, huddled behind Richard Peterkin, president of
the St Lucia Olympic Committee, organizer and Myrtle Alexander as the weather,
already bad, worsened.
“It’s not raining in Soufriere,’ said
Myrtle above the roar of the engines, “The weather forecast is good!”
Unconvinced, we grimaced, turned our back
to the rain and cursed our luck. However, as we approached Marigot Bay—and a
small welcoming committee—the sun struggled through.
Castries dour harbor was nothing more than
a fading memory as 20 minutes later we approached Soufriere’s majestic Pitons.
The green, gold and silver baton was
swiftly removed from its protective casing and held aloft by Everett, framed
between the looming landmarks. A quick handover handshake in Soufriere’s harbor
and the baton was on its way to the pungent sulphur springs, courtesy of Reds
Perreira’s boxers, before returning back to the harbor and lunch.
After a superb lunch at the Hummingbird
Hotel it was back aboard the Mission
for a J24 appointment at the Barrel of Beef.
Michael Camps and his young J24 crew, who
did so well in Tortola, accepted the baton and made their way to the Royal St
Lucian hotel where St Lucia’s swimmers stood like tiny soldiers on a sandy
When I say swimmers, I really mean handed
over to a swimmer aboard an inflatable, (the baton’s shower proof, not
waterproof), which kept pace with the swimmers as they struck out for St Lucia
Yacht Club and the final handover to the island’s Squash players.
A flawless performance by everyone
involved, everything happened when and as it should. If I say it went off with
military precision then the role of ex-RAF man and Yachting Association
president Ted Bull could have something to do with it.
It’s Ted’s final year as president and if
he ever wanted a reference—then the Queen’s Baton should suffice.