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Getting Ready for the Caribbean 1500

It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since the 1st Caribbean 1500 in 1989. Having crewed in the 1993 event on Jessie, an Alden 54 that won 1st place, I know firsthand how truly exciting this rally is. Taking line honors this year was Bob and Mallika DeHaven’s Mistress Mallika from Alexandria, VA. The new Oyster 62 completed the 1500-mile passage in 6 days 13 hours 30 minutes. Handicap and Class 1 winner was Special Delivery, a Taswell 58 sailed by Bill and Diana Quinlan of Jacksonville, FL.

The fleet, of 46 offshore yachts, assembled at the Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia, for five days of inspections and briefings preceding the departure. Skippers had their choice of entering either the Rally Class, a fun race that includes the opportunity to use the engine, or the Cruising Class, a passage in tandem with no performance placements. Included were 13 veterans and 30 first-time participants in yachts ranging from 38 feet to 62 feet, with skippers and crews hailing from the US and Canada. According to organizer Steve Black, “We left the Chesapeake Bay in light northerlies that diminished overnight as the boats approached the Gulf Stream where most motored across the Stream, completing their crossing in the first 24 hours. Vessels shared positions and weather information twice daily on their SSB radios.”

Ralliers received a warm November welcome at Village Cay Marina where Mount Gay Rum hosted nightly parties for the sailors. Village Cay and Doyle Sailmakers sponsored the awards dinner to honor the participants, Chief Minister Dr. Orlando Smith welcomed the group to the BVI and Black presented the awards.

Cliff Merrill, MD aboard Compeller, received the Fishing Trophy for both quantity and variety of fish caught underway. Fred Thomas received the Cal Fearon Award for his creative problem solving. Greg and Lisa Smith received the Seven Seas Cruising Association/Blue Water Sailing Clean Wake Award.

But the award that raised the biggest whoopee was when The Tempest Trophy, illustrative of the spirit of the Caribbean 1500, was presented to the crew of Crescendo – Harry Weber, Al Grigalunas, Loren Thompson, Patrick O’Brien and skipper John Parker. True to all laws of the sea this brave group came to the aid of the damaged catamaran, Jet Stream and remained with her for 6 hours until relieved by CG Cutter Block Island. Very fortunately for all concerned, the cat was able to return safely to Hampton to undergo repairs before sailing on to join her comrades.

Black tells All At Sea, “It was a fun sail this year. Once the front went through we had some of the best sailing I have ever had with good strong winds just aft of the beam all the way to Road Town.” Congratulations go out to Black for his perseverance in leading this cruising event for the past 15 years as well as to Hal Sutphen and Davis Murray who are terrific “Aides in Chief”. This discipline in blue water sailing would not be the same without them. A return rally is planned for May 1, 2005 and a rally to Bermuda will be held in mid June.

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