It’s 7 a.m. Saturday, November 15, and I’m driving with my son Ryan (9) and Don Tae Hodge (15)—who will both be sailing with the ‘Team BVI’ in the 2008 Nanny Cay Nation’s Cup. Three of us watch powerful squalls raking across the Sir Francis Drake Channel and the two youngsters are wide-eyed; they know all too well what those squalls feel like in Optimists. Don Tae will be helming for team BVI aboard one of eight IC24’s shared amongst 12 teams signed up for this year’s event.
The lads start to rig ‘First Caribbean KATS’, a 1978 ex J24, which is their first boat in the rotation. Another BVI youngster, Alec Anderson (17) is also rigging up with his ‘LIME BVI’ team. Further down the dock is regatta favorite and last year’s champion, Peter Holmberg, with his USVI team. The forecast is for 20kt+ trade winds all weekend bang out of the East, it’s going to be quite a regatta.
Eight IC24’s rigged with our custom fully battened event sails set off toward the start line, and plough through the steep wind driven waves.
The microphone stand ashore is being blown over in the gusts; Frits Bus (Team Holland) takes the mike and welcomes all in Dutch and Spanish, Denise Holmberg replies, and the 4th annual Nation’s Cup is in full swing.
After three races the two BVI teams and Holmberg Team ‘OnDeck USVI’ share the lead each with a bullet and a third. Four teams rotate after each race in a planned 18 race series with no discards. I foolishly remark how well the boats are holding up.
Race four sees Holmberg stuff Team LIME BVI up hard leaving themselves room to escape and win the pin. With no way on young Alec Anderson reverses through an involuntary tack as a big lefty sweeps through. Team ‘Blighties UK’ crash tack to avoid, ‘5 go Sailing’ do the same but Ireland can’t get out of the way fast enough and there is a big collision. ‘Black Pearl’ is holed and Latitude 19 has lost a shroud having been sliced by ‘Pearl’s’ boom. Both teams retire and the six remaining boats race on.
The Canadians take the spare boat as the Irish accept that the show must go on and sit out race five. On the way out to the start of race five, the Antiguans lose their rudder as the top pintle shears in half; the wind is well over 20kts and I’m left thinking ‘why the hell did I build these 12 boats to set up this type of charter event?’
Less than an hour later, ‘Black Pearl’ has a few laminations over the hole, ‘INTAC’ has a new set of pintles and straps bolted in place and ‘Lat 19’ receives a donor shroud and we are back in action.
Conditions for the afternoon continue to fall under the ‘fresh to frightening’ category but there is no more carnage and nine races are bagged. There is a buzz going around that team USVI failed to sail the proper course in race seven…in short order, Peter Holmberg realizes that his team had failed to unwind themselves after mistaking a ‘gate/green’ course for the ‘offset/pink’ course. He does the right thing and withdraws from race seven. This leaves Team ‘BVI LIME’ in the lead at the end of day one, ‘Team BVI’ in second a few points adrift with young Don Tae doing a brilliant job. In third, Holland and Canada are tied up, with the USVI ‘Ondeck’ rock stars one point away in fifth!
Day two dawns with the wind still honking but the forecast is for some moderation. Another nine races are sailed non-stop with each team counting six more results. Team USVI Ondeck scored bullets or second places up to the final race. This was not enough to get back at ‘LIME BVI’ who counted nine in six races to seal the regatta. The battle in the last race was for second place.
BVI Islanders Robbie and Mike Hirst grew up racing against the Holmberg brothers and there has always been a healthy rivalry. Robbie did not realize going into the last race that the Holmbergs had caught them up…we have a match race! Robbie soon saw what was going on as Peter H went on the offensive in the pre start. Having one of the world’s top match racers come at you in 20kts is not unlike a jousting scene from the movie ‘A Knight’s Tale.’ Robbie duly took the helm from 15yr old Don Tae for the final showdown.
Robbie had one opportunity to take control but the main was late coming in and the chance evaporated. After that Peter H sailed team BVI down the fleet and into last place. The damage had been done and they claimed second place overall.
With the sun sinking low over the regatta village the trophies were handed out. The kids got a special mention, especially Don Tae Hodge who really excelled.
Team ‘LIME BVI’ headed up by Alec Anderson(17) did an amazing job counting seven bullets, two seconds and two thirds; even if the Holmbergs had counted a bullet in race seven, they still would have won. The conditions were testing but it was classic Caribbean Winter sailing, that’s why we live here!