A week of strong northeast winds propelled the 54 sailboats in the 20th Anniversary Caribbean 1500 fleet from Hampton VA to Tortola, BVI. In as few as six days, the boats hugged the rhumb line and sailed on a single port tack for the entire passage. Bojangles IV, a Gulfstar 50 Ketch, owned by the Kilgour family from Toronto, Canada, took Overall Handicap Honors. First to finish was Crazy Horse, a Sundeer 60 owned by Bill and Rosemary Thomas of Middletown MD, who completed the passage in 6 days 9 hours and 15 minutes.
The Caribbean 1500 Rally, managed by the Cruising Rally Association, left Hampton VA on November 2 after a week of preparatory briefings, safety inspections, and gala social events. The Caribbean 1500 fleet arrived at the official host port and sponsor, Nanny Cay Resort & Marina, 6-10 days later with many veteran skippers recording "personal best" passage times.
"It was great to welcome the Caribbean 1500 fleet to Nanny Cay for the first time, particularly for the 20th anniversary of the event," said Miles Sutherland-Pilch, general manager of Nanny Cay. "Our staff and facilities got a great reaction from the rally fleet and we look forward to welcoming them back next year. And of course, we’ll be seeing off the return rally, the Atlantic Cup, on May 2 next year from here."
Colin and Kathleen Kilgour on Bojangles IV with Mitchell (age 11) and twins Gillian and Clare (age 9) were one of eight family boats with children that participated in this year’s rally.
After taking top honors, skipper Kilgour said, "What a passage! A full 7 days of great winds, with all of it aft of the beam. This was Bojangles’ first trip offshore and the boat performed like a dream in the big seas and strong winds.
"Our family-based crew – with additional support from Ian McLean and Dwight Hawkins – worked tirelessly to keep the boat moving fast and on course. While we sailed on port tack the entire journey, there were many sail changes, regular trimming, and much hand steering as we worked our way down the rhumb line in following seas.
"There are some fabulous sailors and terrific boats in the rally and it is a great honour for us to have achieved this overall result."
The 2009 Caribbean 1500 fleet included participants from 23 states, three Canadian provinces, Germany, the UK, and New Zealand. Over 40 percent of the boats were owned by veteran Ralliers. The boats averaged 47.5 feet in length. Four multihulls and a schooner joined the fleet of sloops and several ketches in this year’s fleet.
"In the past several years, rally participants racked up motoring hours in light air and calm seas. This year, the winds stayed up for the entire passage. Many of the boats finished with less than a dozen motoring hours and maintained hull speed for most of the trip." said Steve Black, founder and President of the Cruising Rally Association.
The fleet sailed in two divisions. Owners chose to enter either the Cruising Class to enjoy a cruise in company, or the Rally Class to participate in the fun race. Those in the Cruising Class receive the same safety, weather and communication benefits as the Rally Class.
At a ceremony on Nanny Cay’s beachside stage, all Cruising Class boats were presented awards that recognized their achievement of safely completing an open ocean passage of 1500 miles. The Rally Fleet was divided into four handicap classes.
In the Rally Class I, Clover III, a Swan 56, skippered by David Fraizer, led the pack, narrowly edging out a victory over second place finisher Peter Van Alstine on Stolen Hour by 16 minutes on corrected time. Jeff Carpenter on Club Carp, a Jeanneau 54, finished third.
In Rally Class II, Special Delivery, a Taswell 58 owned by veterans Bill and Diana Quinlan, placed first. Special Delivery was followed by Fran Schwenk on Archangel, a Hylas 54 and Joy For All, Gil and Joy Smith’s Farr 50. Charlie and Jenny McNamara, on their Catalina 470, Lady, topped Rally Class III. Flomaida II, an Amel 54 owned by Christoph and Dagmar Hartung from Weinheim, Germany, placed second and StarGazer II, a Dufour 50 owned by Paul Starosta finished third.
Overall Handicap Winner Bojangles IV led Rally Class IV, followed by Amarone and One World. Amarone is a Stevens 50 owned by Lenny Statile. Brian and Kim Duff’s One World was the sole schooner in the fleet.
Stolen Hour received the event’s Tempest Award, emblematic of the "Spirit of the Caribbean 1500." Skipper Peter VanAlstine sailed in the 1990 Caribbean 1500 under the tutelage of his father, Peter Sr., as skipper. This year, the two VanAlstines returned to complete the rally with roles reversed. A third crew member on Stolen Hour, Leo Birkby, also participated in the 1990 rally. Peter and his wife Christine will cruise the Caribbean this winter with their children Hannah and Hayden.
Other Caribbean 1500 veterans from the first rally in 1990 who returned to participate in the 20th Anniversary fleet were Paul Dinkle on Brown-Eyed Girl, Rick and Julie Palm on Altair and rally organizers Steve Black and Davis Murray. The award for Best Performance by a Double-Handed Crew went to Christoph and Dagmar Hartung from Weinheim, Germany on Flomaida II, an Amel 54.
The Brouse Family (Parents Kirk and Elizabeth with twins Wesley and Clare (age 11) on Discovery, a Bowman 57, out-fished the rest of the fleet and earned the event’s Fishing Trophy. The Brouse’s reeled in their catch with hand-made lures loaned to them by kids who participated in the Caribbean 1500 in 1999. All Ralliers received cold champagne and a warm welcome from Nanny Cay, where the BVI Tourist Board and the Roadtown Wholesale (RTW) hosted nightly parties for the sailors. The prize-giving ceremony and farewell dinner honored participants for meeting the challenges of the offshore passage to the Caribbean.
Over 15,000 website visitors from 59 countries monitored the progress of the boats in the rally. With wireless transponders on each yacht, positions were broadcast via satellite six times each day, every four hours. Each boat’s track was displayed on the Caribbean 1500 website (www.carib1500.com) using software customized to incorporate features from Google Earth. The transponder program is sponsored by Davenport & Company, LLC.
Cruising Rally Association offshore sailing rallies retain some of the competitive elements of traditional sailboat races, but offers social, educational and technological enhancements that broaden the appeal of the event to couples and families, as well as racers – both experienced and first-timers.
A return rally, the Atlantic Cup, is planned for May 2, 2009. The Atlantic Cup will leave from Nanny Cay and finish in Bermuda. Participants will enjoy the same camaraderie, adventure, and competition that have made the Caribbean 1500 a perennial favorite, and will reunite with their fellow ralliers to share stories of their winter in the Caribbean.
The Cruising Rally Association, founded by veteran solo sailor and sailing event organizer Steve Black, is widely supported by a number of leading companies. These include Davenport & Company, Nanny Cay Resort and Marina, LLC, West Marine, Blue Water Sailing Magazine, Switlik, OCENS, ICOM, and World Cruising Club.
For full information on future rallies and seminars, visit www.carib1500.com.
About Cruising Rally Association
The Cruising Rally Association, founded in 1990 by Steve Black, manages a year-round calendar of offshore cruising rallies and Ocean Sailing Seminars. Over 750 cruisers and future cruisers attend the CRA events each year. Black has sailed in all parts of the Atlantic, including three solo transatlantic races and more than 40 rallies. He served as executive director of the US Sailing Association before founding the Cruising Rally Association which he has headed for the last 20 years.