Friday Final Day…
Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a Caribbean Regatta story?
One starts out with “once upon a time” and the other with “you ain’ gon believe this”
Last day of Antigua Sailing Week aboard “High Tension” and we are going in tied for 1st place and one point ahead of the 3rd place boat meaning the winner of the only race of the day takes it all.. and the tension is definitely “high”.
We head out early as usual to check wind and sails and warm up our crew..and as we are grinding in the sails Kai starts yelling for an emergency luff.. as he and Matt see 5 of the 6 bolts shear off that are holding our Port side chainplate and the rig goes slack. The chainplate is where the wires that hold up the mast attach to the boats hull.. and if that goes the entire rig comes down in pieces!
We drop sails and start motoring to the shelter of Falmouth Harbor and fix halyards to keep the mast up while waving down one of the Rescue boats from Antigua and Barbuda SAR. We now have 45 minutes to repair our boat before the start and the clock is ticking.. Bernie Evan-Wong hops in and speeds off to the marine store while we hail a competitor for extra bolts from their tool kit (wrong size) as we normally don’t carry that size bolt as they rarely give trouble.
Short story- we got it fixed with 13 minutes to spare and made the start and went on to win the race- and the regatta! This sentence does not do justice to the quiet determination and hard work of the entire crew to accomplish this.
Lessons– after a long Caribbean regatta season- anything is suspect and the daily check has to be more thorough, the early sail out to practice gave us time to repair and mostly- be there when they install your chainplate bolts OR pull them and confirm that they are not threaded all the way to the head- leaving no shaft to take the load and a reduced circumference where the head meets the shaft. Serious damage or injury was avoided by chance yesterday… and of course winning the race!
We sailed the boat better than we ever had after that experience and went up wind like a veteran of the 2014 racing season. Antigua Sailing Week is the signal for the racing season to wind down and we wanted to end on a high note… one last race.. winner takes all.. and we did it.. by 14 seconds. Almost 3 hours of hard work and concentration in the most amazing sport and it was won by 14 seconds- crazy.
Our team must have shaken off the tension with the early emergency as we sailed what our competitors called a “perfect” race- telling us at the awards that we earned the silverware we were holding up.
The awards were a beautiful affair on the grounds of the National Parks historic Nelson’s Dockyard- Lord Nelson of British Admiralty fame.. stone walkways and bulkheads and buildings hundreds of years old with more stories to tell than can be imagined. Beautiful cool night with a 25′ table full of trophies to give away. It took more than two hours to call all of the winning boats up for their share and the Veuve Cliquot champagne was flowing (and spraying) all over the stage. Easily a thousand people watching as the sunburned and happy sailors congratulated each other for another spectacular ASW.
Fond memories for me as I had not been here for Sailing Week in 19 years and to stand with sailors again that I raced against 40 years ago was a wonderful ending to our successful “High Tension” 2014 campaign. Kai and I have shared a sailing bond that my parents started 51 years ago when they taught me to sail at Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas. Stitching together the best of the Caribbeans islands, people, weather and sailing conditions over 4 months and hundreds of miles- now that’s living!
Many thanks to the crew of the Mumm 36 “High Tension” at these different regattas.. names that are dimming already but faces with smiles and laughter that will never fade.
Bernie Evan-Wong (owner) Kai, Matt, Rena, Lisa, Amanda, Freya, Magda, Mei Ling, Franklin, “Reds”, Pamala, Caroline, Allison, Dana, Claudia, Vaughn and Vie- and hopefully I have not forgotten anyone else- also a big thank you to Sarah for the great cookout after the last race at the Antigua National Sailing Academy– home of the next generation of local sailors!
When I asked Kai if he wanted do this back in October 2013, I hoped he would not change his mind as 15 year olds sometimes do.. and now he has become an awesome bowman on a winning boat- he has no idea where this may lead. Thanks to all from a happy “pappy”