In the face of nearly all major Caribbean regattas either canceled or postponed two years in a row now due to the pandemic, it’s exciting to see the innovation and successful implementation of a brand-new event – the Windward 500. Steven Kern, who raced aboard Barbados’ Peter Lewis’ J/121 Whistler in the 2020 RORC Caribbean 600 and got hooked on offshore racing, is one of the Caribbean Ocean Racing Club (CORC) organizers of this latest regional race.
“The big challenge in 2021 was how to race given the myriad of COVID-19 protocols in place at each island,” Kern explains. “No one island could host the race, so why not let each island host the race. Boats would start from their home port island, race 500 miles nonstop in a clockwise direction around the Windward Islands and finish at their home port island. The concept of starting on your own island presented huge environmental benefits, no fuel needed to deliver boats, no fuel to fly crew around. So, we teamed up with OCEANA and the OECS-CROP Unit initiatives to raise the visibility of low-carbon footprint racing. Armed with Yellow Brick (YB) and AIS we were off, racing against the competition whom we often didn’t see on the racecourse, but was visible to all around the world.”
The virtual elements of the event were simple, Kern says. The Race Committee set up a Gate: A prominent point of land, preferably lighted, and one nautical mile offshore another waypoint. The Gate Waypoints were also provided to YB Tracking which allowed them to establish Geo-Fences and automatically pass finish times to YachtScoring.com. As competitors would be no more than one mile offshore as they passed through the Gate, they simply took a photo of their plotter as they passed through and WhatsApp-ed them to Windward 500 Race Committee. Kern says organizers took guidance from World Sailing appendix WP, which clearly outlines the process.
Class winners for the inaugural 2021 Windward 500 were Whistler from Barbados, Grenada’s Robbie Yearwood’s Leopard 47, Spirit of Everest; and St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ Kelly Glass’s Catana 58, Sweet Janina.
The next Windward 500 is set for May 16 to 20, 2022. Kern says organizers welcome all racers and are hoping to attract offshore doubles teams, some of the large multihull in the regions and teams on charter boats. For information, contact [email protected]