Changes in departure and arrival venues are just a few of the ‘What’s New’ as the World Cruising Club (WCC) runs its first Caribbean 1500 Cruising Rally this fall, departing November 7th from Hampton, Virginia.
“The first change rally veterans will notice is a move to the Hampton Public Piers and the Crowne Plaza Hotel, with transport provided to Bluewater Yachting Center,” says Jeremy Wyatt, the Cowes, England-based WCC director. “This venue allows us to have all of the rally activities in one location, making it easier for ralliers to join in wherever their boat is docked. It also means that we can deliver the pre-start program whatever the weather.”
A greater number of social events are on tap in Hampton, including a welcome party hosted by the Hampton Visitors Bureau, ice-breaker drinks and happy hours to help crews get acquainted and a Farewell Party hosted at the Hampton Yacht Club. The pre-start seminar program should be improved with the move to the Crowne Plaza, since this locale provides a better environment for the speakers to share their expert knowledge. This program will include a safety briefing and demonstration and a live demonstration of a life raft, inflatable PFDs and flares.
On the arrival end, British Virgin Islands-bound boats will now be able to sail directly to Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola where BVI Customs & Immigration officials will be on-hand. This makes for a speedier check-in rather than stopping at Soper’s Hole first. In addition, the Bahamas Class will now sail to Nassau, chosen to make for a safer landfall, rather than Marsh Harbour in the Abacos.
“Nassau offers the advantage of deep-water safe access day and night, a full range of shore-based services and direct flights for crew changes,” says Wyatt. “It is well situated for passages south or north into the Bahamas island groups for onward cruising.”
Fifty-two vessels were registered for this year’s Caribbean 1500 as of mid-September, with the fleet expected to grow to 55 or 60 boats by November. This is certainly a healthy fleet size, considering that numbers have ranged from a low of 35 in 2003 to a high of 79 in 2010. The smallest boats so far this year are David Densmore’s Valiant 37 Curlew, and Dan and Susan Kain’s Island Packet 37, Wind Dancer. The largest is Fran Schwenk’s Hylas 70 Archangel. There are five multihulls; all catamarans. There are three Canadian boats: Dancing Lizard, Nyctea and Oceano 2. The rest of the fleet is flying the US flag.
“Three of the fleet will be using this year’s Caribbean 1500 as a warm-up for a bigger adventure,” explains Wyatt. “At Last, Ice Wars II and Southern Cross will be joining the 30-strong World ARC fleet in Saint Lucia in January for a fifteen month circumnavigation.
The vast majority of boats are sailing in the fun competition Cruising Division, but there is also a non-competitive cruise-in-company in the Open Division.”
As for the ralliers themselves, 16 are returning ‘veterans’ who have completed one or more previous Caribbean 1500 rallies. Many of the crews will have sailed the Caribbean 1500 in double figures, too. One notable return rallier is Caribbean 1500 founder, Steve Black.
“I’m looking forward to it,” says Black, who will sail his Pacer 42, Madrugada. “The 1500 has always been the best way to cruise to the Caribbean, and now I can relax and enjoy it with everyone else. I will see lots of old friends and have the chance to meet many new ones. For us, it is a fun race with good parties, a good crew list, and professional weather routing. What more could you want?”
First time ralliers include newly retired biotech CEO Dean Cuplin, who has relinquished one-design racing in San Diego and is using the Caribbean 1500 to start the cruising life with partner, Linda, on their classic Chuck Paine designed Rival Bowman 48, Amara. Other first-timers are Mark Bigalke and Eileen Morgan who are taking a sabbatical from work to sail their newly-refitted Cherubini 44 Wavelength. Their previous boat was a 22ft Falmouth Cutter which they sailed in the Bahamas; however the Caribbean 1500 will be the first time that they’ve spent more than one night on passage.
Bob Woods, who completed a Safety at Sea training and Ocean Sailing Seminar in Annapolis, will also join the rally for the first time aboard his Morris 46 Lexington at the recommendation of North Sails instructor and Caribbean 1500 veteran Carolyn Grant. Wood’s desire to sail the Caribbean 1500 echoes the sentiments of many who cast off for the first time: “I have started sailing and owning a boat late in life and feel I need to push myself,” says Woods. “I am determined not to enjoy my boat sitting in a marina”.
The rally will finish with an awards ceremony and safe arrival party on November 17 at Nanny Cay Marina.
For more information, visit: www.worldcruising.com/carib1500
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.