Venomous snakes in the Caribbean!!!
Standing on the super yacht dockside the Friday before the race in Falmouth Harbour Antigua, Venomous, Windward Sailing’s Caroll Marine 60, looked half the size and height of the other yachts apart from a couple of 40.7’s moored alongside the Skullduggery bar.
A couple of swimming trips to Pigeon beach in crystal clear turquoise water several rum punches and Pina Coladas had settled us quickly into the half speed Caribbean way of life but it was time to wake up as there was racing on the horizon.
As the crew started to turn up, translucent from the lack of sun this winter in the UK, the sense of urgency increased as sails were turned out of Venomous’ forward hatch. Prior to 2 days of race training and preparations including sampling the many cocktails available at Hamilton’s Bar.
Venomous left the pontoon around 10am, and by 1030 the main was up and Mark was leading us through the pre race start manoeuvres. First to start at 1130 was IRC 1, 2 and the Class 40’s, with our start 10 minutess later. The first leg was a beat to Green Island at the Eastern side of Antigua before freeing off to a reach to the North Sails buoy laid off Barbuda. With the kite up and spinnaker staysail we punched through the chop and whilst I was on the helm a large humpbacked whale breached directly in front of the boat before passing to starboard giving the rest of the crew a good show.
As we rounded St Martin in bright sunshine a photo boat came out to greet us, taking some excellent pictures as we reached along the south west coast before beating around the top of the island in the company of an Open 40 that we’d been pacing through the night. Passing the top of St Martin we then settled into a 150nm leg reaching South past St Barth’s, Nevis, Redonda and Guadeloupe until we were south of Les Saintes. Until Guadeloupe we’d been in steady 22kn breeze generally rising up to 27kn at times at night. On the second night we had our first respite as we came past Guadeloupe, falling into a windless hole at the Southern end of the Island which lasted 2 hours before leaving the shelter between it and Les Saintes. The next leg as Wednesday arrived had us sailing North East around the bottom of Guadeloupe to the eastern tip of Les Desirade staying clear of the protected sea park around Iles de la Petite Terre where we overtook Concise 2 an Open 40 (they later applauded in the yacht club for our hiking efforts on the rail after 2 days!). During the afternoon we reached towards the North Sails mark again off Barbuda which we arrived around 9pm (although we didn’t see it in the dark so continued well past its stated position) before bearing away to Redonda a very tall small island just NW of Montserrat. This leg was only the third time we’d been able to use the Spinnaker, most of the time being under the #4 jib, so we made best use of it with Paul having a great fast drive achieving over 13kn at times.
We rounded Redonda in the small hours of Thursday having just slipped ahead of Oceans Seven, and with only 35 miles to go all the crew stuck it out on the rail on the final beat back to the finish line. With a good breeze Venomous was kicking up some spray so it was decided to take it in turns to shuffle forwards to the front of the boat to get soaked. After a while Will and I were at the front of the queue, but being dog tired it didn’t seem worth the effort to move back after 20 mins so it was here we were sitting when we crossed the finishing line off English harbour on Thursday at 07:06:50. A photo boat was there to get some pictures and after dropping the main and jib we sailed into Falmouth harbour to be greeted by RORC committee members plying us with crates of Carib beer. Its never too early for a beer after a long offshore race!!!
Overall an eventful race with a broken bowsprit, Will having to aloft to retrieve a snapped staysail halyard, humpbacked whales, long dark nights, steady 20kn+ breeze and some confused seas but the general opinion (after a few rum punches) was of an epic race snaking around the windward leeward islands.
Antigua put on a great après race party with a carnival procession to the Mad Mongoose, although this was eclipsed by the crews karaoke efforts in particular Calum getting a standing ovation from the crowd. The crew were great fun to be with, the photos say it all…Caribbean 600, what’s not to like…
Guy Shelbourne March 2011