Yesterday was Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — so big, loud and colorful dance celebrations took place all over the globe. But few places in the world celebrate Carnival as lustily on a per capita basis than do the islands of the Caribbean.
We joined the Mardi Gras fun on St. Barth. Since it’s one of the least populated islands in the Caribbean, St. Barth had one of the smaller celebrations. Even still, thousands — including every sailor in the area — turned out in wild costumes to street dance to blaring music from 3 p.m. until the wee hours. Despite the fact that it was about as mixed a group of races, ages and sexes as possible, and despite the fact there was constant drinking and plenty of pot smoking, there wasn’t a gendarme in sight. There didn’t need to be, either, as there were no unpleasant incidents. That’s Carnival as it should be.
Constant, heavy rain on Sunday wasn’t enough to deter over 60% of the Corinthian YC Midwinters fleet from showing up for the final day of the series. After being treated to a gray but dry Saturday that actually produced a little breeze, Sunday doled out a good dose of precipitation that brought the breeze with it.
This year’s series was record-breaking in the entry department, with 167 boats signed up in 11 spinnaker and non-spinnaker handicap classes — including a first-ever class for cruising cats — plus three one design classes.
Gordie Nash was presented with the "partially subjective performance trophy," while Richmond YC won the Aotea Team Trophy. Full results are available here.
"I think Yacht Fest was fantastic!" said Joan Burleigh of Trident Funding this morning. "In fact, I’m completing some business from the show as we speak."
Trident was one of roughly 25 vendors who exhibited their wares at the four-day boat show and trade fair, held last week at Alameda’s Marina Village Yacht Harbor. Adding an educational component to the show, a half-dozen seminars — on topics ranging from SSB installation to inside-the-Bay cruising — were also very well attended. By all accounts, the show was a huge success — especially for a first-time event — and there’s a wide consensus among exhibitors that it should become an annual, if not biannual, affair.
As national economic news has grown increasingly gloomy, marine sector sales have plummeted. But as some politicians have been pointing out lately, with an economic downturn comes new opportunities. For boaters, that translates to killer deals on boats and gear that will likely disappear when the economy rebounds. Shoppers at Yacht Fest seemed to get this concept, as a number of big boats were sold — at extremely attractive prices.
Other exhibitors included financing companies, insurance firms, yacht clubs, sailing schools and dinghy retailers. Our hats are off to Debbie Reynolds of Passage Yachts and Alan Weaver of Marina Village for shouldering the heaviest organizational burdens. Alan and his staff somehow managed to shoehorn about 125 boats into the show basin. Ben Oldham of Passage estimates that 2,000 boaters attended the Thursday-to-Sunday show!
The inaugural RORC Caribbean 600 came in like a lion on Monday, and went out like a leopard this morning — ICAP Leopard, to be exact. Mike Slade’s spectacular 100-ft Farr maxi took early command of the monohull contingent of this brand new race and never relinquished it, finishing the pinball-like course around the Leeward Antilles in 44 h, 5 m. That’s 600 miles in less than two days, which gives you some idea of the equally spectacular conditions the 25-boat fleet sailed in — bright sun, boisterous seas and a whole bunch of warm tradewind.
But with all deserved kudos for her amazing performance — Leopard finished some 70 hours before the Swan 90 DSK Pioneer was due in — they weren’t the first across the finish line. That achievement went to the ORMA 60 trimaran Region Guadeloupe (ex-Primagaz), which was skippered by John Burnie and crewed by a group of eight guys who normally make their livings — as superyacht skippers! They set the first multihull and overall record: 40 h, 11 m.
Even with 23 boats still on the race course as of this morning — ranging in size from the Giro 34 Claire de Vents to the splendid 115-ft Farr ketch Sojana — this race already has all the trappings of an instant classic. So a ‘lions share’ of kudos also goes to the Royal Ocean Racing Club, who came up with the idea of a ‘grand tour’ of the Leeward Islands starting off at English Harbor, Antigua, on February 23. The course takes competitors around a dozen marks off nine different islands (some of which are themselves the marks), and finishes back off Antigua. Overall scoring will be based on IRC handicaps.
For more on the Caribbean 600, log onto http://caribbean600.rorc.org.