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Ha-Ha Folks in Caribbean 1500

As we’ve often written, we West Coast sailors generally have a much easier time getting to the tropics than do our sailing friends on the East Coast. Lynn Potter and Larry Klein of the Carmichael-based Catalina 470 Beaudacious, vets of the ’06 Ha-Ha who have just finished the Caribbean 1500, will vouch for that. Here’s Lynn’s report:

"We made it! But I can assure you that it was not all smooth sailing.

"First of all, we were saddened to learn of the loss of a sister sailor, Jan Anderson of the formerly Sausalito-based Island Packet Triple Stars, who was sailing in the NARC (North American Rally to the Caribbean) from Newport to St. Martin. She was also an alumni of the ’06 Ha-Ha.

"The Caribbean 1500 was delayed for four days due to Tropical Storm Sean, and even so, we had some very challenging conditions. While listening to radio weather reports along the way, we learned that some of the entrants in the Salty Dog Rally — a group that sort of shadows the 1500 — who decided to leave on time despite the forecasts for bad weather, did experience some very difficult conditions. A few, who had gone against the advice of respected weather guru Herb Hilgenberg, reported 60 knots of wind with nowhere to hide. We believe it was during this time period that Jan Anderson was swept overboard by a 30-ft wave.

"Even though we missed the worst of the weather, the 1500 was the longest and most difficult passage we’ve done to date. It was further proof to us that East Coast sailing is certainly more rigorous than West Coast sailing.

"To recap, we had 22 to 30 knots of wind, with gusts to 35 knots and sloppy seas, for the last four days of the 11 days of our passage. The bearings in our alternator went out, so we had no engine for 7 of the 11 days. Mind you, even the winner of our division motored for 2.5 days. Our mainsail halyard broke, sending the main crashing on deck. Our autopilot gave us fits, periodically kicking out for no reason with no warning. In addition, all the alarms on our electronics started going off for no reason.

"Interestingly, those who had done the 1500 before said it wasn’t as bad as previous years. And our two crew, Jim Mueller and Rob Orr, who were terrific, are now saying they enjoyed the trip! As for me, Lynn, maybe it was like childbirth and I’ll forget the bad parts soon. But the captain is going to have to do a lot of sweet talking to get me to sail rather than fly across the Atlantic.

"As for being down here in the Caribbean, the weather is beautiful and the islands are simply gorgeous. We made wonderful friends in the 1500, and loved the camraderie. Now, the repairs, laundry and cleaning begin."

Because the speed of the boats and the length of the course in an event like the 1500, participants can have very different experiences. Here’s the report from the Caribbean catamaran legend, and our dear friend, DRandy West of St. Barth, who sailed John Winter’s Morrelli & Choy 80 Fat Cat to line and class honors in the 1500:

DRandy West sailed Fat Cat to victory in the Caribbean 1500.

Fat Cat
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Nothing like driving a house at 25 knots, jumping off waves and trying not to jibe. But after the first 24 hours in the Caribbean 1500, when we were 280 miles down the pike, we did just that. It was controlled, quiet, and far to the east of the rest of the whole damn fleet when we went over to the other jibe — and it left us in last place! Four days later, after a slow 210-mile day, we busted into the lead, sailing in the low 20s and pulling off a 340-mile day. Our only competition for line honors, the Tripp 78 Blackbird, ex-Bella Pita, was 70 miles ahead most of the way. But in the end, we beat them by 10 hours. Fat Cat is one fast house! This year’s rally wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun. Tactical weather routing was the key. Our computer took a slam, so I called a good friend of mine and the Wanderer, Capt. Tom Reardon of the legendary Herreshoff 72 Ticonderoga to ask what he thought. ‘East will not be least,’ said Tom, so away we went to the east. Between calling Tom and HQ, my keeper of a girlfriend, for position reports from the fleet, our spirits were kept high and we raced hard to the bitter end. Happy and humbled, we are now in Nanny Cay, Tortola waiting for the other 60 boats to arrive. I love my life!"

DRandy and HQ are lovin’ life in the Caribbean.

DRandy West
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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Whether you’re in Mexico or Montana, have a terrific Thanksgiving! © 2011 Lynn Ringseis No doubt you’ll be spending tomorrow with family doing all the traditional Thanksgiving things — pigging out on turkey and pumpkin pie, watching football, sleeping .