Friday 8 February, St.Maarten day 11: 1st race of the multihull regatta.
First race starts 2pm but they want to get out at 11am to do some practice. Before that I head to town to find some tubular pipe insulation to put around the new aluminium hoop for our asymmetric’s snuffler. I eventually find some in an air conditioning shop, then head to FKG to pick up the hoop. The hoop , made of 5/8” solid aluminium rod, is nicely done and was quick, I only ordered it 20 hours ago! Then to North Sails with hoop and insulation. Disappointingly the manager there says they can’t sew the hoop in very tightly, so the rubber insultstion will likely fall off. I hate it when people use the word “can’t” without even looking at the situation, right now the wooden hoop is sewn in very tightly. If they really “can’t” do it then I’ll take the damned thing back and hand sew it myself!
Meanwhile the bimini is finished (that was quick) so I take it back to Cloudy Bay and start to fit it back on its frames. But in doing so I notice one or two other places where it needs attention and will likely soon rip. So I will take it back again on Monday. As they say: “1 stitch in time, saves 9”. Never more true than on a yacht! On a windy day, there are huge forces on the bimini, and I often wonder how it actually stays firmly in place.
By 11am I’m dressed ready for racing. But of course, as I arrive to Ineffable they are anything but ready! The trampoline is covered in gear that they want to offload. Anything and everything. Steve even wants to transfer fuel from their tanks into containers and get that off the boat too. They must be nuts, taking off a few hundred Kgs from a 60ft yacht seem pointless to me. But soon Aaron’s Bavaria 45 is along side and its decks get covered in Ineffiable’s gear.
By 13:00 we finally whey anchor and get ready to sail. Even then we only get the mainsail up just 15 mins before the race. Aaron, by the way is a new hand. Steve, the owner, met him in Guadeloupe and he is supposed to be a hot trimaran sailor. So he is designated to run the crew while Steve just helms. Let’s see how this works 🙂
Among other things that are not working on the boat, there is a big problem with the reacher halyard. Strangely the head of the reacher locks in at the mast. The halyard, just 6mm dynema, is only used to get the sail up and into that locking device, then tension comes off the halyard. Steve says it’s to reduce compression in the mast … which I cannot figure – the sail hangs on the mast whether on a halyard or locked in, no? Anyway, it seems like a pointless gizmo to me. And, a gizmo that doesn’t work properly. It takes a lot to get it locked correctly, all wasting valuable time when making sail changes. More on this later!
We make a reasonable start, round the first buoy to starboard then head south around the tip of St.Martin where the next buoy is. I’ve read the course and the race instructions and I know we pass this buoy to port, going between the buoy and the headland. But Aaron has other ideas and says we must pass it to starboard. Twice I ask, “are you sure, I think we need to round it to port”. But we continue as if I’ve said nothing. And in fact the cat in front of us passes to starboard, just as Aaron is planning. OK, I must be wrong, starboard it must be. But then after we pass the buoy, the cat in front has turned around and is coming back. Hmmm I wonder why? As we watch him, he re-rounds the buoy, to port this time. Confusion then reins between Steve and Arron and after a few minutes the crew is ordered to tack around and we too head back for the buoy … to pass it correctly to port. There is not a single utterance of words like “Glen you were right”. Instead I’m amazed to hear, “I just heard the course was changed last minute!”. OK that does it, I’m clearly here only to be told what to do, not use my brain. So be it, I’ll just enjoy the sail and not try to be too clever!
Up the next leg, to an island off Anguilla, the sheep contingent of the crew are told to lie on the leeward trampoline to keep the windward hull out of the water. OK, I get that, but “with your heads down to decrease windage”. Seriously? We just lost 10 minutes going the wrong way around a buoy and now our 3 little heads (little vs the 60ft trimaran!) are causing windage. Ha ha … this is starting to be funny!
After a couple of hours we are back at the finish line and looks like we got 4th out of 5. One thing that stands out is that we covered the 20 mile course in under 2 hours. These multihull races are fast! Even the photographer boat was struggling to keep up sometimes (yes, I did dare to have a peek at the world from our heads down position!).
Back on the anchor we decide to take out the reacher halyard because the outer sleeve has stripped off and need milking back on. Then comes a very nasty and rather explosive argument between Steve and crew member Ross, who had previously attempted to fix the halyard and is now taking significant flak from the Captain. It’s a very odd crew set up here. I don’t think I’ve ever raced on a yacht with such crew dynamics and tensions. Maybe I won’t race tomorrow – I really don’t need this! But unfortunately the boat itself is rather compelling to sail, so I’ll probably stick with it.
And it ended up with me and Ross on the deck milking the halyard back to some sort of reasonable condition while the other more senior members of the crew head into the bar! What is really needed is a new halyard. But 50m of dynema is not likely to give much change out of $1000! All of a sudden I’m glad we don’t attempt to race Cloudy Bay! Our dynema halyards are 10 years old and still in great shape. This one on my hand right now is only 3 months old!
The yacht club is still lively by the time I arrive. But I don’t spend long there. It’s an earlier race tomorrow and I have to be on board for an 8am departure – so early to bed for me – with hands more than slightly sore from milking rope 🙁