Thursday, March 15, 2012

George Town, Let the fun begin!
21st Feb-13th March 2012                                                                                                        P3103168
What do you get when you combine 300 boats, over 600 enthusiastic people, 25 wacky events, flat aqua water, sunny days, sandy beaches and a good dose of competitive sportsmanship? You get the 32nd Annual George Town Cruising Regatta, where this year’s motto was “cowboy boots ‘n bathing suits”.
During the last few weeks we had heard on the radio of the steady stream of boats who were either making their way to George Town or were already there. Loosely we’d also heard of a sailing regatta which is held there each March but truly nothing prepared us for the amazing sight when we rounded the point and entered Elizabeth Harbour. A forest of  masts and boats at anchor lay ahead sprawled across three beaches, Sandollar, Monument and Volleyball beaches, the latter being pretty much the centre of the universe for activities. We hadn’t seen anything like this since we shared the start line of the Sydney to Hobart race back in 1994 with 350 other yachts. It was almost a case of “whoever is the last to leave the USA and Canada, turn the lights off!”
Apart from knowing a couple of boats who were already there, over the next 2 weeks with that many boats at anchor, we would certainly be meeting a whole lot more. With the memories still fresh in our minds of how hard it was to race GWTW  with just the two of us around the buoys in the Hopetown Regatta, we really didn’t give racing here in  the GeorgeTown Regatta much of a second thought. However, our good and extremely persuasive friends, Barb and Jay on Jupiter’s Smile,  obviously had other plans and after sowing the seeds and bringing the racing topic up in a couple of casual conversations, it quickly became clear  to us that there would be no  way to say no to our would be gunG-ho racing crew. And when the Remi De’s heard the news that there was a possibility that GWTW would be entered in the races they too jumped on the bandwagon. The gauntlets were thrown down and come registration day both Liam and Bruce were lined up to complete the entry forms, the race between the two Aussie  flagged cats was on.
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P2262862 P2262861There were to be four racing divisions, three for the monohulls and one for the multihulls, about 40 boats in total  for each of the two races, one inside the harbour and one outside around Stocking Island. Phil and Karel from Tehani Li seemed to be at a loose end so we corralled them to  join our crew as well, the more the merrier we figured and  as we were all about the same vintage, there was not a rock star amongst us. Racing would take place on  the following Thursday and Saturday but before and after those days were many other events to keep everyone occupied. The list included a dinghy parade, trivia night, pet parade, opening night party, bocce, bridge, the coconut challenge, beach volleyball, scavenger hunts, softball, sand sculptures, arts & crafts, small boat races, poker games, bible studies, beach church and last but most importantly the awards ceremony and farewell dance party. Jeez, I’m tired just thinking about all that was crammed into those 14 days.
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After settling in to our anchorage at Sandollar beach it was time for a bit of down-time before all the regatta events began (like you never have any of that I hear you say). So we trotted over to the Atlantic side of the island, via a single shoe pathway, for a bit of sun and surf. A couple of people, Annie included, tried their hand at body surfing, while others gave the paddleboards a workout in the waves. Liam opted for chilling out and reading a book on the sand.
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Next day we did a bit of snorkeling in search of our favorite crustaceans but  the only creatures we spotted were a large Barracuda and a rather menacing looking shark that cruised past us, unfortunately the camera had been left in the dinghy, a place that Annie made a beeline for after the shark disappeared  into the abyss. Later that week an evening was earmarked for a beach bonfire with Tehani Li, Jupiter’s Smile, Good Trade, Remi De and a few others who saw the smoke and  just dropped in. We didn’t broadcast our get-together too widely for fear of having the entire anchorage turn up.
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The opening night party at the Chat’nChill on Volleyball beach, which saw us dancing the night away on the sand, was preceded in the afternoon by a pet parade. Many, and I mean many, cruising boats have their pets on board, mainly dogs but there are a sprinkling of cats and birds. In keeping with the regatta theme many of the animals were dressed in cowboy outfits, though it didn’t really matter what they wore as it was a fun event and everybody got a prize.
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Our first scheduled event of the regatta was the hilarious Coconut Harvest, a team sport divided into three action packed events. We enlisted Phil & Karel from Tehani Li as team mates. First up was the coconut dinghy harvest where1100 coconuts are released into the water and  team members in their inflatable dinghy, sans outboards, are allowed one flipper each to propel the dinghy while trying to gather as many coconuts as possible while staying inside the dinghy.This was a definite “get wet sport” and we returned with a pitiful 11 nuts while others managed 200! Good on - ya team Sea Donkey aka Good Trade. It was a hoot to say the least.
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The next two events were the Coconut Catch were you had  30 seconds to throw 25 nuts to the thrower who tossed them backwards over her head to the two catchers with a garbage bag, we did well in that event . Part three of the challenge was the Coconut Toss, which involved throwing two nuts in five seconds over the volleyball net and into a bulls eye on the sand, much harder than it sounds I can assure you. We actually topped the class in this section, but struggled in the other events. Oh well, maybe next year we will do better.

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Finally the Yacht racing  day arrived, the first race was a 9 mile course around the buoys inside Elizabeth harbour. A fleet of ten cats were entered with Remi De being the big gun at 57 ft and GWTW  a few feet shorter at 52ft. But really size doesn’t matter as it’s all about tactics and how you sail on the day. The dark horse in the fleet was Glory Days, a Schionning 49 from Nova Scotia. With the race being dictated by handicaps GWTW and Remi De had to give a lot of time to the smaller cats, that was fair. After all the monos had crossed the start line it was the multihulls turn. Now you can take the racer out of the race boat but you can never take the racer out of a an old cruiser, and with that thought in mind GWTW hit the start line just as we had back in our Middle Harbour Yacht Club racing days, right as the gun went off. Leading the fleet over the line and up to towards the first mark  we looked good, then  Remi De came in on our starboard side getting a good lift just as we got to the mark making us give way to her as she rounded. Bugger!. The fleet split as we sailed downwind and coming into the bottom mark there was another tussle as we all tried to get around a few slow monos. By this stage the Schonning, who we now realized that we also had to give time to and was lightening fast, had taken the lead. The next circuit around the harbour saw the places hardly change with the end result over the line being Glory Days,  Remi De, then GWTW. The favorite, Not for Sale, a St Francis 50 was out the back door.
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Race two was an around-the-island race and with a forecast of 20-25 knots we cautiously put one reef in the mainsail before the start. Once again GWTW hit the line for the downwind start right on the gun, though we proved to be easy takings for those chasing us with full mainsails.
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That descion to reef, based on the forecast, proved to be crucial as we were passed by four boats before the bottom mark. And when we saw the sea state outside it wasn’t that bad at all, the reef came out in a hurry and we set sail in pursuit of the leaders who were now over a mile in front. Now you need to appreciate the “thoroughbred” blue-water sailing ability of GWTW, she is  designed for fast ocean passages, and we were now  back out in the Atlantic Ocean with a headwind in excess of 20 knots, and white-capped waves to boot…you beauty!  With our trimmers Jay, Barb, Phil, Karel  and Annie working overtime we gradually overhauled all but ‘Glory Days”, she was exceptionally fast and well sailed.
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It took a couple of hours and several tacks to reach the upwind mark and we turned the corner close on the heels of Glory Days, but there was no running her down in these conditions. Over last seven miles with Annie at the helm we crossed the finish line in second place and with  lots of cheers, backslapping and handshaking on board, everyone was elated with our efforts at coming from behind and keeping the Schonning, “Glory Days”  honest. After sailing 29 miles we finished less than 200 yards behind the winner, a very satisfying outcome. So we had two good races.
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Over the finishing line we were 3rd in the harbour race and 2nd in the longer round-the-island race with the final trophy results subject to handicap. For us, the highlight  of the races were the smiles on the faces of our crew when GWTW  hit over 12.7 knots of  boat speed. Our crew  were all ardent monohull sailors and really loved the thrill of sailing a fast catamaran. The races were a blast, and  were certainly one of the highlights of our time in George Town.
Moving  along, our final competitive event was the beach golf tournament aptly named the Barracuda Classic. You guessed it, every hole was like playing out of a  bunker with the target 50 yards away, it was challenging. Robbie and Jenny off the English boat Maymio joined us for our team. With Robbie being a regular golfer in the UK and actually having a handicap, we felt quietly confident. That level of confidence gradually dissipated, and with the exception of Annie who scored a 32, we all had a pretty ordinary round. In fact, Robbie won the coveted trophy for the highest score! Enough said, but we did laugh a lot, so that’s a good thing, golf can be way too serious at times.
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So, what was there left to do after a two exhausting weeks at the George Town Regatta ?…the answer is the awards and  farewell party night, and what a fabulous night it was.
Now picture this, around a couple of hundred cruisers, squeaky sand between your toes, a brilliant DJ, Rockin’ Ron from Sea Dancer with lots of catchy songs, our vintage of course, an abundance of beverages,some pub type food and you’ve definitely got the ingredients of a very fun night. The mood was buoyant, everyone was having a ball, it was a great place to be and it actually got even better when they started  handing out the awards.
No one actually knew who won the yacht races on handicap up until that night, it was the closely guarded secret of the  racing committee. Sure there was lots of conjecture but no one knew for certain. In the interests of brevity we’ll skip the monohull results and move straight to the main event, the multihulls. As it turned out they announced 3rd place  for the inner-harbour race first and the winner is…Gone with the Wind!  With lots of cheering from our crew,and big smiles  Annie, collected the trophy and a bottle of rum. We were pretty chuffed.

Remi De took second prize, good on - ya guys, and surprise, surprise, Glory Days got first. Next up, in the the around the island race - 3rd place…Gone with the Wind!.  Annie, and a  very reluctant Barb (she was the driving force behind us entering  the races in the first place) trotted up to collect some more goodies,  another trophy and more rum, with Glory Days  coming second and Windsong (a 42 foot Chris White design from South Africa) getting first.
Then  came the award we new that we had to have won, best start over the line, yada , yada, yada…..Gone with the Wind!   And  for the third time, Liam still doesn’t want to be in the limelight, Annie and her helpers collect the prize and some more rum, like we really need more rum, but hey there could be a  rum drought tomorrow so we guess this is good. Overall we gratefully accepted four bottles of rum and a few trophies and ribbons, it was a damn good night out!
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After we all patted each other on the back and reflected on the races it was dance time. You can imagine the atmosphere, everyone is happy and laughing and attempting to  look good on the dance floor, though not always succeeding. So the final regatta event was great and we loved it, a real credit to all the tireless people who organised the entire two weeks.
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As always ,with an eye on the weather we were now keen to move on, and the following Tuesday looked  good, that was now just 2 days away. But before we left town there was to be a Sunday night feast of Elk burgers , compliments of Ross, Ashlyne and Kyler, the crew of Good Trade (ex Barefeet – Chris and Erin). Ross is an accomplished hunter, he killed the Elk with a bow and arrow, and that would not be an  easy shot . The burgers were fabulous and we enjoyed an evening on  board Remi De, (they have the biggest Catamaran), singing badly and talking  about all our cruising plans for next season. The day before we left Georgetown, Bruce, from Remi De, celebrated his 48th birthday, yet another excuse for a home made cappuccino and a big gooey chocolate cake…thanks Toni and little Miss Remi for including us in that special day.
It must have been birthday season,for  Karel off Tehani -Li had her birthday a couple of days later..Karel,  hope you enjoyed the champers, we toasted to your good health, and Liam’s is just a week away as well.. mental note..  save the liver not buy rum!!.
So now we’re pretty much ready to go again, the fueling and provisioning is done and Long Island, about 40 miles south east, is is next on the agenda. After that we’re off to  the Turks and Caicos and then Puerto Rico, some 650 miles away then maybe Trinidad or maybe Cuba. It’s in the lap of the Gods.  Let’s all pray for calm seas fair winds! So for now it was goodbye to all our friends both new ,young and old, that is until our wakes cross again. And especially to the crews of the four Aussie boats who just happened to  bump into each other so far from home in GeorgeTown during the same two weeks,who would have thought. It really is a small world!
Would we recommend the  Annual GeorgeTown Regatta? Absolutely…there is something there for everyone -  be it dogs, kids, old racers or cruisers. It’s a great place to spend two fun filled weeks in March, in fact it’s the most fun that we’ve had in years and we’ll more than likely be back again next year….. so to all our friends..  get your butts  up here to Georgetown and join in the fun .

Cruiser’s hailing channel :VHF 68.             General Info & Regatta events: Radio net on VHF ch 72 each morning @0800 Fuel: By jerry can from the Shell service station on Lake Victoria.                      Water: Free from hose at dinghy dock near Exuma market. Supermarket: Exuma market, fresh deliveries on Monday & Thursdays.   Trash: only to be placed in the dumpster on Government dock. Pump out boat: call on VHF 16 Mon –Sat $10 fee.                   WI-FI; from Gaviota bay wi-fi, cost $2 per 75mins( can log in & out to save mins) , purchase tickets from St Francis Yacht Club behind Chat ‘n Chill on volleyball beach. Taxi share : to airport VHF 68.Hardware store: AID/Napper, 3 mile walk north of town. Laundromat: corner Laundromat near traffic circle. Computer repair & Internet: J&K computers near traffic circle.                    Marine store: Top to Bottom, main street of town.

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