The Caribbean racing season is underway with the 6th edition of Grenada Sailing Week held January 28 to February 1. Hillary Noble, taking a break from the New England winter, shares this report from the bow of the Reflex 38 Touch2Play Racing:
A record fleet of 40 boats gathered at Port Louis Marina, and it being my first year racing in this event, I was really excited to see what this so-called friendly island was all about. Just as I expected, the competitors brought their A-game and race officials and volunteers had one goal in mind: great racing, hospitality, and tons of fun!
Racing began on Monday, on the south end of the island just west of the airport, off the pristine Grand Anse beach. Local knowledge played a key role in staying in pressure and setting up for what new pressure was to come. Most of the local teams played the shoreline often, giving them the famous ‘elevator lifts’ to easily one-put the top end of the race course.
If you could break away from the pack and get into the pressure first, you had a great chance of leading around the windward mark. The wind was shotty on the south end, with the land breeze mixing with sea breeze tunneling over the huge mountainous terrain.
This created huge puffs and huge holes, something to really keep an eye out for! We dug into a lot of puffs, but we may have found a hole where it seemed like our world stopped, while the rest of the world kept spinning. Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones to find it.
Day two was very similar, presenting puffy conditions that made the racing fun and unpredictable. It reminded me of college sailing, with the auto-tacks and huge lifts that would give you 30-degrees more point than the boat just to leeward of you.
The last race on day two was a 12-mile race and a downwind start. We checked our angles to assure that our starting line plan would be successful – and boy was it ever! Instead of leading our fleet in, we tailed the competition and right as we started we executed a perfect jibe-set, hoisting our code zero.
Being one of the last boats to enter the starting area by the RC end allowed us to fulfill our higher angle with ease after our set, while some boats chose to use their A2, making it impossible to get to us. At that point, it was full-steam ahead.
As we approached the tip of the runway, a massive JetBlue airliner came in hot, landing right over us which was exhilarating and got my adrenaline pumping for the next leg. At that point, you could see the land clearing ahead where our next mark was for us to honor and head upwind.
There was a 10-knot increase around the end out in the open on the east end of the island which made for the freshest upwind leg we had yet. Last minute call to change our headsail, we had 30 seconds to plug and hoist before we could get our code down.
One hell of an epic takedown with the wind howling and waves crashing on our port side, we got her in and we were headed uphill, keeping an eye out for the next mark. We hadn’t seen the other end of the island yet and WOW she was beautiful. Finishing off the point of Prickly Bay, I thought to myself, after the salt water shot under my sunglasses, this just doesn’t get any better!
On our layday, we left our Port Louis and stopped just outside to snorkel the underwater sculptures. We headed over to the beach after that and went ashore to the spice market and had lunch. After loading up on some local fare, we casted off and motored around the point to relocate our mother ship, a 50-foot catamaran called The Lodge VI to the east end of the island in Secret Harbour where racing would commence the remainder the week.
The last two days were just fantastic. Excellent racing, fun courses, and stiff competition. The courses were interesting and kept it fun and exciting for the pointy end. Our team vibe was great all week long and we all had a blast racing together. We ended up in third overall in CSA Racing division, which we were quite pleased with after the long week of challenging racing.
The Caribbean circuit is unlike any other racing circuit in the world. Sailors from all over the world come to experience new cultures, taste the amazing food, and make new connections. For most, it’s a vacation in itself. Living in Rhode Island these days, I appreciate the aspects of warm-weather sailing more than I ever have before. My crew could say the same, being from Canada and Northern New York.
For this event, I had the pleasure of making new friends and teammates. A few of the crew I’ve known for years and have spent a lot of time on the water racing and some were new crew to the program that meshed really well with the team and were fun to sail with. This regatta was a great experience and I highly recommended it to those who want to escape the winter and get a taste of some really fantastic sailing. I can’t wait to sail there again!