Feb 13, 2020
photo by Tim Wright
By Larry Huibers
Touch2Play Racing started the 2020 Caribbean season off at Grenada Race Week. While not the largest event on the Circuit it has a certain charm that can’t be beat. Since the island is so low in the Windward/ Leeward chain it doesn’t draw as many boats that use the delivery events from Europe and the east coast of the US to attend the northern events. The boats that come to play certainly come to play hard. Local boats have seasoned sailors that know both their boats and the waters very well. Local knowledge is helpful but when sailing off the beach the shifts and puffs are large and random. On some races the short beat to the beach spread the fleet out nicely, other times it compressed the fleet into a rounding more like a 50 boat J24 fleet with 65 footers getting there at the same time as the 33’s. Fleets ranged from CSA, Classics and a fleet of J24’s sailing largely W/L races on their own course. In CSA1 and 3 there were several boats that teams could charter including a well-prepared Elan 450 and a First 40 with friendly and skilled sailors from Russia. I can’t comment too much on the fleets outside of CSA 1, we were very busy keeping an eye on our competition.
For those who can’t get sailing in the winter, I don’t mean to pour saltwater on your separation anxiety from racing but this event is really fun. The first 2 days of racing are a series of zig zags around predetermined marks giving various course options including all points of sail, navigational and current/ tide considerations. The wind blew anywhere from 8 to 20 knots and varied no more than 10 degrees from the East the whole time, except when it didn’t. The “didn’t part” seemed to plague us with getting caught on the wrong side of a brief shift at starts twice but benefiting us one time nicely. The shifts lined up in our favor that race and we led wire to wire giving us our only win of the week.
What is unique about this event is the fact that the whole regatta moves to the other side of the island mid week. This provides for a new race area with totally different sea state; open ocean, big waves etc. Thursday’s 1st race was from the protection of the bay around the point that the airport is on and finishing just off Secret Harbor Marina, about 14 miles in length. This was followed up by 2 more races around different marks. Some boats liked the new conditions and reveled in the waves, both on and off the wind. So by Thursday evening we had completed 9 of the scheduled 10 races. One more big one Friday to settle the positions. First and second were locked up by this time but it was game on for the final podium. Last year we were 3rd and hoped to copy that result. Whistler, a new J121 that spent the summer on the US east coast got the early jump and we were playing both catch up and protect from behind at the same time. Whistler had an awesome race for a well earned first. And after a rare slip up by Liquid, the fast regatta winning J122, we saved our time on them by 2 seconds to finish 2nd sealing our podium.
Some great things about the style of racing in the Caribbean Sailing Association circuit is;
1) their rating system is unbelievably fair in rating such disparate types of boats. Our delta’s between places was; a tie, 2 seconds, 2 second, 3 seconds, 8 seconds, 14 seconds and 17 seconds. These were races that varied from as short as 50 minutes to as long as 2 hours, that’s 46 seconds corrected over 11 and ½ hours of racing. You need to push hard all the time, sail selection is critical and understanding what the courses may through you.
2) The conditions are spectacular; the pictures don’t do it justice. The water is warm, the scenery magnificent, the winds are reliable, the Trade Winds are stable and challenging without being extreme.
3) The people absolutely love showing off their piece of paradise. The folks of Grenada are kind and welcoming. Their infrastructure is superb as is transportation there, direct flights from Toronto often enough to make it easy.
So executive summary: sun, wind, waves, racing, and parties. Grenada, we’ll be back.