Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass July 2006


Trip to Tobago

by Wilfred Dederer

I don't get out of the Compass office a lot, but the timing was right and I managed to sneak out for a few days to be part of the 24th Angostura Sail Week, May 14 to 19 - watching and photographing, not actually sailing!

I joined the event late in the game, only arriving on Tuesday night (Bequia to Tobago by plane is a journey of many legs). Two days of racing, sponsored by YSATT and the Chaguaramas boatyards, had passed without me so I missed some of the sailing - and protest - action. On Race Days 1 and 2, the Racing Class had three races per day, and Storm, Crash Test Dummies, Bruggadung II and bMobile Hi Tenshun were all in hot contention. In all, 40 yachts, racing in five classes (counting Comfort Cruising as a separate class) crowded the starting line this year.

But luckily I reached in time for one of the main social events of Angostura Tobago Sail Week 2006 - the big party night in the regatta Village at Crown Point Beach Hotel. And what a party it was! Tobagonians and Trinidadians really know how to boogie; the place was packed. From Abba's "Dancing Queen" to KC & the Sunshine Band's "Do a Little Dance" plus soca and reggae, the live band IMIJ & Co from Trinidad, with their vocalists Michelle, Hilton and Russell, plus Joey Ng Wai on lead guitar, had the crowd jumping well into the early morning hours.

Exploring the Host Island
With a busy day ahead, though, I had to drag myself away early. Betty Davidson from regatta Promoters Ltd had put me in touch with the Department of Tourism of the Tobago House of Assembly, who'd organised a Lay Day sightseeing tour for me. I really wanted to see more of Tobago! So next day, taxi driver Calvin Isaac picked me up at the Hilton on the dot of 10AM for our tour round his island. The 74-year-old Tobagonian turned out to be a great ambassador - full of old-time stories about the island, its people and its history.
Our tour started on the Caribbean side, driving from Runnemede up to Mount Dillon, then to the fishing village of Castara with its gorgeous beach, passing famous Englishman's Bay with only a few yachts anchored there, and going along Parlatuvier Bay on the way to the 1800-foot high Pigeon Peak. The cool mountainous landscape in the north and Tobago's Forest Reserve in the centre of the island offer breathtaking views, while the road winds through lush rainforest with exotic plants and flowers. This area is also a bird-watchers' paradise and special guided tours through the rainforest are available to interested visitors.

So much to see, so little time - especially when you're taking so many photos! At lunchtime we met up with Darren Friday, Customer Relations Officer at the Department of Tourism. Over a huge platter of fresh seafood and local vegetables at Jema's Seafood Kitchen in Speyside, we talked about Tobago, its past and present and what it has to offer its visitors. And from even just a few hours here I could see that the island is truly beautiful - lush and unspoilt, with great beaches and really friendly people.
After lunch, we drove on through endless pretty villages to cabdriver Calvin's own very special place - Belle Gardens. Here on the windward side, back in 1959 and 1960, Walt Disney filmed parts of the hit movie "Swiss Family Robinson". Remains of old foundations still show where the film crew had built jetties to access the reef where the (movie) shipwreck had stranded.

Race Day Three
Lay Day was a great day, a real eye-opener for me, but now I was ready for some serious regatta action! The next day, Race Day 3, is my first regatta day out on the waters of Store Bay at Crown Point. Only one race today for all classes, and with more strong easterly winds between 15 and 20 knots, the sea was pretty rough. All classes follow the same course (shortened for the non-spinnaker boats), and a tightly competitive Racing Class leaves no room for errors or faint hearts around the marks! There's a whole lot of yelling and waving going on, with ace yacht photographer Tim Wright in the middle of it, witnessing and preserving the action.
Les Crouch's Trinidad-built Reichel Pugh 44, Storm; Paul Johnson's Beneteau 10m, Bruggadung II from Barbados; and Tim Kipton's Melges 32 Crash Test Dummies don't give one inch, but in the end it's Storm that wins the Racing Class on CLICO day. In the Cruiser/Racer Class, Jerome McQuilkin on his Beneteau Oceanis 430 Wayward takes first, in Cruising Class it's Nirvana and in the Charter Class Pooglette II is the day's winner. In Comfort Cruising Class, Black Pearl won comfortably over Eurasia, the only other entry in that class.
Race Day 3 ended with the daily prizegiving and yet another party in the regatta Village, but for me it was back early to the Tobago Hilton - my home from home for four days. Anxious to check out the shots I had taken on the water today, I spend half the night in front of my laptop.

Race Day Four
Race Day 4 is Hilton Day. It's 10AM and I'm back on the regatta press boat, a 36-foot Seahawk, together with my colleagues from the national and international press. It is another perfect race day, with stronger easterly winds early on, easing up later into the race. A big thanks to Tony, the boat's skipper - he is in large part responsible for the success of my photographs. He knew exactly where (or not) to be at the mark. Only once he really had to run, when bMobile Hi Tenshun showed "high tension" when we were a bit close - sorry guys!

By the end of this last day of regatta, it was clear that after four days of brilliant, hard-fought racing, Bruggadung II was the overall winner in the prestigious Angostura Tobago Sail Week Racing Class, with Crash Test Dummies second and bMobile Hi Tenshun in third place. In the Cruiser/Racer Class, Wayward took overall first, with four daily wins; the Beneteau 53 F5 Rapajam skippered by Ralph Johnson of Barbados clinched second; with Rawle Barrow's Beneteau 38 Petit Careme taking overall third for Trinidad. Lloyd de Roche on Nirvana, a San Juan 34, took overall first in Cruising Class, followed by the Heritage 36 Business Machine in second place and the C&C 34 Morning Tide taking overall third. Pooglette II, a Horizon Yacht Charter Jeanneau SO 45.2, took overall first in the Charter Class ahead of the Moorings 443 Sacajawea in second and a Moorings Jeanneau 50, Saga Boy, in third. In the Comfort Cruising Class, Trinidad's Beneteau Oceanis 352 Black Pearl, skippered by Marco Roks, beat the Hunter 33.5 Eurasia from Scotland in each race to take overall first. .

The Angostura Awards Dinner and prizegiving under the flamboyant trees at Crown Point Beach Hotel marked the end of a great week in "The Spirit of Racing". Race officer James Benoit from Grenada, chief judge Chris Martin, regatta Promoters Ltd Chairman Kevin Kenny, TTSA president Jerome McQuilkin and Tobago's Secretary of Tourism Neil Wilson thanked the participants, the hard-working helpers and the visitors who all helped make Tobago Sail Week 2006 a great regatta - and the only one so far this year with any wind, as one of the organisers jokingly pointed out!

For me, just being in Tobago was great and thanks again Calvin, for giving me your inside view. Hope to see you again at next year's Sail Week - I'll be there for sure!

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