Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   May 2007




Bequia Regatta - with a French Twist!

by Nicola Redway

After a week or more of leaden grey skies, fluky winds and constant rain, the weather finally turned on April 4th, just in time to bless Bequia Easter Regatta 2007 with near perfect sailing weather. But it wasn't only the weather that was worrying the organizers in the run-up to Easter. They were also aware that the Cricket World Cup was having a knock-on effect - particularly on travel - throughout the region and there were fears that this could affect attendance. What a delight it was, then, to be starting the regatta on a blustery, sunny Good Friday morning with 36 yachts signed up, just short of last year's record-breaking total.

By far the largest contingent (a full third of the total entry, in fact) was from Martinique. The French boats swelled the Racing Class to a record 14 entries, creating a thrilling and highly competitive three-race series. There are a few things that need to be said up front about the growing number of Martiniquan sailors who have been coming to Bequia since 2000. Number one, they are extraordinarily committed racers, utterly dedicated to competing at the highest possible level in every race; number two, they simply love to be in Bequia at regatta time; and number three - they know how to party everyone else under the table! (Oh yes, and they don't care a hoot about cricket) Remember the phrase from the movie 'Field of Dreams': "If you build it, they will come"? Well, with the help of the enthusiastic French racing boats, the Bequia Regatta Race Committee has in recent years built a superb Racing Class.

The hope now is that racing boats from around the region will be encouraged to come to Bequia in 2008 to sample for themselves the great racing and hospitality that make this tiny island's regatta so popular. But back to 2007: Turnout in the J/24 Class also exceeded expectations, with seven boats from Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Vincent making up the fleet for their specially designed six-race competition. With six Bequia Regatta regulars in the CSA Cruising I Class, and a mixed bag of regulars, some interesting-looking Bequia Regatta debutantes and even a 60-foot gaff schooner in Cruising II, the stage was set for four days of first class competition across the board.

A Very Good Friday
The Friendship Bay Race on Good Friday took all but the J/24s around the outer islands on the south side of Bequia. The super-fast Surprise Clippers Ship, skippered by the talented 24-year-old Nicolas Gillet tokk first place in Racing Class, romping home in 136.66 minutes on corrected time, nearly three minutes ahead of another French Surprise GFA Caraibes, skippered by Gerard Corlay. A mere 0.25 seconds of corrected time separated Jack Arthaud's B28 Ascee Equipement and Arthur Villain's teenage crew on the familiar bright pink Surprise W.I.N.D. for third and fourth places respectively.

In Cruising I, Barbadian Ron Hunt on his J/30 Jaystar was the clear winner over John Verity's Sigma 33 Dubloon of Marigot, who beat out Kent Richardson's Beneteau 456 Dark Star for second place. Over in Cruising II it was dark horse newcomer Ken Campbell in his C&C 51 Magic who came in ahead of C&C 38 Hot Chocolate, skippered by Rich Washington, with a margin of just 23 seconds on corrected time. Another Bequia newcomer Peter Bennett, racing in his beautiful dark-hulled C&C 44 Destiny, took third place, ahead of Actuel, a Jeanneau Sunrise from Martinique skippered by old-timer Gaetan de la Goublaye. With C&Cs taking the top three places, the battle for supremacy amongst them was well and truly on.

The J/24s had a shorter version of the scenic Friendship Bay course for their first day of racing, and it was St. Lucia's Jabal, skippered by Nick Forsberg, who came in well ahead of Carriacou's Jerry Stewart on HOIC in second and Lucian Jerry Bethel's Banana Wind in third. With a number of (thankfully temporary) breakdowns on Day 1, the talk at the results and daily prizegiving at the Frangipani Hotel that night was all about the challenge of the next day's Round the Island Race, with the field pretty much wide open in all classes and more good sailing weather anticipated.

Saturday Around Bequia
Saturday morning broke clear, but by 10:30 the clouds had lowered and some ugly squalls came in, which challenged both the yacht racers and the local double-enders that caught the worst just as they were starting on their first race. But the skies soon cleared, the wind settled and by the end of the day another great day's racing was in the bag. In Racing Class it was Clippers Ship once again that was the stand-out winner, with a five-minute (corrected time) gap between them and the second-placed boat Open the Barre, an A40 skippered by Bastien Legloahec. Third place was close - only 15 seconds of corrected time separated Open the Barre and Hallucine, the sleek Open 45 skippered by Regis Guillemot.

In Cruising I, this time it was Dubloon of Marigot who was the clear winner, coming in a full five minutes ahead of Jaystar, who in turn was five minutes of corrected time ahead of Steve Schmidt's majestic Santa Cruz 70 Hotel California Too. In Cruising II, C&Cs Magic and Hot Chocolate again took first and second, with Martinique's Patrick Velasquez on Virgo taking a well-earned third after missing Friday's race when his boom broke at the start. With a series of three races for the J/24s on Saturday, it came down to a tussle between four boats - Jabal, Banana Wind, HOIC, and Peter "Wipers" Hoad's Jabulani. In the end it was one, two, three for Jabal, HOIC and Jabulani, with Banana Wind squeezed out by just one point.

Easter Sunday: Solitaire and Sunshine
When the second get-together party and daily prize-giving took place at the Porthole Restaurant on Saturday afternoon, the talk this time was not only about the day's results and the prospects for the final race on Monday. Sunday's Round the Island single-handed race, which for the first time was allowing spinnakers to be flown in the CSA Class, was also creating a real buzz of excitement. Eight French boats were joined by Barbados veteran Jerome Reid on Jump Up, Ben Jelic on the Kiwi 35 Sea Devil and Steve Schmidt on Hotel California Too, all of them eager to prove their skills in this demanding test of individual seamanship. The results? Regis Guillemot on Hallucine reigned supreme over the young bucks, coming in 90 seconds ahead of Emmanuel Velasquez on GFA Caraibes, who in turn beat the seemingly unbeatable Nicolas Gillet on Clippers Ship into third place. In the non-CSA Class there were just two boats entered - Actuel and Virgo, both from Martinique. Patrick Velasquez on Virgo came in way ahead with an impressive corrected time of 173.29 - faster than all but the top four boats in the single-handed CSA/Spinnaker Class.

For everyone but the single-handers it was Lay Day another gloriously sunny, breezy day on which to enjoy the popular Sandcastle Competition and Crazy Craft Race in Lower Bay, and drink in the spectacle of the full fleet of 32 local boats taking off from the shore for their Sunday race, then returning to pull up on the beach to be ready for their start on Monday. With a good-natured beach splash and street fête taking place all day, there was truly something for everyone.

Tactical Triangles on Monday
Bequia's tactical Easter Monday Admiralty Bay Triangle race is famous for separating the men from the boys and the old hands from the rookies, but this year, convention was somewhat upturned. Clippers Ship raced true to form, taking first in Racing Class and First Overall, but to everyone's delight and to their very great credit, W.I.N.D, with their teenage crew, beat out the vastly more (Bequia) experienced GFA Caraibes to take second place by a mere 2.4 seconds on corrected time. This result earned them Second Overall, beating Overall Third winner Ascee Equipment by one point. In Cruising I, it was Jaystar, Dubloon, and Dark Star in first, second and third, echoing the overall results.

In Cruising II, familiarity with the triangle course proved critical for Virgo, who took first place ahead of newcomer Magic, who nevertheless came out as the clear Overall Winner with his two firsts on Days One and Two. Hot Chocolate made third (and hence Overall Second) while Actuel pipped Destiny by a mere 14 seconds in Monday's race to take fourth place, giving Actuel Overall Third - ahead of Destiny by a single point.

A happy and boisterous crowd of competitors of all ages and from all sides of the regatta gathered in the Frangipani Hotel's waterfront space for the Grand Prize-giving on Easter Monday. Former SVG Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell and Dr. Godwin Friday, M.P. for the Northern Grenadines, each gave rousing speeches of thanks both to the Bequia Sailing Club's all-volunteer team and to the competitors. Then the serious business of prize-giving began.

All the cheers were loud, but perhaps the loudest were reserved for the determined young all-girl crew on Martinique's Surprise Studio10 Le Ponton who placed overall seventh, competed tenaciously throughout the weekend, and with truly no hint of sexism whatsoever, won the (predominantly female) Race Committee's award for Best Dressed Crew! It really was a terrific regatta - not only for the smoothly run and challenging yacht races but also for the exceptional bonhomie that pervaded the event. Thanks must go to sponsors SVG Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Youth, Heineken, Mount Gay, Pepsi, Digicel, Mountain Top Spring Water, Tradewinds Cruise Club and the Frangipani Hotel, and to all other donors large and small for their vital support of Bequia's premier event.

Everyone is already looking forward to Bequia Easter Regatta 2008, so make a note in your diary - its March 20th to 24th!

Bequia Easter Regatta Results and Slide Show - Click Here


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