Where do I start with this story? So many things happened just right. Well, as you know, Brad raced on a boat to Bermuda and I flew out to meet him after the race. Before I arrived, he and the other coach were guests at a Bermuda resident's home which has long supported sailors and sailing being sailors themselves. The Sieses invited us to dinner the evening I arrived and we had a lot of fun, and a little too much of the Rum Swizzlers... But we enjoyed hanging out with Martin and Lisa and their two kids and so the next day, Friday, we went to visit the club they are members of, the Sandys Boat Club (pronounced "sands"). It was a bit of a rainy day to start with but cleared up and the evening was quite enjoyable and the members of the club were having a good time. After a few Dark n' Stormys we were told about the fitted dinghy race coming up on Monday, a holiday, and that we should stay for the race and were welcome to be on the stake (start) boat. I of course asked if we'd be able to get on one of the boats to race, to which the answer was no. Oh well, had to ask. Brad and I were intrigued by the stories and made the decision to stay a couple extra days. The Sieses let us stay with them and so we were set for the race.
One of the keys to fitted dinghy racing is just the right weather, so now we just had to hope that the weather would be perfect. It didn't look like it on Sunday when it was blowing upwards of 50 knots and raining like nobody's business. Tropical storm? Well, the storm passed and when we woke up on Monday, it was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Check out the album of photos to see just how perfect I'm talking about.
We all headed down to the club to get the boat ready. We also had to set up the tent and haul out the provisions to the stake boat. Once we were done with all the boat readying, off we went to set up the race course. While setting up everything, Martin turns to Brad and tells him he's on the boat. Coolness!! Turns out that some of the crew were not available due to the Newport-Bermuda race that was still finishing. Brad ended up sailing in the first race, which Challenger II won!
Now there is a lot more to this story, but if I get off on too many tangents I'll never get it told. So bear with me. After the first race, Owen, the skipper and Martin's son, says they need another and I'm it. Oh, this is too cool! I'm on the boat for the rest of the day! The second race we came in third, but only since one of the other boats sank. But I'm very happy to report that we won the last race!
About the races, the dinghies all start alongside of the stake boat which faces directly into the wind. Each dinghy has a specific spot on the boat to start based on where they finished in the previous race. First goes last, and so on. The stake boat has a line that the dinghies hold on to and then haul themselves along to get going and push off. This is nothing like any race start I've ever seen or participated in - it's crazy. Once away from the stake boat, our race went into 4 upwind legs and 3 downwind legs. We were sailing in a bay that is quite open, Mangrove Bay, and so the wind was pretty solidly out of one direction and steady at 10-15 knots.
Since I can't speak for Brad's first race, I can tell you that we almost sank during the second race and so we were struggling to bail fast and not totally lose, but if it weren't for Elizabeth II sinking, I think we would have. We never really recovered, but it was a good lesson on just how unstable the boats are and how FAST the water comes in over the side. Whoa.
The last race was intense with a slight wind shift and the other three boats all gaining on us downwind. We had the smallest sail area up for the day since the other sails and rigging had been left at the club. - these things can be changed between races! It was good enough though as the weight to sail area was probably about right. We did a lot of serious hiking one second and then "shoulders in!" the next. It's all about the balance and the weight distribution, forward or back even. But we got it right and got the winning gun salute!
And here's a link to an article in the Royal Gazzette Online about the race results. And yes, it's a wacky sailing boat, but so much fun! Brad and I are thinking of returning in early September for the last race day of the season and maybe, just maybe getting on the boat again. To learn a little more about the dinghies themselves, I recommend this video: