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Sailing on the Abaco Rage

Written by Walt Lincoln, ketch IOLAR

I had the honor of being invited by the Hope Town Sailing Club to sail on the ABACO RAGE, a traditional Bahamian racing sloop. A 28-foot A-class sloop, the Rage is of a design based on the old sailing workboats of the Bahamas that started racing in the 1950’s. Its Man O’ War Cay builders used a model developed over centuries of use in the surrounding seas, and adapted it for racing with an oversized rig and “prys”, the planks hanging out over the rail for the extra crew to climb out on as ballast.

Vice-Commodore Dave picked me up at 0845, awarded me my uniform T-shirt and off we went to the RAGE. Upon boarding I was introduced to Sam who would be my mentor and “pry mate” for the trip. Sam gave me the rundown on how to rig the pry and shift it to the other side along with myself each time we tacked. We got underway on jib alone and I was surprised on how well it handled as we maneuvered out of the harbor. Once clear, we raised the mainsail and were underway in a building easterly wind.

 We did a couple of practice tacks for the inexperienced crew such as me, where we had to shift the pry to the other side while scrambling under the very low boom. It didn’t help that there was an open hatch where we had to scramble under the boom as it came across with a clearance of little over one foot. I tried going under it alternatively on my belly and back, and each was equally difficult, similar to going under a limbo-stick–not easy for a 70 year old guy. Climbing out on the pry is something that takes getting used to, as they are about 8-inches wide and there is nothing else to hold onto. As they invariably get wet with spray, they are slippery and I could have used some nonskid on my britches. One must rely upon a sense of balance in tune with the motion of the boat and I was amazed how some of my shipmates nonchalantly perched out on the end.

 Once we crossed the starting line, we got serious and tacked out on the upwind leg. The boat moved easily in the sea despite her bluff bow and full stern. On a reach it moved at 8.5 knots in a semi-planing condition in excess of hull speed, with the oversized sail powering the boat in a 15-knot wind. The boat moved very steady with minimal pitching and rolling, much to the benefit of the crew hanging out on the prys. Sitting out on the pry watching the bow wave roll by over the transparent sunlit sea was a rare and beautiful sight. Over 50 years of sailing on all types, from my father’s 40’s vintage sloop to maxis, I have never experienced the combination of wind-driven power and exhilaration as on the RAGE.

Skipper Stafford confidently maneuvered her through the course and clear of the other boats in the race, where we got to see some close aboard encounters. The camaraderie of the crew was amazing as we all struggled through the efforts of each tack, along with the occasional quips and comments from the afterguard. The beer-wench in the hold offered liquid refreshment during the downwind legs that we bladder challenged older guys gingerly partook. After the race we were invited to the Hopetown Sailing Club for a social and the race results, where we met some of the other members and had a great time. All in all, it was a rare opportunity and wonderful experience that I feel honored to have participated in.

Photo courtesy of Carol Dichter

 

Filed under: Crew Experiences

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Hope Town Sailing Club
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