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59th Annual National Family Island Regatta Trip Report

George Town Exuma

April 25th 28th 2012


 Crew: Andrew Curry, Andrew Wilhoyte, Ben, Bobby, Christopher, Colin, Corrie, Denis, Jamie, Jeff, Neil, Randy, Richard, Stafford.


Sunday 22 April 2012 and we are on the way to George Town, Exuma for the 59th Annual Family Island Regatta, considered by the sailing community as the National Championships of Bahamian sloop sailing. We are myself, Stafford Patterson, skipper of the Abaco Rage and my wife Debbie, who has decided that after 14 years of non attendance now is the time to experience a Regatta. Our trip from Abaco to Exuma (via Nassau) is uneventful, however I am able to keep our travel traditions alive. More of our crew are scheduled to arrive in George Town tomorrow so we can prepare the Rage, our A Class vessel as well as the Lonesome Dove, B Class for the 4 day competition beginning on Wednesday. Although I have skippered the Rage before (Long Island ’08/09), this will be my first shot at the “big one” and I am both proud and excited to have this opportunity. Both the Rage (’83/’84) and the Dove (’06/’10) are former National Champs and although the Rage (built in Abaco ’79) is now outclassed by a couple newer A boats, I am confident we will have a good showing. The Dove (built on Long Island ’94?) is our “money boat” as she consistently places in the top positions thus winning prize money. Owning 2 wooden boats and attending Regattas is expensive so we need every penny we can get. Deb and I are staying at the Palm Bay Beach Club, just North of town. The Rage is already here thanks to the efforts of our tow team, Capt. Randy and his vessel Nomad assisted by Bob and Ben. They left Abaco last week and made it to Elizabeth Harbour in record time. The Dove is scheduled to arrive Tuesday on the barge from Nassau, hopefully intact. It’s late Sunday evening by the time we check in and we are spent from the travel, so an order of conch fritters and a couple beers and its lights out till tomorrow…….

 Monday and we will play today while we wait for the crew to arrive. Deb, myself, Bob, Randy and Ben, we rented a van and drove to Barratare for lunch but nothing open for food  there. Nice drive though. Back in GT we got a bite then walked out on the dock and the barge from Nassau is there with the Dove, but its getting late and they won’t get her off today. Gin and coconut water for those that desire and some killer conch salad. Denis and the crew buzz the dock while we are out there – spectacular! Once the crew gets to town we head over to Nomad and secure gear. Dinner is over at Eddies Edgewater – rake and scrape music and the best grouper dinner you’ll ever have. We dance some then Deb and I leave for the Palm Bay Club. Got to get my Zzzzzzzzzzz.

 Tuesday dawns bright, clear and calm…..well, at least for now. Rich motors over the Palm Bay Club to pick Deb and I up. Over on Nomad the crew is showing signs of life so we head into town for the traditional breakfast at the Island Cafe. Souse chicken, fire engine and steam sausage, its all good. More traditions to follow such as a trip to the Top to Bottom for hardware and the Exuma Market for groceries. Back on Nomad we begin to rig the Dove. Rot in the mast! But a lil epoxy will fix that. Let the glue dry, have a slam bam for lunch, we’ll rig the Rage but damn it she’s got 2 broken stays!! Scrounge up some fittings from the Staniel Cay contingent (thanks Marcus) and a little Bahamian engineering and the stays are repaired. Back on the Dove and we discover a pully up the mast about to break so we replace that and find more rot., SHIT! Patch that and let it dry overnight, it’s time for the Skippers meeting at the community center. Main discussion there focused on the Port/Starboard rule and this may be a good thing. We get our starting positions and leave. More crew have arrived from Abaco, so we shuttle them over to Colin’s Swan 65 “Uxorious” to stow their gear then over to Nomad for happy hour, then burgers n beans for dinner and I am done for the day……..

 Wednesday morning and we have a stiff breeze out of the North East. Wonderful. Duncan picks me up from the Beach Club early so I can help with repairing and rigging. Dove’s mast is still being worked on, Rage is ready, we think, but sails still need to go on. Pancakes for breakfast then step the mast in the Dove. Over to GT for daily supplies and to pick Deb up. Watch the C Class boats race from Nomads upper deck. Sweet Island Gals mast breaks off but otherwise the race is uneventful. The A boats will sail at 12:30 so we bend the sails on the Rage. The main has been modified to make a better shape when reefed and we will need to reef it today. Load on the crew, a couple practice tacks and we head over to the start line and anchor up in the #2 position between Good News and the Running Tide. The butterflies set in as I anticipate the race. A quick pep talk with the crew and we are ready. Fire the F@%&ing gun!! The R/C makes sure all boats are in proper position and boom! We are off with a great anchor pull, sails go up, Rage is slow getting up to speed but we are doing OK and reach the windward marker in 4th and manage to hold that place through the next 2 legs, but on the 2nd upwind we loose 2 spots to Ruff Justice and the Tide so we finish 6th out of 8. Beat Good News and Ed Sky. I had hoped for better finish for my 1st GT Skippering experience but I am still proud to be here and Skippering the Rage. Tack across the finish line, crack a beer and sail back to the anchorage for a slam bam then we need to rig our new sails on the Dove. And we discover the mainsails cars are the wrong size! Strip them off and install the correct size its almost start time. Hurry boys get her over to the start line quick! Dove is last to anchor up for the 3:30 start and the R/C fires the 1 minute gun just as they drop anchor leaving little time to set anchor and sails for the start and boom! Here we go but the anchor pulls out and Dove stalls on the start line and goes into irons! Ahhh shit!! We watch helplessly from the chase boat as it takes an agonizingly long time to get the Dove going……..but finally they do and boy! can that boat move fast……but just not enough time or distance in this race to catch the front runners. 8th out of 10. The new “Blue Shadow” has her mast broken off right at the start by tangeling with another boat. Dove managed to pass the Passion. Almost got Queen Drucilla but they held on to 7th. Ah, well, there is tomorrow. Today’s races are considered by many as the “throw out” race of the 4 races to be held for each class. Dinner at the Community Center is delicious as always. Cocktails at the Peace and Plenty then catch a ride back to Palm Bay to crash. 2 more crew have arrived in Christopher and Jamie and in traditional style they party on into the night……………

 Thursday and the wind is making screeching sounds as it blows thru the Rage’s rigging as I step aboard to inspect. All looks good but we will need to reef the sail down for sure. With some expert help from Jeff, Richard and Colin, the sail is set for today’s race but the R/C says the B Class will sail before the A boats today. Need to put the storm sail on the Dove so off comes the new Oceanus sail, change the cars around (again) and install the smaller mainsail. Leave the jib as it is, OK sizewise. Most of the crew opt to go and watch the C Class race and they were not disappointed. Collisions aplenty and a dismasting, typical for these horrible conditions. Termites, from Staniel Cay is rammed not once but twice and the Staniel Cay boys are all hot about that. Heated words fly over the VHF and we ask ourselves do we really want to race in C Class?? The B Class race turns out to be a strange one. First, when the R/C (AKA Clyde Rolle) sets the course it includes several gybes, a dangerous maneuver in good conditions and today the conditions are BAD! But anyhow, boom! and off they go. Dove gets a decent start and makes it to the 1st marker in good position for a starboard rounding, as instructed. However, the first boat there, Queen Drucilla, piloted by Mark Knowles (the enemy) they take the marker to port – and so does the 2nd boat – incorrect! So Clyde gets on the VHF and starts yelling to stop the race because they went around the marker incorrectly and all go back to the start line and begin again! What?? Only in the Bahamas! So another anchor pull start and this time Dove gets a better pull and is up in the mix at the 1st marker. Lady Sonia and Eudeva are fast today but so is the Dove and the end result is a 3rd. Didn’t come easy but they seldom do under these windy conditions. Rage sails a good race and feels nicely trimmed, not what we usually do with heavy winds but today was OK. Ruff Justice breaks something or the other and drop out. Running Tide has problems too, we thought we had them but they fix whatever was the problem and catch us just before the finish. Where did they come from? We manage a 6th. We anchor the Rage over by Stocking Island and go by the Amazing Grace to congratulate the Lady Muriel and the Tida Wave crews on their 1/2 finish. They invite us aboard for some beers and we have 20 minutes of the best camaraderie you will ever experience… because we all love sloop sailing with a passion and want it to continue. Clean up for a spaghetti dinner aboard Nomad then ashore for some revelry but I am done, so Andrew, Lynn, Deb and I head back to Palm Bay for some much needed Zzzzzzzzssss…..

 Friday and the wind is still honking but we will go back to our new (bigger) sail on the Dove. Get daily supplies. Change the Dove mainsail – again, which means we have to change the cars – again. Watch the C Class start then buck up at the first marker. Seems that’s just part of the game again this year. Sail the Dove to a 2nd place behind Lady Sonia, not an easy task but we passed Eudeva on the final downwind and kept him behind on the final marker rounding. Take that Lundy! Slam bams and then we sail the Rage to a 6th place, almost a 5th, but Hitler manages to out sail us on the final upwind in the Running Tide. So going into the final race Dove is 2nd behind Lady Sonia and the Rage is – having fun! Damn the outboard on the chase boat quit just as we were going over to Uxorious for happy hour but dinner on Nomad was stellar. Over to GT afterward but I am saving it for tomorrow and head back to Palm Bay……

 Saturday and the winds are blowing harder than yesterday so we change back to the canvas storm sail on the Dove and that means – you guessed it – we have to change the cars around again but it doesn’t seem to take so long anymore. One more grocery run, get some stew fish from the Town Café, slower than ever today, then out to watch the C Class. Uneventful at the windward marker and Lady Eunice wins overall with a win today and yesterday. Time seems to slow down as we wait for the final B Class race. Sail selection good? Will the anchor hold? What kinda start will Dove get? What about Lady Sonia, she’s starting to our windward. What will Buzzy try to do? I’ll be in the chase boat so I calm my nerves with a cold Heineken till its time to go and anchor up on the start line. Buzzy anchors in position – right on top of the Dove. The R/C has done a good job this year starting on time and Boom off they go. Sonia has a longer anchor rope but that didn’t help as our boys got their anchor onboard and their sails up while Sonia was still pulling and Dove took off, out into clean air and the lead! Sonia hung in there at first, but when Dove went over onto port tack she took off and never looked back, finishing in 1st place and this secures the Dove 2nd overall. Yeah!! Now we will sail the Rage, and because the winds were up we have changed sail to the small canvas storm sail. Turns out to be the wrong call as the winds decreased as we setup for the start and continued to drop as the race progressed. Damn! Ah well we knew we were outclassed from the getgo and we end up – where else – 6th. Pack up the boats for storage (long Island Regatta in a month) clean up, eat a fantastic steak dinner on Nomad and go ashore for the festivities. A light rain caused a delay as they trophies and politicians were moved to the Community Center. Speeches were made, trophies and prize money handed out, lots of “see you in Long Island” and we celebrate another successful Regatta into the wee hours………

Filed under: Crew Experiences, George Town Regatta, Race Happenings

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Racing Schedule

Wednesday, April 4
Hope Town Sailing Club
Triangular Course
Charles Pollack Trophy

April 24 - 28
George Town, Exuma
National Family Island Regatta



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