Caribbean Report

The international race circuit in the Caribbean wrapped up with Antigua Sailing Week in May.  You would have to rate the overall season as another good one, with solid trade winds at most events, no sailing days lost to weather, a healthy mix of grand prix boats, and very little whining about ratings.  Considering our current world economy, nice to see these events delivering enough quality racing and fun to draw the visiting owners and teams back each year.
An issue which is not unique to the Caribbean is the crowding of the race calendar.  New events get created, small regattas grow into big ones, and no events retire, which leaves us with too many events fighting for a place on the race calendar.  Luckily we have the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) in the region which does a nice job of uniting us for the many common challenges to small island nations.  I decided to use my VP credentials recently to ask all the major events to consider some adjustments to their dates to better fit within the racing season.  It was a tall ask, to put the good of the overall region above some of their individual regatta interests.  But in true island spirit, all of the events cooperated, some even agreeing to move forward several weeks, which now gives both the local and the visiting sailors the ability to do more events.  The directors have all agreed to meet again in October to look at the long term, perhaps another tweak in 2014 to make the fit even better, and then everyone lock into their week indefinitely.  The CSA website at has the full calendar, with links to each regatta.
The Virgin Islands recently teamed up to convince the Melges 32 class to come to the Caribbean for a series of events  in 2013.  A package was put together which allows the boats to ship down right after Key West in January, have an event at the new Costa Smeralda YC in Virgin Gorda, their own class at the Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas, and then back to the BVI for another one or two events before shipping back up in April.  We put together a deal for teams to charter catamarans as their floating base at each event, with room for gear and sails on deck, lots of bunks for crew below, race boats tied along side, and the best way to enjoy a week in the islands.  It’s a nice opportunity for some great racing and we’re hoping many teams from both Europe and the USA take advantage of it.
A nice trend recently at all the Caribbean regattas is a shift to more island courses as opposed to the Windward-Leewards which became the international norm over the years.  The challenges of playing the wind, currents, and waves as they are effected by the islands makes all of us better sailors.  This also gives the race committee endless course options to select the balance of windward or reaching for the conditions and the different fleets of boats.  It also allows the sailors to enjoy more of the scenery, half the reason they come down for in the first place.
The CSA rating rule seemed to do a nice enough job at determining the correct order of results this past season based on feedback from the sailors.  The big events are fortunate to get enough entries that they can group similar boats, which really helps.  The real test to the rule is when they are forced to put dissimilar boats together.  The simplicity of the CSA rule has worked in our favor over the years, with various factors being used to achieve the desired ratings, but the rule makers need to stay on their game in reviewing if their formula still works to accurately capture the latest performance trends in hull, rig, and sails.  Lots of good discussion is now taking place and hopefully upgrades will happen to keep the rule current.
So all in all a good Caribbean season in 2012 and some exciting things to look forward to in 2013.  Now it’s into hurricane season where we all do a bit of praying that nothing blows away before next race season.

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