Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The 57th Annual Family Islands Regatta
Elizabeth Harbor, Exuma

The first gun was 30 minutes before the race. Like most things here, you couldn't count on the race starting on time. It happened when it happened. The boats all anchored along the starting line with the help of the Race Committee. The second gun was a warning a minute before the start.

The third gun started the race. The crews hauled in on their anchors to get some forward motion, hoisted their sails, and fell off on starboard tack. The rightmost boat could choose to go port tack and often did. Occasionally, a mid-line boat fell onto port tack and rammed a couple of starboard tack boats to his right.

This was a fairly clean start. See the one port tack boat. The course was windward-leeward; windward mark to port, leeward mark to starboard, sometimes one lap but usually three. The start and finish were in front of the town. There were three races a day for four days.

The boats were small and the sails large. They were kept upright by the crews on the pry and 50 lb lead bars along the keels.

This was a Class C boat and was the smallest of the classes (except for the few even smaller Class D boats). The larger Class A and Class B boats had a jib in additioin to the mainsail. The hulls and spars were wood and the sails were cotton.

Notice the sail's headboard. Anything for some more sail area.
Even on a reach the crew had to be on the pries to keep the boats upright.

This was a full size sail. They were used the first day. Then the wind picked up to 20 knots and smaller sails were used.

This was Chase headed out to the starting line. They passed right behind us.

In spite of the smaller sails there were a half dozen capsizes, three sinkings, a couple of broken booms, several broken or cracked masts, and innumerable torn sails.

Only the helmsman and a spotter were excused from duty on the pry.

The sails had a second clew that was used to reef the sail. In addition the sails were sometimes not raised to their full hoist.

In the camera the boats were small, but in my 14x binoculars I could even see the grins on the racer's faces. The binoculars were a good Christmas present.

This was the scene at the leeward mark in a Class C race.
The best seats in town were along the seawall on Regatta Point. The best of the best were also in the shade. A lot of money is getting ready to change hands.

This was one of the 40 or so temporary 2x4 and plywood shacks set up anong the road on Regatta Point selling beer, booze, fried food, and conch. The music was unbearably loud.
The Exuma Band was composed of musicians from the several schools on the island. They marched up and down the road and had a sort of mini halftime show in front of the park.
The Royal Police Band from Nassau was also there. They were nothing but sharp and really put on a show. The drummers wore leopard skin tunics over their perfect dress uniforms. Even the Prime Minister came to watch.

Bill helped to keep these two little girls balanced on top of a narrow wall so that they could see over the heads of the crowd along the street.

After the last race while everyone else was partying, the crews loaded their boats on the ships to take them home and prepare for the next regatta.

Hey everybody. It has only been a few days since last I updated this blog, but we had so much fun at the Family Islands Regatta that I thought you would like to see some of my pictures.

We anchored near the start/finish line for the first two days. When the wind picked up, we moved across the harbor to Volleyball Beach to get in the lee of Stocking Island. There we then had a view of the boats as they headed to the turning mark. The final day of the races we took the water taxi into town. We had a ringside seat for the final class C race which was great fun. I had my first (and last) Coconut Water and Gin (the local specialty of coconut water, gin and condensed milk). We saw the Exuma Youth Band perform and the Royal Police Band, too. We talked to lots of local people and Bill was even the safety person for two Exuma girls standing on the wall with us. It was a wonderful time. Watauga Lake racers beware; we made notes and are thinking about a pry for Canary.

Bill and I are still in Georgetown, now anchored off Sand Dollar Beach. I have 22 sand dollars that I found on the beach. The wind has been very strong for the last week or more, and we are waiting for the weather to settle before heading further south.

Hope you are all enjoying spring.

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