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My adventure sailing in the Caribbean 1500
November 29th, 2011 @ 09:31 AM EST by admin

[Our VC Marketing. Dan Cloutier competed in the Caribbean 1500, a 1500-mile race from Hampton to the British Virgin Islands. Much can happen; several boats ended up in Bermuda, and the final sailor arrived in Tortola 5 days after they did. This is Dan’s commentary on his adventure. -Ed.]

We finished the “race” in 7 days, 18 hours. The entire race was on port tack at an average speed of 7.8kn with speeds up to 9.4kn when going through squalls and or surfing. Wind speed varied from 15kn to 35kn for 8 days straight. Predict Wind was the most effective weather routing system in addition to GRIB files downloaded from the Internet. Linda was our land team who supplied the information on optimal routing every day. We basically stayed east (up to 35nm) of the rhumb line. We took advantage of Tropical Storm Sean at first which provided strong NNE winds of up to 35kn. We then benefited from then two low-pressure systems moving west from 055W, which provided winds of 20kn to 25kn (E to SE) and finally the trade winds appeared providing 15kn to 20kn from SE to SSE. We were equally fortunate to find favourable current on the east side of the Gulf Stream. We sailed with a double reefed main and reduced Genoa for the first 7 days.

We disqualified ourselves from the race as it was officially delayed until Friday morning Nov 11. At that point the crew members would have had to go home. So we decided to leave on Thursday at 18:00 based on a favourable weather report and extensive discussion with the race organizers. At that point Sean, the low pressure system hovering over the mid – northern Atlantic, was slowly moving to the northeast. Our decision lead to 3 consecutive cold days, lots of wind and up to 3-metre waves. Those conditions prevailed as we crossed the Gulf Stream. The boats that awaited the official start (19 hours later) wasted upwards of 5 days in no wind brought about by a large high pressure system moving from the US west coast onto the Atlantic. Many boats diverted to Bermuda to get additional fuel.

We reached BVI (Nanny Cay) in 7 days, 18 hours which is a very fast time for a 46-foot boat. I am proud of this accomplishment as I was the designated navigator/tactician. The team of 4 was composed of the owners, one experienced ocean sailor and friend from Harrisburg, PA and I. Getting to Hampton VA was interesting: first was a car ride to Buffalo with Linda, second was a train ride to Harrisburg Pennsylvania via New York City and third was a private aircraft ride to Hampton VA and then the race on a sail boat. It reminded me of the movie, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”.

The 4-year old boat was well-equipped with software and ocean systems (water maker, solar panels, dinghy suspended on an arch, new ocean life raft, EPIRBs, SSB-HP, AIS (Automatic Identification System), VHF, extra fuel tank, effective ditch bag, full enclosure etc). The boat was purchased new 4 years ago and had been prepared for ocean sailing. The Beneteau Oceanis 46’ called NYCTEA is an elegant boat designed for coastal cruising and short passages, as shown by the set-up in the cockpit, minimal amount of grab bars and rotating-door showers. Showering was a challenge when heeling at 15 degrees for 7 days on a single tack. I was concerned with the hull flexing a lot and the corresponding noise emanating from the bulk head area and carpentry. Beneteau Oceanis is trying to provide more performance by producing flat bottom hulls but such make the boats slam onto the water resulting in an uncomfortable ride.

I flew from the BVI to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Saturday afternoon on a small 9 seater aircraft (Cape Air) as arranged by Linda. To my absolute amazement, Nov. 19th is the annual holiday commemorating the discovery of Puerto Rico by Christopher Columbus on 19th November 1493. Placido Domingo was performing at Fort Morro. There was also a laser show projected on the castle walls that was rich in culture. One day of quiet travel day became a spectacular travel day.

I am looking forward to the advance CYA certification in February 2012. I am humbled by my increasing realization that there is a lot more to learn when it comes to the sport of sailing on the ocean.

Dan

The race at the time the leader reached Tortola