Condo Racing: Here’s Something Else to Consider
Published on May 28th, 2013
While most of us endured the very depths of this past winter, there was a contingent that sought out the kind of racing most of us would avoid in our home waters. Standard equipment included roller furling jibs and there was not a spinnaker pole in sight.
That’s right – these are all bareboats, chartered for a week of racing in the islands. Out-of-the-box stock and the very same boats that you charter year ‘round. But as well as a great tan and stories about lazing in a tropical anchorage while sipping icy rum drinks, some of these skippers will be taking home regatta silverware as well.
Bareboat charter racing has long been embraced by Europeans, who are more than happy to leave the snow and slush of winter behind to spend a week racing and partying around the Caribbean islands. And now North Americans are getting on the train, too.
Simply put, this is condo-racing.
The big regattas in the Caribbean for bareboat racing are the BVI Spring Regatta (March), the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (February) known simply as the Heineken, Antigua Sailing Week (April), and the Grenada Sailing Festival (January).
In the free Summer 2013 edition of CharterSavvy, editor Chris Caswell provides the landscape for the winter circuit. Additionally, Caswell recruited perennial champion Neil Harvey, who represents sailing equipment manufacturer Harken in the South and Caribbean, to share some of his secrets.
Harvey is clearly no newcomer to sailing, and his sailing resume includes a Who’s Who of
ocean racing yachts: Windward Passage, Kialoa, Ticonderoga, Acadia, Condor and many more. Harvey started bareboat racing when some of the yachts he sailed aboard stopped making the trek to the island regattas. “It’s a lot of fun”, Harvey says, “because I make it a point to include some sailors who aren’t racers to introduce them to the island racing.”
Harvey notes that the starts are where you can jump ahead. “With these fleets, the race committee often favors the pin end by as much as 15- to 20-degrees to entice the fleet to say away from the committee boat,” he explains. “We’ve port-tacked the entire fleet just by checking the line.
“On the first day of the regatta, we size up the pin end and usually see one or two other boats doing the same thing. You never know who you’re sailing against from all around the world and, because these are all white boats and the crews have different colored shirts each day, it’s hard to keep track.
“After the race at the results board, you hear a dozen languages – Dutch, German, Russian, Spanish. You see them point at your name and you realize they were down at the pin end with you. And suddenly you realize it’s Star World Champion and America’s Cup skipper Pelle Petterson or, this year, there was an Olympic medalist from Athens and the Dutch women’s world match-racing team. That’s who is down checking the pin end with you!”
With the memory of winter still fresh, maybe you deserve a week next year on the Caribbean Condo Circuit. Be sure to plan early, and read up on the tips offered by Chris and Neil: http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=159804&p=62