Sensible Management and Solid Growth

Published on May 21st, 2014

Peter Holmberg, President of the Caribbean Sailing Association, provides an update on the Caribbean season, and some additional notes on what’s working in the sport. The following is courtesy of Seahorse magazine

Starting the year in mid-January was the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race Series, a week long event comprising 3 days of Coastal Course Racing, the signature Round Barbados Race, and then a 300-mile Ocean Passage Race to Antigua for those doing the Antigua Superyacht Challenge. Great conditions and over 50 yachts, including a Volvo 70 and a TP52 made for a great event. The Antigua Superyacht Challenge was the following week, and lived up to its big wind and big sea reputation, giving an early season test to the engineers, riggers, and sailmakers on these huge yachts.

Mid-February saw the Caribbean 600 deliver once again, continuing to add to the allure of this new mid-winter classic of racing around 10 islands as marks, in the middle of winter, in the trade winds. This epic event will continue to grow, and help lure more boats to the Caribbean, where we hope they will choose to race in some of the other events on the various islands over the course of the winter/spring season.

The St. Maarten Heineken was next in early March, and wears the crown of being the biggest event in the region, with over 200 boats, from a huge bareboat contingent, to a large mid-size racing fleet, and a few grand prix racers at the top end. Big breeze made for some great racing, and the island courses give color and variety to the game.

Next up in March were the two Superyacht events, the Loro Piana in Virgin Gorda, and the St. Barths Bucket a week later. Good weather for both, good turnouts… and no carnage. The rules and safety issues have been mostly solved, and now the focus is on improving the handicapping. I truly believe the Superyacht contingent need to introduce a subjective element to their rule, because it is virtually impossible for a measurement rule to accurately predict how these highly unusual and diverse fleet of yachts will perform in the various conditions and points of sail. A panel of smart sailors, providing a broad and well-rounded view, similar to how the CSA rule does it with their performance factors, is the best solution.

The St. Thomas International Regatta (STIR) and BVI Spring Regatta happen a week apart in March and allow teams that wish to do both events. This was the first year for STIR not being the Rolex Cup, and they transitioned nicely, with the secondary sponsors all stepping up to play a bigger role and the racing being just as keen, with the best fleet of grand prix and one-designs seen this year on the local circuit. CSA Class 0 consisted of 6 good boats, with four 52s, a Cookson 50 canting keeler, and a Ker 46 providing some hot racing. Of interest is that this year they all opted to race under CSA rather than IRC, and the results offer a nice measure of comparison.

The short version is that the right boats/teams finished in the right order; in fact the scores were the same under both systems while the CSA scoring was actually more reflective of the performances of the teams. The BVI regatta on the following weekend saw 20+ knot winds for all three days, some challenging courses in and around Sir Francis Drake channel, and the always nice atmosphere of the regatta village at Nanny Cay.

On this note, it has been good to see the comments of Ken Read and others lately on the virtues of sailing courses other than windward-leewards. This is something we have been doing here in the Caribbean for the past few years, believing that it is more fun, scenic, and challenging to do courses around islands that test a multitude of skills. Maybe this is why the Caribbean racing scene is healthy and growing, because it has a strong element of fun mixed in with the racing.

And on the subject of fun, I also wish to echo the importance of keeping the fun factor in our sport, particularly with our kids. In this age of the never-ending quest for perfection and glorifying the winners we must not forget the importance of just having fun. Even here in our islands, the intensity of the training and the abundance of coaching are now in my opinion excessive, all in the quest to make your child a star… A star is not created, it is born. Let the kids have some fun, fall in love with sailing, and then if they have the desire, provide them with the assistance to go further.

A final note on the CSA rating rule. This simple in-the-water measurement rule has been in existence for over 50 years and does a surprisingly good job. A group of volunteer measurers from throughout the Caribbean contribute input and perspective to help keep the rule accurate and relatively objective. The rule gets updated each year, and this year saw some pretty significant changes, including to the data entry interface, sail area calculations changing to actual sail measurements rather than rig dimensions, and updates on different keel configurations. At the end of the season the measurers review the results and firsthand observations and determine what changes are needed for the following season.

With the reliable trade winds, nice weather, scenic courses, and healthy focus on having fun, it’s easy to see why the Caribbean racing circuit is growing stronger each year.

Source: Provided by Seahorse, June 2014 edition

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