Eight Bells: Al Rapier
Published on February 12th, 2015
On February 3rd 2015, Alfred Cyril Rapier aged 85, quietly slipped his mooring lines and sailed single handed to the big regatta in the sky. Al, as he was widely known, was the founder and architect of what is known today as the Caribbean Sailing Association Rating Rule.
Back in the mid to late 1960’s, when Al first developed the Caribbean’s first indigenous handicap rule it was known as the West Indies Yachting Association Rule. This went through several name changes over the years and is now known as the CSA Rating Rule which is used pretty much exclusively throughout the wider Caribbean.
Al was originally from Grenada but eventually settled in Trinidad. It was during his employment with Texaco as an engineer that he was able to apply his considerable mathematical and analytical skill to the ‘problem’ of sailboat handicaps. During his travels throughout the islands he was able to cultivate support and train measurers to ensure that all territories interested in the Rule could benefit.
Al’s reputation and standing as the founder of the CSA Rule did not necessarily prepare people for meeting him in person. He was tall and slender, with a sharp wit and the most intense gaze that he would fix upon you from behind the thickest pair of spectacle lenses. It was like being under the scrutiny of a microscope. He could converse on virtually any topic but ultimately it would always come back to boats and handicaps.
Of Al’s legacy, current chief measurer of the CSA Jeffrey Chen said, “There could not be a more fitting tribute to Al than knowing that his creation of the Rule will continue to provide racing sailors of all ages, all nationalities, sailing in all manner of boats, handicap results that are both fair and consistent.”
The Caribbean Sailing Community owes a tremendous debt to Al who selflessly developed what was to become the basis for almost all regional keel boat racing. Al Rapier was recognized with the Caribbean Sailing Association’s highest award, Honorary Lifetime Membership, in 2002.
Photo of Al Rapier contributed by Richard Innis.