Patrice managed to lure our good cruising friend Steve of Receta, a soft-spoken Canadian with many regattas under his belt, up from Trinidad for the event. He also recruited our Rasta friend, Son, an experienced local sailor to join us along with Jean-Paul (JP) of Julina, a gentle Frenchman and dear cruising friend. With Bert’s wife, Judith, a sweet little lady with a great sense of humor and myself, the 7 member team was complete and the day Patrice officially signed Taka Trois up for the race, the grin on his face rivaled that of a kid on Christmas morning.
The countdown begins...
6 days before: Bert and Judith arrive and the excitement aboard Taka Trois is palpable. Patrice and Bert are like two boys with a huge toy, Taka Trois that is. Thank heavens I have Judith to talk to, who is as clueless about racing strategy as I am.
Nevertheless, we have salient issues to discuss and I have put forward my two ‘requests:’ One, there will be no unnecessary shouting and two, if I, or anyone else for that matter, should fall overboard, racing will immediately stop and the person rescued. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have had my doubts since hearing the story of a woman in Grenada who fell off a boat during a race and had to wait in the water until the boat wend ahead to clear the racing mark, before coming back to pick her up! As the Trinnys say, Nah! That's NOT going to happen, right guys?
We also begin discussing the roles and responsibilities of the crew. It is agreed that Patrice will remain skipper in name, but is happy to act as crew and leave the racing strategy to Steve who will be the tactician. Bert will be helmsman (the guy who steers the boat), J.P. will be the maintrimmer (trimming the main sail), George and Patrice will alternate between grinding the winches to manage the headsail, trimming the headsail and being bowman (being at the front of the boat to make sure sails and stuff do what they’re supposed to do up there).
As for Judith and I, we will simply do as we’re told and make sandwiches--I know, I know, this sounds like a cop-out for womankind, but believe me, we’re really happy to be lowly crew members without much responsibility. As a wise Trinny once told me, there are times in life when one gets to be a shepherd and times when one has to be a sheep.
At the last minute, I am also given the daunting responsibility of counting down the minutes before the shotgun start. This job involves running two i-phone timers simultaneously (one for back up), while listening intently to the VHF where at any time the race officials can and will delay the start of the race sending me into a frenzy as I re-set the timers. It's stressful job, but provides the blessing of distracting me from all the boats that are sailing uncomfortably close to us as we all try to get the into the best position before the shot rings out.
Presenting Team Taka....
2 days before: Tomorrow we will leave the marina in Anse Marcel, our home in the north of the island and take Taka Trois down to anchor in Simpson Bay where the race will begin. We finish provisioning the boat, make last minute equipment checks and take a drive down to race headquarters at the Yacht Club in Simpson Bay to check out the action, size up our competition over an ice-cold Heineken, pay our fee, collect our race number and get our bag of goodies. We also need to inform the committee that after endless discussion, many calculations and much agonizing, we will be not be using Fred.
By mid-morning the entire crew is assembled aboard and ready to for a trial run while moving Taka Trois into position in Simpson Bay. There will be 4 races over 3 days including one all the way around the island and more importantly 3 parties every evening where copious quantities of rum will be distributed to soothe bruised body parts and egos.
Our ‘dress rehearsal’ goes very well, with not a single cross word, I’m pleased to report and by the end of it, we’re beginning to look, at least from my inexperienced perspective, less like bumbling clowns (I speak soley about myself here and) more like a cohesive racing crew. We drop anchor in Simpson Bay for the night and hit the sack early.
And away we go!
More importantly, while we gave it a serious effort, we did indeed have fun. Patrice will tell you that crossing the finish line on the last day (Bert insisted he take back the helm during the last leg) was one of the highlights of his life. Although I could've done without those heart-stopping moments just before the start of the regatta where dozens of boats careened within inches around our precious baby boat while trying to get into perfect position for the shot-gun start, I really enjoyed seeing Taka Trois being put through her paces. It was thrilling to take part in such an exciting event and to be a member of an exceptional team. Serious, yes, but worth it and lots and lots of fun indeed!