Caribbean Souls Win a TAG Heuer Watch!

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First race, downwind start
First race, downwind start

Since we can’t be in France yet, and we originally thought we’d be in the Caribbean by now with El Gato, Eric and I flew to St Thomas last week to stay with our good friend Teri McKenna during the STIR. The famous St Thomas International Regatta was sponsored by TAG Heuer instead of Rolex. 62 boats came and competed in 6 classes, and the conditions could not have been better!  Three days of racing that included rounding islands and buoys, and great parties with live bands every night. IMG_7744IMG_7750Teri had just purchased a brand new Formula16 Falcon, and Eric and I arrived the same day it was delivered in boxes and parts to the ST Thomas Yacht Club. We were barely off the plane before we were assembling her new shiny toy. Fellow racer and friend Sandra Tartaglino arrived several hours later and the team spent the next 2 days reading manuals, fine tuning, practicing, and getting pumped. Teri and Sandra raced on the Falcon and Teri gave us her Nacra17. It was a tough decision for Teri as both women are more comfortable sailing the Nacra17, but their combined weight is less than ideal for 20+ knots and fairly good size seas.  Eric and I on the other hand were the perfect weight for the bigger boat and were stoked to get out there and play in those conditions!  We were FLYING!!!! And as apprehensive as I was to prevent us from launching or capsizing, we were able to control the boat in the 18-25 knots and up to 8′ seas on Friday, day one of racing. IMG_0211This is what we DIDN’T WANT TO DO! It was a spinnaker start and we took off for Charlotte Amalie surfing down waves like a rocket ship. It was such an adrenaline rush with me on the back corner and Eric behind me on a trapeze wire with one foot in a foot strap to keep him from flying forward when we crashed through waves instead of over them. I felt like I needed goggles!  We won the race by a nice margin and then had another race up to the Stragglers with some up and down sailing around marks and Govt buoys. Definitely my favorite kind of racing with navigation, speed, and teamwork involved. Eric and I loved the Catacup in St Martin and this was as good or maybe better. On Saturday we were scheduled to race 4 buoy races and one Long distance. We were on the same courses as the IC24’s and they and a fairly large fleet. One good memory was when Eric and I are heading towards the finish and the IC24’s are finishing too. We were sailing at almost 20 knots with our spinnaker and they are going about 6 its. Weaving in and out of them as we all condense near the finish was crazy! They wouldn’t see us coming until we were passing their bow and we hoped our sail wouldn’t collapse. Then we’d hear them scream and shout and we were all smiling for sure!  After finishing three races we had an overall score of 5 firsts and we were preparing for race #6 when we heard and felt a loud crash. We were T boned by a fellow competitor who is still learning how to skipper and didn’t look soon enough after tacking and accelerating right into our starboard side. OMG it was a MESS!  Eric has to pull the boats apart and we could hear  our hull ripping as we sailed in circles stuck together and wondering how we’d get them apart and not sink. Then reality hit. Everyone was OK except mentally we were all in shock. I was as devastated about the hole as I was about losing. Yep, the reality check for me was I am still super competitive and hate to lose, especially when we had worked so hard to be where we were. It’s not just about winning, it’s the journey and we had practiced really hard the week before and flown too far and were so far ahead in points to give it all up because of someone else’s mistake.  Lucky for us, Morgan Avery who lives in ST is an expert on boat repairs and came to the rescue. He not only stayed up all night with only about 30 minutes sleep, he also came to us immediately when he heard about the crash, and he helped us figure out how to get it back home from the bay we were racing in.IMG_7760 He was as skillful as one could ever hope for. An artist who loves to sail. He had sailed with Teri on the Nacra and loved it, and is a competitor so he really wanted to help. If we didn’t race the next day we were out of it. We could miss one race and win, but not two. And the truth is, we really wanted to sail some more. It was so FUN! Yes there were tears on my end but I tried hard to hide them. It’s been a long time since I cried over a race that’s for sure! The Protest committee granted us redress and we were given the average of our races for the day. So 2 more firsts, 7 total with 2 more races to go.

Sunday morning arrives and the boat is patched and ready to race. We wait as long as possible to let her dry and then head out for the long distance races. Yippee!  So fun rounding islands and dodging big boats. Sometimes we had to sail low to get past their bad air and then pass them from leeward. Other times we were able to round a mark and slowly inch forward to pass them to windward. But we always passed them upwind and down. Watching the crews hiking on the sides as we playfully skipped over waves, I have to admit we were grinning to think what they must think. 11083946_886086648078704_7533130983671211253_o 10293708_886087621411940_9116279025061846363_o Sandra and Teri passing keel boats upwind. 1529877_886086734745362_4106682457353361539_o

When it was all over the Mayor presented the winners watches and we were blown away by their beauty. With a dark blue background and the caribbean islands etched in gold, it is by far the most beautiful watch I could ever imagine wearing and I LOVE IT!!!! And the bonus? It matches my engagement ring and wedding ring! Amazing!

Thank you Teri for being so kind and generous in all you do, including loaning us your Nacra17, and thank you Eric for being such a wonderful loving husband, best friend, and crew!

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