Tobago Race Week

The crew

The crew

If ever you are sitting on a yacht, with your feet in the North Sea, a view of Ashington power station, and a dream of embarking on one of the several Caribbean Regattas then…go for the dream!

Six of us from Northumberland (four are members of the RNYC and the remaining two of us seemed to get roped in on Christmas Eve) sailed in the Tobago Regatta Week this May.

The experience is wonderful. The races are challenging and the Caribbean hospitality is second to none. Tobago is neither an enormous regatta nor an enormous place (there were around 95 yachts in all) a lot of camaraderie quickly developed between the various crews, many of whom turned out to be regulars at this annual event.

Our group were Martin Forster, Andrea Common, Paul Common, Erik Van Waart (all RNYC members) plus Alison Blair and David Liddell. We had never sailed together before.

However, it didn’t take long before our crew with very mixed abilities and experiences gelled into a real team as we endeavoured to take “Skinari” – a 38 foot charter yacht into first place over the finishing line.

On the first two courses (13 miles and 18 miles) we didn’t do so well, crossed the start line behind a lot of the fleet and finished in 6th and 5th places in a fleet of 9 38-42 footers.

When we went off racing in the morning we used to untie our anchor and dinghy which we left in the bay tied to a couple of fenders. This was done to help preserve the bottom of the bay which had large patches of coral.

By the third and final races, we had got our acts together – each by then knowing our different skills and having organised our roles. We decided it was time to make our charter boat more like a racing machine !

Off came the bimini, lazy jacks and the water tanks were emptied. We fitted a cunningham line through the first reef position, used mooring lines for barbour haulers and wound up the halyard on the roller reefed headsail.

Now we were in business: On the third race we crossed the start line in first place, which is a real adrenaline provider! We passed the first mark so close we had to breath in and were ahead of the fleet – and then had the satisfaction of looking back to see seven yachts piled up when a port tacker ploughed through causing mayhem and many protests.

Apres sail

Apres sail

The wind was always a steady Easterly of around force 4, air temperature was around 34C and the sea temperature was around 26C – not at all like sailing off the Northumberland Coast.

On completing the race we then had time to head off for an afternoon of sunbathing and snorkelling before joining the shore side party which started around 1700 with the daily prize giving. On the first evening we went to the beach bar and ordered some drinks and were told “As long as it has rum in it – it is free this evening, courtesy of Angostura rum the sponsors”.

On the final two races we made second place in our class which we felt was a real achievement, only missing out on beating our main rival Hakuna Matata by 13 seconds in the final race.

Whatever the result we were happy sailing beside the palm-lined tropical beaches; cooling off in the literally azure water and enjoying the post-race snorkelling off coral reefs. These were blissful moments and memories to treasure.