December 31st, 2016
07.30 My cell phone’s alarm rings, I turn it off and get out of bed with great effort. We had a late night yesterday, something quite unusual for us but in St Barth the temptations are great. First we visited Nataly Cliffords’s gallery, Space SBH, for the opening of Hunt Slonem solo art exhibition
Later we went at the Gustavia Yacht Club House, a club recently founded by Stelios Hadji-Ioannou, old school mate of Yorgos. There, we were introduced to Gary. When he learned that we live on our boat and travel the world, he invited us to join him and the team of s/y “Wild Horses”, at the New Year’s Eve Regatta, a round the island race that takes place every year on December 31st. Sail yacht Wild Horses is a 76 ft classic wooden yacht. We accepted gladly, excited for the opportunity to end the year this way!
We make extra strong greek coffee and go outside at the cockpit. We are at the Gustavia anchorage, not far from the Hotel de la Collectivite’ . The sky is heavy today – quite a change from the perfect summer day of yesterday. Dark clouds cover the Fort Oscar hill and strong make our rigging whistle. The swell is big and makes the movement of the boat uncomfortable. I secure my coffee mug in the special hole of the table and hurry down to shut the hutches as the rain starts to pour. If it weren’t for the temperature 25 C,, I’d say we were back in Athens for the Christmas holidays….
We wear waterproof vests, take our dinghy and head to the dock for our rendez- vous with Gary and the rest of the crew. The drizzle continues but what the hell? it’s only water…
After a small delay- the outboard of the tender was flooded- we approach our boat Wild Horses. A huge flag with a big red “W” flies high on the rigs. We climb onboard and admire her. A true beauty! The crew of six welcomes us. They are all wearing t-shirts with “Yachting is the Winner” logo.
The skipper is Courtney Koos, a pretty girl in her late 20ies with an easy going temperament and a charming smile. Gary tells us that she is also an airplane pilot! Wow! We meet the rest of the crew and guests Ben, Merissa, Madisson, Lloyd, Kevin, Natalie, Giancarlo, Federico, Charlotte…
10.00 The wind drops a little and the drizzle stops. The crew gives us t-shirts “Yachting is the Winner” and so, all dressed up properly as a team, we gather in the cockpit waiting for the captain to start the Security briefing. The mood onboard is great, Courtney is funny and cool. She looks at the approaching tender.
-“Donald is coming. Everybody wave, everybody wave” she says!
Donald Torfias is the owner and captain of Wild Horses. As we learned later, he is a ” sailing enthusiast who created the W- class Yacht Company that builds classic racing boats made of wood.”
Donald, a white haired, white bearded man in his late 60s comes onboard. We are 19 people on board, and we all get a number- I am #15. Donald gives us instructions in case of M. O. B. (Man Over Board) :
-“Everybody point a finger on the person who fell in the sea until we drop the sails and maneuver to the rescue!”.
11.00 The crew prepares the sails- the smaller boats already set sail and we’ll go at the start line at 11.30.
Courtney, Ben and Merissa hoist the main sail, a specially made Carib Delivery, that although it reaches only 3/4 of the mast height, it covers the full length of the huge boom. After the North Sails- 3Di genoa is hoisted and off we go!
As a warm up, we start sailing in the Gustavia anchorage, tacking between some of the world’s largest super yachts, like the Eclipse, Luna, Symphony!
-“Look who is coming!” says Yiorgos.
Behind us comes the magnificent s/y Maltese Falcon with all her sails up! The huge 240 feet 3 masted sail yacht is closing in on us and the sight is spectacular. Two weeks ago, we visited Maltese Falcon and we had the pleasure of a a ” guided” tour inside the boat – a day I’ll never forget in my life.
We are tacking 3-4 times, Yorgos, me and five others we are the ” ballast”, or as our friend dan calls it “the rail meat”, moving fast under the boom on captain’s orders. Hard job but somebody has to do it…
The race starts in a few minutes we head to the start line, just after the rock Pain de Sucre. A dark cloud has covered the island and the wind pushes it towards us. It is obvious there is no way we can escape the rain.
Waterproof jackets with a large red W at the back, are handed to us, seconds before the torrential rain begins – just on time. My shorts are soaking wet, though. We cross the line and the crew passes the word enthusiastically:
– ” Let’s go for it!!”
– ” Who is the winner?” asks Donald
-” Wild Horses?” I whisper to Gary, who’s sitting beside me by the safety lines
– “Yachting is the Winner! It’s my trade mark and written on your t-shits !!” says Donald and I’m truly happy I didn’t speak out loud. The rain stops and the sun appears for a while, between the clouds. I welcome the warm rays hoping to dry out a bit.
Sailing fast, we round the southwest cape – Grande Pointe- and turn east, past Anse du Gouverneur. We are sailing “on irons” at 35 degrees with the wind of 25-30 knots . Wild Horses is riding the ocean waves with a speed of 7,5-9 kts- amazing for close hauled sailing! The waves are high splashing on the fore deck and I’m afraid that I might lose me shoes. I cross my legs. to save them. We sail fast for the next 4 NM and tack as we round the south- east cape of St Barth.
A new squall approaches- and this time it is a very strong one- with up to 37 kts of wind and such a heavy rain that we can’t open our eyes. We are all wet to the bone. Nataly, beside me is shaking. I ask her if she’s OK.
– ” I’m a bit cold but this is fantastic” she answers with a broad smile
Donald steers the enormous wooden helm wth an extraordinary calm. We are flying over the waves and the squall is almost over. Yorgos takes out his mobile, and checks the Navionics app: our speed over ground is 12 kts! We pass the small isle La Tortue and head northwest, past the isles Chevreau and Frigate, towards Ile Fourchoue. We are sailing on wide reach now and the rain has stopped.
We now sail close to land, admiring the peaceful, unspoiled & wild beauty of the north coast inhabited only by frigate birds.
Sailing fast, we take distance from Saint Barth and head towards Ile Fourchoue, the small uninhabited isle at the NW, with the dark, volcanic rocks , green hill and crystal clear anchorage. A few sailboats are tied on the buoys, well protected from the swell deep in the small bay. We are heading fast towards Pain de Sucre and pass the finish line at about 15.30.
Donald gives instructions and the sails are put down. We all help and soon we are back tied at the buoy. Merissa brings two platers with cheeses and crackers and strawberries. What a great difference it makes, having so many hands onboard, everything is perfect.
17.00 We all gather at the Gustavia port for the Award Ceremony. Win Win, a 108ft carbon super yacht is the winner of the race. Our beautiful classic yacht Wild Horses is ranked 5th but at the end Yachting is the Winner!!
Life is beautiful…
Saint Barts New Year’s Eve Regatta : sailing s/y Wild Horses
December 31st, 2016