John and Susie Blair.
Wed 1 May 2013 16:32
crewing position aboard the mighty Stormvogel (meaning Stormbird).
I didn't realise she had such an awesome pedigree with a history of trophy
collecting stretching right back to 1961 when she was built in Cape Town
South Africa to an experimental Van De Stadt/Laurent Giles design for her
original owner Cornelius Bruynzeel, the inventor of Marine Plywood. .
Stormvogel's first ever race was the 1961 Fastnet and with Francis
Chichester navigating she took line honours. That started a life of ocean
racing and record breaking for her, winning the Buenos Aires-Rio (1962),
Sydney-Hobart (1965), China Sea (1966), Transpac (1967), and Middle
Sea (1968 & 69) to name but a few. Under the ownership of several others
she's continued to haul in the trophies right up to last year when she won
the Classic Yacht Regatta here in Antigua.
Also worth a mention (though I think I already did) she was the floating set
for the film 'Dead Calm' starring a young Nicole Kidman in her debut role.
Terry took me over to meet the skipper and some of the crew, Kiwi's
who'd been with her for several years. I met the daughter too, a quiet
and unassuming young girl, Italian though not that I could tell, I thought
she was British. She told me how she'd grown up living onboard from
time to time since she was two with the boat being chartered and racing
all over the globe.
Eventually all crew were met, around sixteen people!! and I'm thinking
why so many? but as it turned out most everyone had a job to do. I was
posted on the foredeck with Terry and German sailor Dennis who
like us was transient crew. Another chap, Alex was also foredeck, it was
his job to scan the foresails for trim and shape as well as being the
helmsman's eyes behind the huge genoa (foresail), he'd raced with the
resident crew many times in the past.
The racing was to start on Friday so we had a shakedown sail the day
before with all crew mustered for coffee and a briefing from skipper Ian
at around 8am. I'm not going to bore you with every detail of the racing
but I must say for a 74 foot boat Stormvogel sailed like a dream. Fast
and responsive, her huge sails and rig took some handling and this
was why she had so many bodies onboard. Skipper Ian was telling me
that on a close reach she can make 17 knots! he crossed the Atlantic in
15 days, some days covering 270 miles!! (Chelone's best would be
around 160 miles/day).
Shakedown sorted, we were all given food then listened to tactician Ross'
de-brief before being handed a T shirt and 'see you in the morning'!
The first day was exciting with fresh conditions but day two even
more so as the winds piped up further and squalls came through.
As you can imagine, boats were pushed hard and some it seems
a little too hard with no less than four boats with broken masts, a few
nasty collisions and at one point a small yacht we were overtaking in
winds gusting to near gale force had a crewmember bounce out of the
cockpit which caused a big flap for us as we were so close and could
clearly see the casualty but all was under control and somehow her crew
managed to come about and recover her.
On the last day, Rosella (the owners daughter) asked Susie if she'd like
to join in as 'rail meat' (ballast weight of crew-members sitting on the
edge of the windward deck).Sat next to two journalists from the Yachting
World she also got to experience world class racing....how cool is that?
Each day of racing was followed by a night of partying and revelry mainly
on the Antigua Yacht Club lawn with the sponsors doling out vast quantities
of complimentary drinks and live music every night on the marquee stage.
Then Tuesday night Alex together with his wife Emma (also a crewmember)
hosted a huge, very well organised BBQ for all crew and friends/partners
over at Nelson's Dockyard prior to the prize giving ceremony nearby
(there was even a Scottish piper!).
Racing day 1.....First place.
Racing day 2.....First place.
Racing day 3.....Second place.
Racing day 4.....First place.
Stormvogel won her class and indeed was overall class winner storming
off with the prestigious Yachting World Trophy for the fastest elapsed
time over the four days of racing, not bad eh? Being on stage with all the
other crewmembers while Ian collected the trophies was a great thrill.
The poor chap was then thrown into the harbour.
So things have been dominated by the Classic Yacht Regatta with many
of our friends being involved in the proceedings in one way or another.
Almost every evening we've been having a get together with those whom
we've met here and during the last six months during our sail up island
from Barbados so It's been great fun. As well as that I've been taking
the daily 'tot' with Peter & co which led to an entry exam that I somehow
managed to pass despite a lack of proper revision due to the racing
and socialising (the test is based on Royal Naval history, Nelsons battles,
Tot club rules, toasts, aims etc). I then had to call a 'Mismuster' (another
Tot) where I would deliver a speech about myself and give thanks to
the club members for being so friendly and hospitable.
So now we've widened our circle of friends even further, most of the
members are permanently resident here in Antigua and Peter for one
has very kindly offered to visit Chelone at intervals while she's hauled
out here which is a huge bonus. Now also we fly the White Ensign
Burgee!. The White Ensign is very jealously guarded by the Royal
Yacht Squadron as the only club in the world whose members are
permitted to wear this Royal Navy flag, the Tot club obtained
consent from the Admiralty and apparently, several years back, a UK
magazine listed the Tot club as the 'second most prestigious yacht club
on the planet'! well I've never aspired to be a member of any yacht
club before so I'm quite proud as this club is so distinctively unique.
So that was last week, oh, we also went on a 'rum run' with the Tot Club
which was an interesting tour around Antigua's south and west coasts
with it's stunning beaches (Antigua boasts 365 beaches) as well as the
rainforest before arriving at a remote 'Post Office' where in the window
bottles of local rum were worryingly displayed alongside Carburettor
Rum Bosun and Tot Club founder Mike then saw to it that the Mainbrace
was spliced with much of the local hooch being consumed by all.
Many members, including myself, made a purchase (£12/Gallon)
before we headed back to civilization with a couple of brief stops en-route
to 'pump the bilges'.
Partying over and friends departing we've decided to go on holiday....we've
sailed up the west coast past Jolly Harbour and joined our friends Tony
and Sharon in beautiful 'Deep Bay'. Almost immediately, Tony came over
with his paddle-board and I was off for some waterskiing! Tomorrow we'll
continue around Antigua's north coast and the much talked about barrier
reef which shelters a myriad of islands and remote beaches with the best
snorkelling on Antigua so we're looking forward to that.
I haven't been able to sort all pics of prizegiving yet but bear with me....
All the Best,
JB & S