Mount Gay Round Barbados Series officially underway – Fleet prepares for opening race (by Sue Pelling)

The Skippers’ Briefing held at the Radisson Aquatica Resort last night marked the official opening of the 81st Mount Gay Round Barbados Series.

As the sun set over Carlisle Bay, competitors, families and guests who’d gathered at this sumptuous Caribbean venue were treated to an informative briefing headed by Howard Palmer (Chairman of the Race Committee), before dancing the night away on the beach under the palm trees to the sounds of a Caribbean steel band at Barbados Cruising Club.

The warmth of the welcome from the organisers – Barbados Cruising Club in association with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, and Mount Gay – is one of the key reasons why the Mount Gay Round Barbados Series continues to attract overseas entries. Not only is it the opening regatta in the Caribbean Race circuit, but also with its constant winds, and record-breaking opportunities in the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race, it’s the ultimate choice for early season racers.

With sailing one of the island’s key sporting events the competition is always intense. This year is no exception, entries ranging from windsurfers to 100ft schooners including the eye-catching 65m Adix. Spectators will also notice Tony Lawson’s record-breaking MOD70 – MS Barbados Concise 10 from the UK out and about. Skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield Team MS Barbados Concise 10 is preparing to defend the Absolute Multihull round Barbados record they broke last year in the event’s 80th anniversary year.

The record-breaking MOD70 – MS Barbados Concise 10 (Peter Marshall/MGRBR)

There is also a host of other top class racing machines lining up for the event including the local boat Conviction (TP52), Spirit of Juno (Farr 65), and the 78ft custom Humphries design – Ocean Phoenix – from Spain.

The increase in overseas visitors boosted by teams from Austria, Germany, USA and Spain is a clear indication the event is now a recognised option for those on the Caribbean circuit. Of the 30 boats expected to race round the island next Saturday, more than 50 per cent will be overseas yachts. Howard Palmer commented: “We’ll always have the local Caribbean yachts but the way forward for us is to grow internationally, so that is what we are working on.”

Stephen Goddard and his team of super-hot 1720 sailors from the north-west of England, on the British yacht Faenol (Hanse 54) crossed the Atlantic on the ARC.

Now in Bridgetown, Goddard said he can’t imagine why he hasn’t competed before: “Interestingly, I have been here before and watched the racing from the beach and thought ‘we should be here‘, so here we are. The ARC was a good way to get here. It took us (a group of five friends) 19 days to get to Barbados from St Lucia. Now we’re here we are heading out for some racing practice in preparation for tomorrow’s first race.”

Other interesting international entries include a couple of multihulls including the custom 63ft Irens/Cabaret-designed high-performance multihull Paradox, the Nigel Irens-designed ORMA 60 Edge of Reason, Andreas Berg’s Dufour 44 Luna from Germany, Matt Barker’s pretty Alfred Mylne 65 The Blue Peter from the UK, and Godspeed, X41 sailed by Peter Steinkogler and team from Austria.

The weather forecast should make for a good first day of racing. (Peter Marshall/MGRBR)

Steinkogler, who runs Godspeed Sail Racing Academy in Austria, sailed to Barbados from the finish of the ARC in St Lucia, and is now looking forward to the start of the team’s Caribbean race tour. “This looks like a fun regatta which I am very much looking forward to after our disaster getting here. During the ARC we hit a whale, which smashed our boat a bit, then we were attacked from the stern by another whale from the pod. Thankfully we made it to St Lucia, and we are now here. I am already enjoying the relaxing island spirit. A visit to the Mount Gay Distillery to try out all the different rum, was a good start!”

Competition is likely to be as hot as ever in the smaller multihull class with the likes of Concise12 (Diam 24), and Bryn Palmer’s Silver Bullet (RC30), keen to repeat their performance from last year where results went down to the wire.

Others preparing to engage in battle once again around the island are Charles Hunt, the local speedster/record breaker on his Phantom Batwing 377, and Frenchman Cornic Fabrice on a Fanatic. One of the most interesting entries in the small craft sector this year is Nano Project, the foiling International Moth sailed by British sailor Andy Budgen.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s opening race in the three-race Coastal Series, which runs from 17-19 January, the forecast is for 10-14kts of breeze from the east-north-east, which should make for a pleasant start.

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