All the boats are in port, the results have been calculated, and the trophies distributed (and there were a bunch!). Thanks to the wind gods going on strike after BEOWULF finished, she ended up first in her class on handicap, first overall in the fleet on handicap, and first to finish. The official time was 120 hours, three minutes, and 42 seconds, about five and a half hours faster than her record last year. For full results check out Carib 1500.com .
Both ALACRITY (Switch 51 cat) and BREAK’N WIND, the Hunter 50 were two-plus days behind on elapsed time. Both are new boats, and had a series of teething problems. Had they been able to concentrate on boat speed the results would have been much closer.
An interesting aspect of this race is that entrants are allowed to use their engines. For each hour the engine is run, you add an extra hour to the corrected time. This introduces a whole series of new tactical considerations. For example, in theory the optimum point to turn on the engine is when you can double your sailing speed. But weather often has to be considered, and sometimes an extra push, earlier rather than later, gets you into a more favorable weather pattern. Then there is the entire issue of how much fuel to carry and how to use it. Cruising at moderate speed will typically use half of the fuel consumed when going flat out. Lots of new racing variables with which to play!
Motoring speed and range was a big issue within the Caribbean 1500 fleet. On BEOWULF we powered at an average speed of around 11 knots, and used 175 gallons of diesel. This left us with 125 gallons remaining, so we had lots of options (we motored a total of 37 hours).
Boats in the group behind us motored an average of 55 to 60 hours and almost all of them finished on fumes.
Boats toward the middle and back of the fleet used their engines for 60 to 80 hours. The last boats were so low that they made some exchanges between the haves and have nots, to make it possible for the latter to keep moving in the calm conditions.
And how did SetSail-MaxSea do in all of this? It was amazingly accurate. On the morning of the race we downloaded a 4.5 day weather forecast from SetSail.com, and then ran the normal “Routing” analysis within SetSail-MaxSea. At the time it indicated around 36 hours of powering. It also showed, as did the subsequent couple of days data, that there would be a break in the weather pattern. If we could get through the demarcation line-the area under the trough that was predicted to form-we’d have a sailing breeze to the finish. The routing also showed that if we were late by 12 hours, the odds were we’d have to power all the way to the finish line. So we added an extra (as it turned out unneeded) 100 gallons of diesel the morning of the race.
The routing data gave us the incentive to push harder than would have otherwise been the situation-which is why we’ve got all those nice shiny trophies now! In a strictly cruising context, the same situation applies. We all want to make faster passages. It is more fun, more comfortable, and leaves you less exposed to the vagaries of weather-which is why we’ll continue to use this Routing program on all our passages in the future.
We want to close this report with a comment on how much we enjoyed this year’s event. We do not normally like to sail or hang out with large groups. But the friendships made, the shared experiences, and the competition made the Caribbean 1500 a bunch of fun for us. We now better understand why so many of the participants come again and again. And if by chance we’re on the East Coast next fall, you can be sure we’ll try and crack the five-day barrier in the Carribean 1500. Thanks to Steve Black and his crew for putting on such a great event.