Posted on 6/12/2017 on World Cruising
It’s 4am on day twenty at sea. After two weeks without seeing another ARC+ boat, Jubilate Mare is showing up on our AIS. She’s seven miles behind us, and we’re less than fourty miles from the finish line in Rodney Bay. An Oyster 47, she’s a much faster boat and is slowly starting to close the gap. My night watch is finished though and I head to my bunk to get a few hours sleep.
I woke up to find Jubilate Mare within two miles of us and the lush green hills of St Lucia a stones throw away in the early morning light. As with leg one, where we raced Tao to the finish, it was looking like it could be another race to the finish. Again, the Skipper is helming to get the most out of Haji who, with fifteen knots of wind behind her, had twin headsails and the main up. The Bosun was down below navigating, while Amy and I stayed on deck to deal with the sails.
We reached the northern tip of the island just ahead of Jubilate Mare who was now only three hundred metres behind us. We dropped the staysail and gybed the main quickly, putting us on a port tack. They were forced to cross astern of us to our starboard side as we stayed close to the land on port, giving them no room on that side.
One mile to the finish line. We reached Pigeon Island with a one hundred metre lead. Still on the inside track, we lost the wind behind the hilly terrain. I looked to the right to see the tan sails of the competition, like us, struggling to stay full. The Bosun was now on deck and holding the boom to keep it from bouncing back and forth so the mainsail could fill. Amy went forrard, stepped over the rail, held onto the shroud with one hand, and held the genoa out as far as she could with the other. I stayed in the cockpit to work the sheets. Everyone was doing their part to get as much as possible out of the little bit of wind we still had.
Jubilate Mare got the wind moments before we did and began to pull away. There was now twenty knots of wind in our faces, and Haji was moving well. It was apparent however that they had the faster boat and our old girl was struggling to keep pace. We weren’t dead just yet though. We still had the inside track and with the finish line in sight, we had the shortest possible route lined up, just inside the bouy, and they had further to go than us. The photographer zoomed around snapping photos of the action. It was truly going to be a photo finish. Amy ran to the bow to get a better look, but it was too close to call. We crossed.
The ARC committee vessel called up to say what an exciting finish it was. The crew from Mupi came out in their dinghy to see us with a surprise for the Bosun, his wife. Then we waited for the results of the race. Our time came across the radio first. 11:14.30am local time. We held our breath and waited for their time to be announced. Finally it was. 11:14.25am. They beat us by five seconds!
We dropped the sails and started the engine to head into the marina. We arrived to a mob of people clapping, yelling and blowing air horns. Still reeling from all the excitement, we jumped onto the pontoon and were instantly swallowed up by hugs and handshakes from our fellow ARC+ friends. Rum punch was thrust into our hands, barely touching the sides as we drank it down. It was a magnificent feeling to be back on land, swapping stories and celebrating.
If it had been written ahead of time, it could not have been written any better than how it happened. It was a perfect ending. The whole thing has been an adventure. We’ve made friendships I’m sure will last a lifetime. As the fleet goes their seperate ways, we will all share a special bond. We’re a fraternity now. We have all conquered this ocean together.
Congratulations to everyone and a big thank you to the ARC+ staff. Keep in touch and I’m sure we will see some of you around. You’re always welcome aboard Haji, no matter where in the world she is.