Arrival Day: Crew members, already encamped on the Isle of Wight, welcomed Legacy into Cowes Yacht Haven Marina early that evening. Legacy had been moored in Dartmouth since arriving in England in early June, after making history during the first leg of this most fabulous adventure. After leaving Trinidad on April 30, Captain Reginald Williams, his wife Nicole, and friends Leonard Chan Chow and Martin Subero, crossed the Atlantic in 16 days and 23 hours. The journey broke the national record of 36 days, set by Harold La Borde in 1960, for an Atlantic crossing under sail by a locally-built and crewed boat. The second historic leg was about to begin! Crew members were not the only ones among the welcoming party. With the Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) flag prominently displayed, as Legacy found her berth at the marina, it captured the attention of a few who had come into the marina just to view arriving vessels. Unbeknownst to them at the time that among these arriving vessels would be Legacy. Exchanging pleasantries, we learn that among them were three relatives of a prominently-know T&T family of writers and politicians. The youngest among the relatives just so happened to be a doctor residing on the island.
Race Day 1: Legacy sailed the Solent (the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England), and more importantly into the history books, by becoming the first vessel from the Caribbean, specifically from Trinidad and Tobago, to participate in the 189th running of Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight. The event got off to a slow start. Alas, Aeolus and the Anemoi were uncooperative. Wind speed was at a trickle and the skies were cloudless for most of the day. When the wind did show up, the question was how long would it last. Given those conditions, the start time was postponed for two hours. At around 12:30 PM, conditions were right and the race was on. Crew ashore boarded a spectator boat which provided an on-the-water view of the competition, with an ability to watch the racing action up close. The spectator boat was able to maneuver so closely amongst the competing vessels that on several occasions we were within shouting distance of our Legacy, able to holler our support to her and her Crew each time. As the race day progressed, things did not look good neither for Legacy nor many of the other race competitors. In the case of Legacy, she needs winds well in excess of 12 knots for peak performance. The winds became basically nonexistent. Only 9 of 31 vessels in Legacy's class (IRC 2) finished the race in the allotted completion time. Prior to leaving her berth at the marina for the start of the race, Legacy and her Crew separately welcomed visits from two fellow Trinidadians (Trinis) currently living in the UK. One visitor just so happened to crew for another vessel while the other, an admirer of the sport. Both were attracted to Legacy firstly by the prominently displayed T&T flag, and secondly, by the Soca music emitting from a smartphone, a sendoff serenade to Captain and Crew.
Items of Note: First, after submitting its registration in 2014, Legacy qualified as IRC Class 3 per the Cowes Week rating system. However, upon arrival into Cowes, she received word that her handicap was such that she had been moved to the higher IRC Class 2. Second, Cowes Radio had been providing blow-by-blow commentary of the racing activities. One of the announcers reported his great grandfather, a surgeon, immigrated to England from Trinidad. The announcer also mentioned he was familiar with Legacy as he had seen her race at various venues in the Caribbean.
Race Day 2: The second day of racing turned out to be a successful one for Legacy and her Crew. The Wind Gods were in better "spirits" this day. At the start of the day's competition, the winds were at 12 knots rising to at least 20 knots later on in the day. With speeds in her favor, she crossed the finish line within the allotted competition time. However, the day was not without its drama. While on the course, Legacy was already in the zone when another vessel, Incognito, approached from the stern. Legacy entered the zone clear ahead while Incognito was the vessel clear astern. An infraction ensued. According to International Sailing Federation rules, Incognito was the vessel at fault. In the spirit of true sportsmanship, Captain Reginald initiated a compromise whereby each captain agreed to be responsible for repairs, if any, of his own vessel. In the case of Legacy, no repairs were necessary.
Race Day 3: This day saw a legend of Caribbean sailing, and a long-time family friend, Sir Hugh Bailey, join Legacy’s Crew. While it was a good sail day overall, Legacy suffered another incident when her spinnaker blew out as she began her approach to the finish line on the final leg of the course. Legacy crossed the finish line with a back-up spinnaker ablaze. After two days of sailing, Legacy ranked 20th overall. A personal goal of Captain Reginald’s was to have one of his sailing vessels memorialized in print by the legendary Beken of Cowes, perhaps the world’s most famous name in marine photography. That goal was realized when, aboard a Boston Whaler powerboat, Ken Beken, grandson of the founder, captured a magnificent color rendering of Legacy as she sailed the Solent during the early days of competition. Not only had this goal been accomplished, it was exceeded when Captain Reginald received a signed copy of the image from one among the Crew.
Race Day 4: Because of a lack of wind, the start of racing was initially postponed indefinitely. With no wind in sight, regatta officials abandoned racing for the day, giving race participants an unexpected lay day. Wind conditions, however, did not put a damper on the day's entertainment activities. Après-sail is significant component of Cowes Week activities. One of the onshore activities this day at Cowes Yacht Haven Marina included entertainment provided by a London-based steelband, whose appearance had been arranged by Legacy and her team prior to the Crew’s arrival on the island. Crew members and many in the audience -- especially race participants from the Sultanate of Oman -- thoroughly enjoyed themselves. While we were enjoying and dancing to the strains of the Caribbean-flavored music, a crew member from the vessel Incognito (the vessel involved in the prior day's infraction) stopped by for some friendly banter with Captain Reginald. Mike (Moose) Sanderson, the youngest skipper to ever win a Volvo Ocean Race, in the 2005-2006 edition of the race, also had a chance encounter with some among the Crew. Several members of Legacy’s Crew also had the opportunity to interact with a group of novice sailors from the Greig City Academy at the event. The school, located in London, is owner of the vessel Scaramouche.
Race Day 5: The Wind Gods resumed their uncooperative attitude on Race Day 5. While slow and steady generally wins the race, that concept is not welcomed in this circumstance. In any event, Legacy successfully completed this day's racing, maintaining her ranking in 20th place overall.
Race Day 6: This day’s racing started out with a bang, literally! After sending off Legacy and her Crew into what is typical of English weather -- cold, rainy and dreary skies – those of us ashore returned to the wardroom only to be followed by increasingly heavy rains, accompanied by loud thunder and lightning. This weather continued for much of the remainder of the day. While Legacy suffered some fits and starts throughout the day, she was able to finish the race, maintaining her overall ranking of 20th place. One of the après-sail highlights is the annual Mount Gay Rum Red Cap Party held at Shepards Warf Marina. The first 500 partygoers receive a much sort-after red cap upon entry. At this year’s event, each member of the Crew was fortunate enough to receive one. A prelude to the music and dancing was an over 15 minute flyover by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) acrobatic display team, the Red Arrows, painting the evening skies with their red, white and blue smoke trails. A most impressive sight! The opening musical act at the party , a London-based vocalist, just so happened to be a fellow Trini. While the music protocol for the evening was strictly reggae, he interjected a few Soca numbers during his set, giving a shout out to the Trini posse in attendance each time. A great time was had by all! A few members of the Crew were privileged to meet Sir Robin Knox-Johnson who just so happened to be attending the Red Cap Party. In 1969, Sir Robin became the first sailor to perform a single-handed, non-stop, circumnavigation of the globe. The Crew also met several new Trini supporters -- some local transplants, some visiting from Trinidad, including a childhood friend of Captain Reginald -- who joined in on the merriment at this particular event.
Race Day 7: This day was a do over of the day before, weather wise, that is. The start of the race day had to be delayed. While there was a bit of “mizzle” (mist and drizzle), accompanied by heavy rain shore side most of the day, Legacy Crew reported nothing of the kind offshore on the race course. Legacy and her Crew reported excellent race conditions this day. Amongst the week’s entertainment was another flyover, this time an aerial performance by the RAF Typhoon. Those of us ashore at the wardroom were caught off guard by the sonic booms emanated by the aircraft each time it circled back, literally, directly above the house. Three additional supporters joined the ranks this day. Following a final celebration aboard Legacy and her companion vessel Sealark, it was time for Captain Reginald to recognize the Crew acknowledging the tremendous support provided during the campaign. Sir Hugh Bailey, Sharon Chan Chow, Wayne Chan Chow, Tim Dewing, Marcia Leacock, and Stuart Matthews were recipients of the most significant of these awards. As is tradition, the evening was capped off by a spectacular fireworks display. Since the earliest days of the regatta, the fireworks display has been held on the final Friday to celebrate the closing of the week-long event.
Race Day 8: The final day of the Cowes Week 2015 saw the best race day for Legacy and her Crew. Legacy finished in fourth place on this day, maintaining her ranking in 20th place overall.
And then it was time to say goodbye. Until next time!