Five days ago Alchemy made landfall in Nanny Cay, Tortola. After 1,464 miles and (roughly) 11d 13h 0m 1s at sea, we came into Tortola at 11:45pm at night. As I think the oldest boat in the fleet (Alchemy is 40 years old), we started 4-5 hours late and managed to run through the fleet to finish second in class. A big thank you to Scott, Rick, Jere and Jim, my friends and crew who managed to install five chainplates hours before departure, and to be a great crew beating to weather for 8 straight days!
The last part of the passage was loonnggg. It’s interesting to look at the Carib 1500 fleet tracker. In the last stage of the race, you can see all the boats start to wildly tack back and forth as the wind changers direction and moves to the SE. At this point we are all beating into the wind. Those boats that worked hard to “gain easterly” had an advantage as they could crack off and head more or less straight for Tortola. Others had more tacking ahead.
Although we were all tired and longing to “just get there”, this part of the race was pretty interesting. With the wind in the SE, tactics rather than raw speed became increasingly important. Tacks would last for a day or more, so each was discussed among the crew to decide on the best path. Engine use also became important. All of our engine hours were logged and became a penalty, so deciding at what point as wind dropped to turn the engine on was another major tactical factor. Alchemy’s route is shown here in purple. As it turned out, the driving to weather favored Alchemy. A Tartan 41 is a 70’s IOR design that excels at this kind of sailing. We could make 5 knots in a 7-8 knot wind and still pinch to 30 degrees. This helped us make up our delayed start and move through the fleet. So much so, in fact, that we eventually secured 2nd place in our class, being narrowly beaten by Opportunity by only 7 hours.
On arrival, the boat was a wreck inside, the latter half of the passage was all into the wind and we spent our days at 30 degrees. Stuff tends to not get put away when you are bouncing up and down 24 hours a day. Fortunately, we had no major repairs, so spent a couple of days getting in order before the family arrived. Alchemy made the transition passage maker (pack away storm sails and drogue) to family boat (out with the legos and stuffies).
Now the family has arrived and we are hanging around in Nanny Cay for a few days before setting out. People keep asking “so where are you going?” For an answer we just look at each other and shrug saying ” don’t really know, we have to be in Vermont by July.”
After two years of intense planning, it’s strange to have a blank open page ready to be be written stretching out infront of us.