Secrets of Being a Good Captain: Anguilla Boat Race
A captain is as good as his crew but the fusion of a well-crafted boat, a strategic captain, a cooperative crew and favourable weather makes for an exceptional racing day in Anguilla!
Let me prove to you why the builders of Anguilla’s race boats, their captains and crew deserve accolades on accolades for their skill and sportsmanship, among other things.
Anguilla’s Boat Racing is a combination of tactics in an uncertain environment – which ultimately resulted in the Blue Bird (Class A) and Keidro’s Pride (Class B) taking home the title of Champion of Champions 2017.
Additionally, for the 2017 boat racing season, Real Deal (Class A) and De Storm (Class B) were the Boats of the Year. We extend sincere congratulations to all of the perseverant captains and crew members, the organisers and lovers of the sport for keeping our national sport alive.
Gravity, Mast & Positioning
For the spectators on land and even at sea who insist on becoming distant captains, you’re wrong! Every last suggestion you make is wrong! Your words hold no weight for any of the boats – merely because you’re not on any of the boats!
In boat racing, Weight = Speed.
Weight counters the force of the wind and, when carefully positioned in the boat, causes the forward movement which wins races – speed.
These vessels, which hold 3000 – 6000 pounds of lead and sand and 20+ men and women, are literally unstoppable.
“Side ya boat fellas”, “Move that sandbag on the side by the timbre”, “Move up.”
This shuffling and movement, especially on tacks, is the difference between finding the perfect balance or offsetting the boat. And, it’s all done by experience, intuition and trial and error.
But, dare not get caught in the rain on the sea. The resulting squalls (and, squalls in general) are vicious and can take a boat to the bottom of the sea in a second. Just ask the Satellite crew about how their boat sunk for the August Monday boat race. Or, the Viking, Light N’ Peace, Speed and Comfort and Real Deal who broke down or had other damages during the boat races for the 2017 Anguilla Summer Festival.
Push & Pull
Did I mention that these boats are powered by the wind? They don’t have brakes to stop… They can’t reverse… All they do is move forward using the power of the wind. Just ask the captains and crew of the UFO and Sonic who collided for the August Tuesday Boat Race to Island Harbour.
But, the question is, how can they move forward using the power of the wind when they’re actually fighting against the North East Trade Winds which affect the island? It’s as though they are being pulled across the water.
The answer is in the physics of positioning the sail to get forward thrust. When going with the wind, everything is slackened – sheet (main sail), jib, even the crew just sits back and relaxes. When going against it, the sheet and jib are pulled extremely tight and the crew are closely packed in the boat and along the rail.
You can literally feel the power in the boat! Water spraying in your face… boat loads of water entering the boat that has to be bailed out before it sinks. “Throwing your weight over the boat” and looking down 10-15 feet at the other side of the boat as the wind leans the mast towards a vertical position.
Don’t talk about having 3 men pull the sheet rope because it’s just too much for one man to “take a pound” on the sheet or jib.
And… the highly anticipated phrase “Hard Lee. Hard Lee” is one of the terms you would hear along with the chanting of the forward man to the Captain, “Freshers Captain. Freshers”!
It’s one thing for wind to blow down, kick up and mash up things, it’s another for you to utilise it to sail an open-hull ‘canoe’ and win races. On top of that, reading the power and direction by just looking at the waves.
The science of hand building these vessels, captaining them, reading the direction and speed of the wind, even knowing what route to take that gets you closer to the finish line quicker are just too much for one article. It is a science that is inherited and lives strong today in our boat race lovers and those brave enough to take to the sea.
Here are 10 lessons I learned racing on De Chan! What are some of your boat racing experiences?