Barbados Sailing Week 2019 : The Occam's Team hops boats - Part 2

Downwind Fun.  Photo by Peter Marshall

The Background

I grew up in the PNW, I've sailed here most of my life, and have competed in almost all of the big events in this area on multiple occasions.  I've also lived in other areas of North America, and have participated in some of the more iconic events around including San Francisco Big Boat Series, StFYC NOOD Regatta, and Key West Race Week (KWRW).

Over the last few years, I started to think about what special event or trip I would like to take to celebrate my 50th birthday.  Since my birthday is in January, my thoughts turned to regattas that take place in the warm climes of the Caribbean at that time of year.  Having raced KWRW a couple of times in it's hey-day of the early '90's, I have fond memories of the event, and that was my first choice of events to mark the occasion of my 50th.  Of course, logistics was a big concern, and the prospect of getting Occam's to Key West, with 14 crew, and all else that would entail seemed a bridge too far. For KWRW 2017, a company from Ontario set up a deal where they trucked a fleet of 10 Flying Tiger 7.5's to Key West, and chartered out the fleet for the week of racing.  This seemed like a good opportunity for us, as the fleet would be levelled out by the fact that almost all of the teams would be as new to the boats as us.  So, I started putting out feelers for crew, and incubated the idea.  Unfortunately, in mid-2017, the organizers of KWRW pulled the plug for the 2018, and while they promised to be back for 2019, the odds seemed against that, and early in 2018 all hope was lost for the return of KWRW in 2019.

So, I started to look at other events that we could take on in January 2019.  Fortunately, my monthly Seahorse Magazine always has numerous ads from the various regattas that make up the Caribbean racing season from January through April.  The immediate front-runner option was Barbados Sailing Week (  The dates for the event coincided exactly with my birthday, the programme involved a series of day races with social events every evening, and the costs seemed reasonable.  The only downside to the event was that the big boat fleet was not large.  Certainly not the size of KWRW in the '90's, and not even what we usually see at Whidbey Island Race Week in the summers here in the PNW.  There is also a J/24 fleet at Barbados Sailing Week, and I did contemplate that option, but those boats are just not that comfortable to race in, and I wanted to enjoy the experience.

So, with the idea taking shape, it was time to recruit crew for the big adventure.  Naturally, I started with the Occam's regulars, and Grandpa Sprinkles immediately jumped on the idea, and offered to take the lead on looking at charter boat and housing options.  Graeme, Mark and Karen quickly also joined in.  Steven, Brian, and Renne were soon also on board and became part of the Occam's family.  The final team member to sign on was lawyer Mike, who kept us hanging for a while, but finally agreed to grace us with his presence.

December racing.  We're smiling because we know that next time we race, we will be in shorts

The Arrangements

With the crew sorted, the next key ingredients to arrange were of course the boat and the lodgings.

Brian and Mike had previous experience in chartering a boat for Caribbean racing, and put Dave in touch with excellent contacts.  We quickly homed in on a Beneteau First 40, chartered by Nemesis Yacht Charters in the UK (  The boat was scheduled to make the trip from Europe to the Caribbean in November as part of the annual charter boat migration, and then be in the Caribbean for the spring regatta season. 

The boat was the ideal size, being large enough to be comfortable in the big winds but only needing 8 to 10 crew to race comfortably.  With symmetric masthead kites, a large main and non-overlapping jibs, the setup is a mix of Occam’s and KISS, so the crew was well suited to the boat.

For accommodations, we researched several options, ranging from renting several suites in hotels to renting a house.  We had 13 people in total, 9 crew and 4 spouses, so we needed a fair bit of room.  We found the perfect house for our group, located just ten minutes north of Bridgetown, right on the beach, with its own beach access, a pool, hot-tub, and lots of room for gathering and socializing.

 Act 1 – The arrival

Getting from Vancouver to Barbados is a two-day affair, involving an overnight stop in Toronto, and an early morning flight to Barbados.  The bulk of the crew were on the same flight Sunday morning, arriving mid-afternoon.

Next came the trick of fitting 6 people, their luggage, and a sail into a small van that “seats 7”.  Once that was accomplished, the next surprise was that the cars drive on the left side of the road!  The first drive was a little eventful, but we made it unscathed and found our house in paradise without too much trouble.


Fortunately, Graeme, Leah, Steven and Mary had arrived the day before, and stocked the house with food and rum, so the party quickly got started!

The view from the upstairs room

Lots of room for lounging around

The pool

The view from the private beach

Act 2 – We meet Rocket Dog II

Monday morning the crew loaded into our matching white vans and headed to the Bridgetown inner basin to meet up with Rocket Dog II and her owner, Alison.  Having just crossed the Atlantic, and delivered to Barbados, Rocket Dog was well equipped, but had on board all the equipment needed to cross oceans.  Since we were planning only to compete in a handful of coastal races, much of the equipment (and leftover food) was extraneous to our mission so we set about off-loading a couple of thousand pounds of sails, safety equipment and food that we didn’t need.

Rocket Dog II

Hello Allison

The next morning, we returned to Rocket Dog and headed out for a practice sail with Alison along to speed up the familiarisation process on the new boat.  The sail went quite well, with the crew gelling quickly (and I think Alison was impressed with our crew work right out of the gate).

Returning from our first day of sailing

Wednesday, we went out again, with the full race crew on board (now that Dave had finally arrived), and we got a good taste of Caribbean sailing with a solid 18 to 22 knots of beautiful breeze.

Downwind fun

Foredeck conference

Dave jumps right into concentration mode

Post-sailing birthday pops
So, with two days of sailing under our belts, it was time to get to racing...

Act 3 - The Coastal Series

The Barbados Sailing Week Coastal Series consists of three days of day racing, with one race per day, in the 15 to 22 mile range.  The courses changed each day, but generally included a short beat from the start, around a windward mark, then off the wind to marks 2 to 7 miles away, and from there around one or two other marks before heading for the finish off the host club.

The Occam's Dragon ready for action

The CSA Racing fleet consisted of 5 boats:  Selene (Swan 80), Ambersail 2 (Volvo 65), Spirit of Juno (Farr 65), Concise 8 (Open 40), and Rocket Dog II (Beneteau First 40).  So, it was a varied fleet, with us as the slow boat by a fair bit.  All the other boats in the fleet were fully or partially manned by professional crew (Juno was a mix of paid crew and paying charter guests).

Our strategy going into the first day was to search for space on the line to get a clean start, free from the big wind shadows of the three larger boats in our fleet.  Throughout the three days, the pattern that emerged was that the wind clocked through 15 degree shifts on a five minute interval, so the favoured side of the first beat (and the favoured tack off the line) changed regularly, so we needed to be prepared for the next shift off the start.

As plans go, this one went, and with under a minute to go before the start of the first race, we were on the layline for the committee boat, with the Open 40, Juno, and Ambersail all above us and reaching down to the boat.  This meant that we were in a perfect position to close the door on all of them and force them to be late for the start.  But, knowing that they all had the ability to roll over (or through!) us, and put us in their dirt, we opted to reach off a bit, and put some separation between us and the crowd at the boat.  The strategy paid off, as things got very crowded, and Ambersail actually hit the committee boat! (Later discussion with Juno who were between us and Ambersail revealed that they had no idea we were below them (with rights) becasue they were focused on Ambersail.  So, while we could have taken them up, they would not have heard our call, and would have run us over).

30 seconds to the Race 1 start.  We have Concise 8, Juno, and Ambersail pinned, but decode to reach off for clear air.  Photo by Peter Marshall
With Ambersail having to do circles after the start, and Juno having issues, we escaped pretty clean, and got to the weather mark ahead of both of them.

Leading Ambersail 2 to the offset mark.  Photo by Peter Marshall
In the end, we corrected to third for the race, behind Selene and Concise 8.  Not too bad for our fist official outing on the boat.

The Race 2 start was a little more confused than Race 1, with all the boats being bunched up in the middle of the line at the start.  Unfortunately for us, this left us with a lot of dirty air to deal with, and spit out the back early on.   Selene and Concise again took the top two spots, and Ambersail corrected on us too.

It takes a fair bit of nerve to hold on starboard against a boat twice your size.  Photo by Peter Marshall
Race 3 was a better day for us.  The wind was the lightest of all three days, and the course included a long, tight white sail reach which allowed us to keep close to the fleet.  The final run was also in lighter air, so the boats with asymmetric kites had to reach a fair bit, while we went pole back and headed straight for the mark.  We ended up with our best result for the series, taking 2nd on the day, but unable to catch Concise 8 in the overall.

Race 3 start. Photo by Peter Marshall.

Working upwind.  Photo by Peter Marshall.

Downwind to the finish
Rocket Dog at the inner basin moorage
The prize giving for the Coastal Series was held on Sunday afternoon at the Barbados polo field following a day of polo games.  The Rocket Dog II crew dressed up (well, our better halves did), and went to enjoy the festivities and collect our third place prize.

What's a Polo game without champagne?

Third place crew

Act 4 - 'Round the Island we go

The big event of the Barbados Sailing Week is the 'Round the Island Race.  The fleet was basically the same as we had faced all week, with a couple of additional players in the mix.  The winners of the race win the Skipper's weight in Mt. Gay rum, so there is a lot on the line!

Rocket Dog II and crew ready for the big race
The race starts and finishes in Carslisle Bay off the Barbados Yacht Club, and goes clockwise around the island for a total race of about 65 miles.  Boats start at 15 minute intervals in a modified pursuit format, meaning that the slowest boats start first, and all things being equal, the entire fleet will finish in a bunch, with your place on the line being your corrected finish position.

There were three boats in our start, including previous race winner Whistler (J/105).  Unlike the previous races, there was no windward mark after the start, so it was a downwind start, and we hoisted the kite at the gun.  Unfortunately, the run lasted only as far as the cruise ship terminal just north of Bridgetown, when we had to harden up to a white sail reach.  The asymmetric boats tried to keep their kites up, but our experience from the last coastal race indicated that they would not be able to do that for long, and we were correct.

Reaching up the East shore of the island

Holding off the J/105 who struggled to keep the kite working

Once around the pier at the cement terminal, just south of Hangsman Bay, the reach became a full beat as we neared the north end of the island.  At the north end we exited the lee of the island and the wind freshened and the seas grew significantly.  Using the boats that started before us as a gauge, we tacked when we were able to lay the north-east point of the island.  The beat across the top of the island was a little uncomfortable in the cross seas, but soon we were around the top, and heading down the east coast of the island slightly cracked off.

With the wind consistently strong and steady, the reach down the east side was a rhumbline affair, heading to Ragged Point and Deebles Point, after which we were able to crack off enough to hoist the big masthead kite with the waves on our transom.

At the southern-most point of the island, we prepared to execute our only gybe of the race.  Unfortunately, a poorly timed wave, and a poor response by the helm (cough, cough), resulted in the kite wrapping around the forestay, slowing us down for a few minutes until it could be cleared.  Once we cleared the mess and completed the gybe, we were outside of the nearest boats, but actually had a nice angle up the south-west side of the island.

Around the South-East corner and heading for home
The final few miles run in to the finish got a little interesting as we were catching slower boats who had started ahead of us, and trying to hold off faster boats coming up from behind. (Not to mention dealing with a freighter and some kite surfers!)  Our real focus was on Concise 8, who were making ground on us, but at the same time were having to sail more distance and gybe frequently to maintain their reaching angles.

The crowd approaching the finish
The final 1/4 mile or so became a very tight reach, and things were a little touch and go, with us loosing the kite a couple of times, including right at the line.  Concise finished less than a minute behind us, having similar issues, even with their asymmetric kites.

The video of our finish is at this link.  Concise finished 2 boats behind us.

In the end, we came second on uncorrected time for boats 40' and under, behind Concise, who set a new course record.  We actually only missed the old record by 25 minutes ourselves.  On CSA corrected, we came 5 out of 9 boats, which is not too bad, as the boats who beat us were locals (who had done the race several times before) or professionally sailed boats.

Results are here:

Ultimately, what matters is that we had a fantastic day (week!) of racing, sailing, sunning, relaxing, and generally enjoying ourselves!

After we all got back to the house, we gathered for drinks and food, and celebration.

Post Race relaxation - Red Mt. Gay hats are cool when you go to Barbados to get them!

As is tradition with the Occam's Team, after each big event, I make it a point to nominate one team member as the "Player of the Game" in recognition of their extraordinary effort.  This time, there were two very deserving nominees.  The first being Dave C (aka Grandpa Sprinkles) for all of his effort in coordinating the trip, specifically in arranging the housing and the boat charter, and handling the finances for both.  The second nominee, and the winner of the Player of the Game award was Brian, our bow guy, who took on the job that no one really wanted to do, did it without complaining, and sacrificed his body (I'll spare you the pictures) to do it.  For his effort, he was awarded the bottle of Mt. Gay Rum from the Skipper's package for the race.

Brian earned his rest!

The day after the Round the Island Race, the official prize giving was held at the Mt. Gay Distillery.  While several of us had already departed for the cold north, Brian, Graeme, Dave, Steven, and Renee represented us well at the party, and accepted our prize (another bottle of rum) for 2nd in the 40' and under class.

Celebrating at the Mt. Gay Distillery

So, that's it.  That's the story of our visit to the tropical paradise of Barbados.  I think everyone had a wonderful time, and I want to once again thank the entire team for making the trip such a memorable and enjoyable one!

Swiftsure 2018: The Occam's Team hops boats - Part 1

The Preamble

If you read my last post, you know that the Occam's team spent most of 2018 racing the Farr 30 while Occam's is getting a make-over.

Unfortunately, the Farr 30 is just not that well suited to overnight racing, with minimal creature comforts below, and the new boat did not come with any of the requisite safety equipment.

So, rather than try to outfit KISS for overnight racing, we instead looked outside of the team for another ride for the annual Swiftsure Race out of Victoria.  Swiftsure has been a fixture in the PNW for a very long time, and 2018 marked the 75th running of the race, so we didn't want to miss out on the festivities.

Fortunately, one of the extended Occam's family happens to own his own race boat, and was looking for a crew to race it in Swiftsure.  So, in serendipitous turn, we quickly found a ride for all of the Occam's team that was interested in racing.

The boat that we were racing, while a pure race boat for it's time, could not be more different from Occam's.  Amazing Grace is a mid-80's vintage C&C 45 IOR war horse.  This boat has been there and done that, and participated in some of the biggest races of the late IOR era.  She is a lovely looking boat, that fortunately still sports her original colours and is easy to spot from miles away due to her red and white spinnakers.

It's hard to mistake that boat for anyone else

Although only a few feet longer than Occam's, Amazing Grace weighs well over twice as much as Occam's, and the loads on her are immense.  Added to that, she was built in the era before effective line clutches, so every line has a dedicated winch.  I mean, there are even winches to move the jib cars!

The jib car winch (center of photo), is larger than the cabin top winches on KISS!
So, after a couple of practice sails on English Bay, the crew set off to face all comers in the Cape Flattery Race at Swiftsure.

A busy inner harbour in Victoria

The Race

Conditions for the race this year were pretty much exactly as they advertise in the brochure.  Clear skies, moderate temperature, a fairly steady westerly wind.

The big tactical decision, as usual, was when to cross over to the American shore on the long beat out to Neah Bay.

But before we could get to that point, we did have to navigate the rather congested start line.

The crowded starting area

The crew happy to be on our way

After the start, things were pretty easy as we worked out way to Race Rocks.  There was a commercial vessel which decided to make like interesting for the fleet, and take a rather westerly route from the Quarantine Buoy to Race Rocks that brought them right through the fleet.

After passing Race Passage, the wind piped up rather quickly, and we had to change down jibs a couple of times in rapid succession, which on this boat put quite a strain on the foredeck crew.

Things start to get more serious...

But we made it through that trial, and then things settled down, and the wind gradually eased as the afternoon went on, and we headed West.

We rounded the mark around 7pm, set the red and white kite (well, they all are red and white), and headed for home.
The foredeck crew looking pretty happy after we round the mark and head for home
The downwind leg was pretty uneventful, and everyone had an enjoyable sail.

Clowning around!

"Martha" heading out to the bank

The moon rises ahead of us as we head east.

Although we prepared for it as much as we always do, for once, Race Rocks was not blowing like crazy as we came home.  In fact, it was no more than a couple of knots more than anywhere else.  So we had a fairly sedate and civilised transit through Race Passage, and then just had to watch out for the wind holes on the trip back in to the finish.

The moon sets behind us as we near the finish

All in all, it was a great sail (and a decent result) for us on Amazing Grace.  And we want to thank Steven and Mary for taking our rag-tag bunch on board and making sure we didn't miss out on the fun!

KISS and tell...

This is the tale of what the Occam's Razor Race Team got up to in 2018 while Occam's is in the yard getting fixed up following loosing the rig in an unfortunate race collision.

In late 2017, the Occam's management set out to look for a fairly priced boat in a competitive fleet so that we could continue to sail while Occam's was in the shop.  Fairly quickly, we found a Farr 30 for sale in Nanaimo which had previously been part of the Vancouver Farr 30 fleet.

The first view of the new boat

Deck layout is eerily similar to Occam's

Not a lot of head room below

And not a lot of amenities

The boat was in good condition, although the sail wardrobe was a little tired and needed updating, so two weeks later, the deal was done, and the Occam's Team had a new toy.

The first order of business was to bring the boat to Vancouver, which involved a long motor in the cold, damp, and fog, which was a little more adventurous than necessary.

The second order of business was to come up with a new name for the boat.  A group of intrepid team members got together for a night of serious brainstorming (aka drinking) and thought of new names.  In the end, the best name was suggested by Grandpa Sprinkles.

Keeping with the theme of the team name the new boat is called KISS, which is short for "Keep It Simple Stupid" which is an alternate expression of Occam's Razor.

First Sails

So, armed with a new name, and with new sails on order, it was time to get to learn the new boat.  On a rainy Saturday in January, the team got to take the new ride out for a spin.  And she certainly did not disappoint!

Figuring out the rigging

Lots of smiles all around

Easily hitting 7 knots downwind!

It might have something to do with the massive kite!
A couple of weeks later, we entered our first Polar Bear Race with the new boat.  It was a bit of an inauspicious affair, but it was good to get out racing and to see the Occam's Dragon flying!

Two weeks later, we tried again, and had a better day on the water and were able to enjoy Vancouver winter sailing at its best.

Through the rest of February and March, we continued to work on getting the boat and equipment up to specs, including more new sails, new lines and of course, the new name!

Looking good little sister!

The First Big Race - Southern Straits

The Farr 30 is a such a great boat due to it's SA/D ratio (it has a lot of sail area, but doesn't weigh a lot).  Keeping that in mind, the idea of loading a bunch of safety gear, crew gear and food on board so that we could do an overnight Southern Straits race did not seem like a great idea.  (Also remember what I said before about there not being much room down below!).  

Fortunately, the organisers of thew WVYC's Southern Straits Race recently added an "Inshore" day race, that was perfect for the Farr 30.  So we were able to participate in an iconic Vancouver race, yet be home in time for dinner Friday!  As it turns out, we made a good call all around.  We enjoyed a ripping ride around Passage Island, and a very nice kite run back home, while the boats doing the overnight race spent a good portion of their time struggling in light air.

Looking good at the

Enjoying the ride home

RVYC Day Race - The first real test

While we had been enjoying ourselves, and working hard to learn the new boat, up until now, we had not actually lined up against any other Farr 30's.

Our first chance came with the RVYC Day Race, which was a short distance race tour of English Bay.

The race started with a short beat up to the Kit's Barge Buoy, followed by a long run out to Passage Island.  Rounding the Barge Buoy, we were right up with the crowd, and the run to Passage saw all the Farrs grouped together for a long while.  We were very pleased to be in contact with the group all the way to Pt. Atkinson, but then we fell behind a bit.  Undeterred, we pressed on, and on the leg back in to RVYC from Passage, we made up some ground, and actually got ahead of one or two of the other Farrs.  We continued to gain ground in the dying breeze as the fleet headed out the the Bell Buoy, and passed another boat who went in a hole (and then another who ran aground on the way back to the finish off RVYC.).  In the end, we were the second Farr 30 to cross the line.  Unfortunately, due to an altercation on the course with of boat in a different division, we were later disqualified from the race.  But overall, we were pleased with our sailing for the day!

Keeping in contact with the Farr 30 fleet on the long run to Passage Island

May One Design Regatta - Time for School

On the first weekend of May, we entered in the RVYC May One Design Regatta, which was a chance to line up against 4 other Farr 30's for two days of racing with 5 races per day, and no throw-outs.

That's a lot of racing, and we looked forward to our first chance for some real, tight, one-design racing.  With 5 boats in the fleet, most of whom had been racing Farr 30's for 5 seasons or more, we knew that our chances of doing well overall were slim, and we focused on learning the boat from some of the best sailors in Vancouver.

We spent 2 days chasing the fleet around, checking out the settings that were being used for jib and main trim, and doing our best to be in the mix.

In the end, we surpassed our expectations.  While we did finish last overall (of the boats that raced both days), we did have some success in individual races, with some very close finishes, and one second place finish late on the second day.

Overall, the team really enjoyed the one-design racing experience, and looked forward to the next event.
Glorious Spring racing in Vancouver

WIRW 2018 - The main event

As long as I have been racing big boats in the Pacific Northwest (and that's a pretty LONG time!), the biggest regatta event of the year has been Whidbey Island Race Week, which happens in July just across the border in Oak Harbour, Whidbey Island.  While the event is smaller than it was in the '80's, and this year was actually reduced from 5 days of racing to just 4, it is still the best chance to get in several days of racing in great conditions, against the best sailors in the area.

We began the year optimistic that Race Week would be a one-design event for the Farr 30's, but ended up being 2 boats short of the number needed to get our own start, and ended up racing in the same Div 1 fleet that we have raced against in Occam's for the past several years.  So, the fleet was 4 Farr 30s (KISS, 65 Red Roses, Nefarious, Bat Out of Hell), Absolutely (Farr 39 ML), Shrek (ID35), Javelin (ID35 - Modified), and Wicked Wahine (Melges 32).

The Farr 30 contingent ready to go
Overall, the conditions were quite light this year, with only one day where the wind gave us the reliable westerlies that we know and love at Race Week.  But the racing in the Farr fleet was close, with us enjoying several good legs where we were sailing right next to other Farrs and able to gauge our speed and point nicely.

As expected, the results show that we are still learning the boat, and that it's an uphill battle to crack into the standings in this fleet.  But overall, it was a great event (as usual), and we had fun as always.

Press for KISS

Catching crabs

Sailing in after the last day of racing

The view from the beach house

The Rest of the year....

After Race Week, we returned home, and continued to race as much as possible, racing Wednesday nights at RVYC, and a couple of more One Design Regatta Weekends.  The year ended with a couple of VRC Polar Bear Races.

The year was all about learning, and we did make some good strides.  In the last One Design regatta of the year, we placed last, but were tied on points with the 4th place boat, were in the mix with the fleet more often than not, and had some good individual results.

Overall, I think the entire team really enjoyed the year, the challenge of racing one-design, and revelled int he opportunity to learn while racing against some of the best in Vancouver.

KISS in the fall sun

The final race of 2018

 We want to thank the entire Farr 30 fleet for being so welcoming and supporting throughout the year.  Several crew from other boats volunteered to come out with us and help us get sorted, and everyone was welcoming on the race course (even though we were not competing for top spot).

We are looking forward to the 2019 season, and hopefully moving up the ladder within the fleet.

Unfortunately, the Farr 30 may be taking a bit of a hit this year as 65 Red Roses is for sale, and will not be racing until hes is sold.

So, it you are looking for a new ride, and are interested in some tight racing, I suggest you take a good look at Roses, she is very well equipped and ready to hit the course!