March 28

Today is Sunday here in Majuro at about 9:15am and we just had breakfast. We are still tired from yesterday as we had quite a day. Here in Majuro it is Coconut Cup weekend which is a big social event organized around the annual Coconut Cup Race which was held yesterday. The big race was a big success and the party afterwards was a lot of fun. The Queen Jane participated in the race, along with 11 other sailing yachts, and we performed quite well considering we are a 25ton cruising boat not a racing sled.

At 11am yesterday the events were commenced with a crew meeting and brunch at the Tide Table restaurant located at the RRE Hotel in town. The key aspect of the meeting for us was procuring a crew as our boat is too large for just 2 people to race, and, with a broken auto-pilot Kate and I would be hard pressed to manage all the sails. As luck would have it we ended up securing a fabulous crew who really made the race for us.

To begin with, Kate and I realized we needed at least one really knowledgeable person who knew how to sail and who we could trust. After asking just about every skipper from every boat which was NOT going to be racing (all of whom said no they had already committed themselves to helping other boats which were racing) we stole Dr. Robin McIntyre away from the boat "Windswept" where she had committed to crewing .Windswept is a 65ft tri-maran owned and sailed by Richard and Christine and they had over 19 people they had accepted to crew with them. Their size made this large number of people possible and the fact that they are considered one of the two fastest boats in the fleet made them highly desirable. However, among those 19 were 3 skippers from three other boats which were not racing. One of the other 19 was Dr. Robin who we knew from Fiji 2 years ago and who we are friendly with and who now lives and works here in Majuro and is now boatless herself. Having convinced her that our need for her was so great that we could not participate without her she consented to assist us and with her one of the other 19 crew also defected (Bianca from Australia).

We also managed to land 2 other lovely young ladies named Rebecca (a young woman from Utah living in Majuro and teaching 3rd grade) and Julia (a nurse at the local hospital also from Australia). Next I realized I also needed at least one other man, preferably one possessing great strength, though skill and knowledge of sailing was not necessary. What I found was Bruce, his wife Jane and their friend Sarah who had flown over from Kwajelein where they live and work. Bruce and Jane own a J-30 over at Kwaj and Bruce was exactly what we needed. At 6' 5" tall Bruce was a massively built ex-football player who ended up being a major factor in our racing success. I put Biana and Rebecca on the Mizzen and Main sheets respectively (which have good multi-part tackle so they do not require great strength). Dr. Robin was our helmsman, a position she has a reputation for excelling at on Seal the boat she normally crews on during these races but which was not racing this year.

I put Jane, Sarah and Julie on the foredeck and it was their job to manhandle the jib across the deck when we tack. This was crucial since our boat has a permanent staysail mounted just behind the jib. This sail creates a slot between it and the jib through which the jib must pass when tacking (so it can be moved to the opposite side of the boat). On boats without staysail stays the jib is just pulled from one side to the other from the cockpit. On our boat one man has to roll up the jib at least part way, sometimes all the way, to get it small enough so it can cross over. With 3 people on the foredeck this would be much easier and faster which is the key in a race, tacking the boat quickly. I put Bruce on the jib sheets, the most physically demanding job on the boat, and it was here that he proved to be a godsend. I myself had 3 jobs and was positioned just to the right of Dr. Robin at the helm. First, it was my job to roll up the jib at the start of each tack (the line controlling this is just to the right of the helm and normally when Kate and I sail alone I have the helm and engage the autopilot while I roll up the jib) and then let it out again after the sail has crossed the bow to the other side. I also worked the staysail sheet and rolled and unrolled it depending on which leg we were on (on downwind leg the staysail blankets the jib so is not used). I also, of course, was the strategist although both Bruce and Robin made considerable contributions in making decisions about sail trim, when to tack, which way to head, etc. Kate worked the cockpit as well managing the crew and handling the job of releasing the jib sheet under tension at the start of each tack.

Our team had only 40 minutes to practice before the race and after our first 2 practice tacks it was apparent everything was going to work out fine. We managed to jockey into an excellent starting position and were 3rd across the starting line. However, the 3 speed demons in the fleet, "Roxanne" a 65' Wylie racer/cruiser, "Windswept" a custom built tri-maran and "Capricorn Cat" a catamaran all passed us within moments of the start and pulled ahead of us never to be seen again.

We had "Kaimana" and "C'est la Vie" just ahead of us and there they would remain throughout the race, a bit faster then the other cruising boats but not in a league with the three race speed demons. Behind us about 200yds perhaps was "Karmaladen" with Rixene, Ash, Joanne and James aboard, not to mention Rod the "Clam Farm Guy". All of the remaining boats were far behind "Karmaladen" and we never saw much of them during the race.

We had barely beaten "Karmaladen" in the last race, a race which was our first ever on Queen Jane, was performed in pouring rain and was crewed by only Kate and myself along with Louis and Marlee from "Green Nomad". "Karmaladen" is a 65ft Ketch with similar characteristics to ours only bigger and even heavier. We were able to beat her in the last race because we had the upwind advantage on them on the last leg and after the gained slowly on us for the entire race they never could get past us as I would keep turning in front of them every time they made an attempt to pass. I allowed them to come abreast of me on the downwind side and, as they knew would happen, we managed to block enough of their air so that they never could pull ahead of us and finished the race less then 1 boat length behind us.

This time we stayed ahead of her for the first two legs and she didn't seem to be coming any closer. The winds were lighter in the first half of the race and that may have prevented her in catching us. But on the second mark I called the tack too soon. We speeded ahead on the new tack and halfway to the next mark we realized we couldn't point up high enough to clear it and maintain speed. So we tacked to Port and sailed right in front of them (they were off quarter downwind but upwind of us when we tacked, they having gone far enough before turning at the last mark). Just as we passed them we tacked again parallel and just slightly upwind of them, but before we could get our speed up she was 2 boat lengths head of us and then slowly extended that lead to about 200yds by the time we crossed the finish line just behind her. We never could catch up with her after that.

After the race the crew helped furl all the sails and clean up the rigging. We anchored back at our spot near the Outrigger Hotel (which has new owners and a new name which I can't remember) and had a few cocktails and gab about the race. After we ferried the crew to shore we showered and clean Jonah up a bit and at 6pm went back to the Tide Table restaurant for the award dinner celebration. Since the Coconut Cup is a "Fun Race" prizes are given out randomly to any boat which qualifies and then finishes. Each crew is called up and a member picks a number from a hat. Prizes varied from cash money, a night at the Outrigger, another at the RRE, whole Yellow-Fin tuna (which we won one of - frozen of course) cases of beer, soft drinks, bottled water, giant umbrellas, beach chairs, gift certificates at a local store that sells everything from batteries to stereo systems to kids clothing and giant knives and cleaning supplies. We won a bit of this and a bit of that. Another chair, which we gave to Dr. Robin, half the beer went to Bruce. We got free movie passes at the cinema and a $20 credit at the EZ Price and we all bought the shirt. Been there done that. NEXT!

I don't think we have a big future in racing the Queen Jane but it was great fun and morale boosting. We really haven't sailed our boat this thoroughly ever. The attention we were able to expend on each detail of the boats operation and manpower we could apply to working the boat made possible by a crew of 9 people is something we've never tried before. The Queen Jane can rock when you work at her. Fortunately the wind gods helped too.

Pictures of the race will be posted sometime in the first week of April as will the photos from Feb. which are set to go but have not yet been put on the site.