Swain Sailing School entered the Flagship Regatta of the BVI -and arguably of the Caribbean- with its student team, hoping to once again be a competitive force in the Bareboat class. Their boat "Pretty Girl" a Beneteau 39 was sailed this year by three students, Keanna Rink, Sandy Gray and Derrick Penn, along with Rory Greenan serving as instructor and tactician. All students having trained from scratch with RSSS and since gaining varying degrees of racing experience, signed up for the RSSS racing clinic with a goal of gaining some international regatta experience and instruction in performance sailing.
Expectations for the event were modest at the start of the event, with the main goal of the week being to raise everybody's skill and knowledge level in the racing arena. The week kicked of on Monday March 31st as the crew began to prep the boat for the week of racing. The bimini, stack pack, reef lines, BBQ and all other unnecessary cruising items were removed in the hope of lightening Pretty Girl and cutting down drag. Hindsight would prove these steps important towards shaving off valuable seconds later in the week.
The next day the "Sailing Festival" (the warm up races for the regatta proper) began with a test of the crew's light wind racing skills with a slog around Ginger island before returning to Nanny Cay via Deadman's Chest. The crew blew out any sailing cobwebs and sailed the boat excellently and finished with a very respectable 3rd place.
Wednesday the crew's sparred under the hot sun in very light wind with a fun race over to the opening of the new Pirates restaurant on Norman Island followed by a pleasant sail back to base. Pretty Girl placed second securing 2nd place overall for the Festival.
For the Regatta the Bareboat 2 (up to 45 ft) fleet climbed in numbers to a fleet of 9 strong, with some very serious looking teams strutting around the marina in matching shirts and Reservoir Dog-esque walks. With a lot of new boats Team RSSS were unsure of how they would compete.
Friday was the most challenging day of sailing all weekend with constant squalls and 25+kt gusts but Team RSSS sailed very well securing a 2nd and 3rd. Pretty Girl was confident it could compete for a place on the podium.
Saturday tested the fleet once again with even stronger winds, minus the rainy squalls. But the crew again sailed 2 exemplary races, finishing again with a second and a third. First place was all but sewn up, as "The Whalers", a boat of seasoned regatta sailors including a professional sailor posted another day of two firsts. But the competition for 2nd place was really beginning to heat up with Pretty Girl sitting in second but only by 1 point. "Ka Wai Ola" had beaten them in the festival and the Pretty Girl crew were keen to hold onto second place for the regatta but knew this would be a stern test against this very competitive crew.
Team RSSS came into Sunday with high hopes and a steely resolve to sail Pretty Girl with everything they could but disaster struck on the first start as Pretty Girl experienced her first significant gear failure of the weekend, losing the use of her jib for over a minute. The crew battled hard to fix the problem and quickly got the boat sailing properly again. Although everybody was relieved to have the problem solved, it seemed all was lost as they finished fifth and dropped to a point behind there nearest competitor into third place. Although the crew would have said at the start of the week that they would have been delighted with 3rd the crew was now a little dejected having been sitting second overnight. All they could do was sail their best in the final race- and that's what they did. With Keanna at the helm and Sandy going to battle with the main in again challenging conditions, the boat was sailed to near perfection, finished in second, a mere 30 seconds ahead of Ka Wai Ola, leaving the boats on tied points. The crew were unsure what this meant until they were greeted with congratulations as the entered the marina with news that they had secured a second place overall finish as they held more 2nd place finishes than their rivals. Team RSSS was nothing short of ecstatic, some getting to celebrate a 2nd place in only their first regatta, international or otherwise.
There was no shortage of words or praise from their instructor and followers. Everyone was extremely proud to see how well they sailed the boat through an assortment of challenges and conditions. Everybody had a great week, both on and off the water, but especially on the stage Sunday evening collecting their well deserved trophy!