38th Heineken Regatta (Feb/Mar)

I’ve been back home a week now – and it’s been non stop. Still buzzing, but finally got a few spare hours to faff and to try & write this post 🙂  Decided that this is gonna be the last lengthy essay type post… honest 🙂


Round the time that I was going through the Clipper process and the whole #boobygate crap – another lightbulb moment I’d had was me realising that over the last 10 years I’d stopped taking risks, slowly stopped doing crazy F it things… The things that made me grin like a kid, and bounce around like a loon.  I guess I’d become more hesitant over making decisions, trying to put others first, always worrying about consequences… Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s natural to an extent, you kind of settle down…  Problem was, I’d gone too far, I’d strayed from who I was fundamentally and been pushed down from doing things that made me, me.

And then I realised that I was going to miss out on my Caribbean fix in 2018 (no rum punches, no expresso martini’s from Scullys and no dancing) Clearly I couldn’t NOT get a Caribbean fix 😉  So, that was a “right I want to go to the Caribbean, but what to do?”

F%$* it, sailing there would be frickin AWESOME… Although Antigua feels like a home from home these days, I wanted somewhere and something new.  Where the memories, are mine… and mine alone…

Having been “shore crew” for the 600 for the last few years, I knew quite a lot of the charter boats that do the season. Problem was, I knew that I wasn’t quite ready for an offshore race (having followed the boats on YB tracker this year on the RORC600, a wise call for me…  Proper fierce weather, solid 30 gusting up to 40 with the highest amount of retirements ever) and I also knew the boat I knew and wanted to sail on, that was partially responsible for me getting me back onto a boat was a no go zone (the picture at the top of the page, that’s the boat!!)

Decision was what to do, and who to do it with!! I remembered that a friend was crew on Sirens Tigress a few years ago with a female skipper called Susan Glenny.  Googled, and up came www.teamtigress.com . Quick look at the site, read of some of the posts and then stumbled across some clips of Sue skippering on Facebook.  Wow – was highly impressed with her skippering and realised that there was no need for me to look elsewhere for a boat.  I wanted to sail with Sue on Tigress…. Looked at what regatta’s were happening in the Caribbean and figured that Heineken would be a good one for me to cut my teeth on (their tagline #seriousfun may have helped a little bit) Few emails with Sue, and job done – I was signed up to do the Regatta.  EEEEK 🙂

Flying out to St Maarten – eurgh. I’d left booking my flights quite late, bad call!!  Ended up having to do 3 changes.  Got delayed by a few hours, so landed in the dark – got to the apartment, grabbed food & beer and then promptly crashed.  I had a few days before the guys arrived from Antigua, so wisely spent it chilling, drinking beer and sunbathing (as my insta account can evidence) – well what else is a girl to do!!  Gotta say, for an island that was decimated by Irma – they’ve done an amazing job in getting stuff back up & running.  I don’t know what it was like before, but the devastation is still clear to see – incredibly sad and humbling…  As are the human stories of life during and after the hurricane – I still can’t comprehend some of the things I was told… definitely makes you realise what you have, and I’m glad that by being there, I was contributing to the economy which needs as much of a boost as it can get to be able to continue with the rebuilding….

Tigress arrived in St Maartens, Port de Plaisance on Tuesday morning – I’d already been in contact with Sue & had promised we’d meet them down on the dock. Sue is director/owner/skipper (obvs) and Lou.  Louise is the Ops Manager for Tigress – both jumped onto the dock to welcome Andrew & I.

Haha think Sue & Lou were rather surprised when Andrew & I turned up (well after we spent a good half hour wandering around trying to find the bloody boat!!). Given the guys had just done the 600,and sailed to SXM, I knew they’d all be knackered, there would be tons of stuff to do, cleaning, repacking sails, figuring out if anything needed fixing and extra hands would make things go quicker.

Wednesday was the first day out on the boat – practise day. Did the safety brief and then Sue asked us all about our usual positions – me, well its trim & kite.  I was put into the trim team – phew…  Quick tour of the boat and then it was push off to make the outbound bridge opening.

Ummm a First 40, is a rather different boat to J109 😉 Sue started explaining about the boat, talked through manoeuvres we’d be doing, who needed to do what and when.  When Sue got to the symmetrical spinnaker – I may have had a little mental freak out (sooo much to remember)

DJ has an asymmetric one so it has a permanent luff, tack and clew on the sail, and means the pole (bowsprit) that the sail attaches to at the bottom, comes out of the front of the boat. The times I get to fly the kite on DJ – I love it, nothing quite beats the feeling you get when you know the kite is sailing properly, and you’re the one controlling it…

On a symmetrical one the tack and clew alternate depending on what end the windward corner is when sailing (apparently allows you to sail deeper downwind) – the pole is attached to the mast, and when you need to tack or gybe (pesky windshifts!!), the sail has to get reset, so you have to swing the pole to the middle, drop the pole down, take it under, get it reattached, back up and out (technically called a dip pole gybe – sounds like a dance move right). Oh, yea and as quickly as humanly possible!! FAAAAAARK.  You need to know how to work n fly these babies, and have a lot more experience than I do – so I was given the pole responsibility.

We went for a sail, practised our tacks – which given not all of us had sailed together before, started coming together ok for the first day. Then it was “that” time – downwind sailing and spinnaker.  Sue talked through what we all needed to do beforehand – I just needed to remember to keep my eyes open, watch what’s happening, and when Sue shouts “Smoke”, I need to let the pole go back to the middle and hop across to the other side, ready to hoist it when Lou bellows back “Made”  Errr simples, right?! 😉  Well it is in comparison to what the Pit person has to do…   😉

Hahaha – we got it up…. And sailed with it… Literally a day of practising upwind, downwind sailing, spinnaker up and down, tacks and gybes… and dum dum dum… HIKING.  Turns out not even this is straightforward – Sue knows the boat like the back of her hand.  I’ve been used to hiking on the high side predominantly, not on the low as well.  Seems Tigress likes her balance and all depends on angle/speed as to who needs to be where (high or low). Sue told us to keep an eye on the wind speed and if it got to 7=1 person up/down, 11=2 person up/down etc!! 🙂 Fascinating stuff…    really makes a difference too…

When we got back in and packed the boat away – Sue sat & chatted to us about race start. Turns out, race starts are different to normal racing.  Given the volume of boats in the water, all vying for prime position, you need to be ready to react a damn site quicker than normal, so rather than trim team being on the same side (grinder & tailer on one winch)… we’re across both sides (so you have a person on each winch) enough rope on the winch to be able to start pulling through, but not too much to cause a problem if they start grinding on the other side… That’s going to be a little different!!   Few beers, dinner and an earlyish night, ready for race start the next day….

Thursday – Commodores Cup: I am pleased to confirm race starts are bloody mental.  Hahaha I loved ‘em.  Talk about adrenalin rush – Lou on the bow spotting, Sue helming – shouting instructions and navigating her way (and us) through the chaos of the starts.  We had 3 races, 1st seemed to go well, races 2 & 3, not as smooth.  All the races were mark based (ie we get given certain marks/big floating things to go round) and various sausage legs…


#teamtigress hiking (Christian, me, Andrew & Hannah)

Friday Day 1 – Regatta: Early start again.  Course for us today was to Marigot bay & back.  Race start just as crazy as the day before, but our start seemed ok.  Felt like we’d started to click as a team – hell I even managed to smoke it ok!!  Something awesome about being on a beautiful  sea, and race boats ahead and behind.  Made it to Marigot, and headed back.  Came inshore, which usually in the Caribbean means you’ll get the inshore breeze – PAH.  Not that day…  sodding wind holes a coco.  Bloody hard work keeping a boat moving when there’s no breeze – weight distribution/location even more vital, as is how you move around the boat…  Lou taught us about rolling the boat… genius… (literally running across the boat, tryin to make it roll slightly to keep momentum up) Made it back finally…  time for a well earned beer!!  Turns out that the guys from Pata Negra congratulated Sue – we weren’t the only ones that went inshore, but we were the only ones to keep moving, took Pata 45 mins to get out of that wind hole.  Hats off Skip! 🙂


Love this pic (thanks Katy!!) Me drooling at GreenDragon (70ft Volvo)

Saturday Day 2 – Regatta: Early start – I’d been tracking the weather so I knew today was gonna be light.  Well when I say light…  barely enough to get us moving.  I shall refer to this as our NOBLOODYWINDDAY. Made it out and then ended up waiting around for a few hours, waiting to see if any wind would appear (also meant Race Committee could figure out what courses to set)  Hard life, bobbing around in the water in the sun… Haha, but it actually was…  there’s no relief from the heat and not much to do…  Out came the speaker… Chaka Khan Ain’t Nobody on REPEAT and silly dance routines commenced.  Sue then decided we could provide much needed entertainment for the rest of the fleet – cue us doing our routine, singing (probably very badly) whilst motoring round the fleet making everyone laugh. As you can see from the picture – we also achieved local radio station fame 😉


#teamtigress keeping the fleet entertained

FINALLY got race start horns – however, due to the lack of that breezy stuff, race committee decided we’d only do 2 races. Eish – not only is it hot, but it’s sodding hard work trying to get the boat moving and keep it moving…  Tough day on the water.  As the third race didn’t happen, we had tons of time just floating, waiting for the timed bridge to open – ended up rigging a sail up to give us shade.  Somehow ended up with rogue Taz crew boarding us, needing a lift and Fuji (Sunfast 20) sprung to the side of the boat – most definitely the oddest bridge entrance for us… No surprise, cold beers were definitely required when we got back in!!


Sunday Day 3 – Regatta. LAST DAY RACING 😦

Yepp, you guessed it – early start AGAIN 🙂 Wind had picked up, but we were a little light on crew for the wind.  Managed to rope in a sailing buddy of one of the crew, Thalita, to help on the winches.  Race committee confirmed we’d be doing 3 races today to make up for the day before.  Same course as Commodore Cup day – marks & sausages 🙂 Looked like we had an awesome start, till we got protested & had to do two turns.  GAH.  Kind of set the scene for the rest of the races… not out best day on the water and not sure what happened – we just didn’t seem to be able to get it right in the other 2 races… Problems with the spinnaker in the last race meant we had to retire. A quieter, deep in thought crew on return.  However, we did it – no MOB and boat & sails all intact.  I’ll take that as success!!

And that was that…   Regatta completed….  Closing party time… 🙂

All I’m gonna say about the Closing Party is what happens at Closing Party, stays at Closing Party….   EPIC night!!

(I do however, highly recommend you get home before 4am ish (I think) when you have to be up at 6 to make your flights… otherwise you may end up getting to the airport just as the planes taking off, and have to buy a ticket to Tortola and hang out there for 5 hours watching chickens & cats run around the airport, before getting a flight to Antigua and then home…   If you have an evening Antigua flight, I can say from personal experience, you can indeed fly to Tortola and make the connecting Antigua/LGW flight – flights from SXM to Tortola are approx. $300usd) 😉 

Big shout out to the #TeamTigress crew – Sue, Lou, Hannah, Sarah, Katy, Christian & Andrew. Thank you for making it such an amazing experience xx

And if you’re interested in Sailing in the UK or doing some of the Caribbean Season – checkout www.teamtigress.com

#teamtigress L-R Andrew, Sue, me, Hannah, Lou, Christian & Sarah (missing Katy ‘cos she took the picture)  and Sue & Katy

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