A Race to Meet Friends, Old and New
The Tracys weren't just in the B.V.I. to race, they explained. Of course, they'd accepted an offer from sailing buddies Pam and Brendan Kelley from-wouldn't you know?-Newport to join them as race crew aboard Clover III, a Swan 56 owned by Neal Finnegan of Dedham, Massachusetts. But before and after the regatta, the Kelleys had something else in mind: leisurely gliding from one anchorage to another with no other goal than relaxation aboard City Lights, the Beneteau 43 they keep with the Sunsail charter fleet. Like any worthy marine fixture, City Lights was doing double duty and also served as mother ship to some of Clover III's race crew. "They pile on a lot of people," Pam says.
The Kelleys had already put City Lights to good use. By the time we met, they'd been cruising aboard the boat some seven weeks and had called at Antigua and St. Martin. "Look at the temperature in Newport in March," Pam tells me, her eyes as large as saucers.
Brendan pointed upward and added, "And look at this sky!" He's raced and cruised his whole life, recently splitting his time aboard between Caribbean jaunts and Exile, the J/133 he campaigns during the summer back home. "I've got 55 years of racing in me, and I haven't gotten any better!" he says. But all that seems to matter is that he has a great time trying.
The favorite crew-my crew-I saved for last. It's my crew, if for no other reason than because the gang from Second Nature, a Hughes 38, included dear friends with whom I raced in this same regatta a decade ago, when I lived here and they'd just bought the sailboat.
The day the B.V.I. Tourism Board invited me to attend the 2009 regatta and festival, the first thing I did was send a "Thank you, yes, of course I'd love to come" reply. The second thing I did was contact Susan Demers and Bill Bailey, the owners of Second Nature.
When Sue, a lawyer, and Bill, a marine surveyor, aren't working their tails off or volunteering in the community or making further adjustments to the architect's designs of the home they're building near the top of Tortola's Mount Sage, they're catching their collective breath on cruises aboard Second Nature-that is, when they're not racing.
The boat's name hints at Bill's talents; all you have to do is review Second Nature's performance over the last decade to figure that one out.
A lightning strike didn't stop him some years ago. Nor would a small matter of the engine being out of the boat stop him in 2009. It was, after all, a sailboat race, and Bill, in the low-key, understated way of a stoic Brit, simply arranged for a tow as needed to get us back and forth from the marina slip.
Our crew of nine, a few of us reprising roles of a decade ago, took to it all over again, throwing ourselves from low side to high side and back on every tack and jibe. I had to pinch myself that I was really there, with my old friends and mates, on this same boat, sailing in my favorite regatta. We came in second in our class that day, our competition having bested us by a mere 22 seconds.
Then it all got official again: I remembered that I was in the islands on assignment and still had stories to write and photos to take. We had to bid each other a teary farewell, but not before Susan pulled the ultimate gift out of her purse. Now, when I wear my Second Nature regatta T-shirt, I well up with pride, fond affection, and a drop of melancholy for the way life brings us together, splits us apart, then teases us with magical, albeit brief, reunions. And to think that it happened while racing, not cruising!
Elaine Lembo is CW's deputy editor.