Sailing to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean 1500

Caribbean 1500

This is the tent at Bluewater Marina where all the Caribbean 1500 meetings were held.   One of the meetings, in progress. Steve Black is addressing the crowd, and Davis Murray is the man standing at far right.

Boats at Bluewater Marina, in Hampton, Virginia.  

The Caribbean 1500 is a race/cruise from Hampton, Virginia, to the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Now in its 18th year, the event is organized by the Cruising Rally Association "for both cruising and racing sailors who enjoy the adventure of an ocean voyage" to quote their web site. They have several other rallies during the year, as well as a popular symposium that covers numerous topics about offshore passagemaking. The events are oriented towards cruisers making their first significant offshore passage, though all are welcome and many veteran passagemakers participated. All the events are managed by the President of the Cruising Rally Association, Steve Black, assisted by a team of volunteers from the cruising community.

So why would a cruiser want to join an organized voyage like the Caribbean 1500? In general, the idea is to obtain value-added services from the organizers or the other members of the group, such as:

The Caribbean 1500 has two classes, rally and cruising. In the rally class, boats are handicapped by a standard rating system and compete for awards based on shortest passage time. Unlike ordinary races, boats are allowed to use their engines to motor during calm weather; the motoring time is figured into the final passage time. The cruising class is non-competitive so passage time and motoring time are not measured. Being a big, heavy, cruising sailboat, Night Heron was in the cruising class. Our goal was to finish, not to come in first.

During the days leading up to the departure, Jeff was very busy completing numerous boatwork jobs aboard Night Heron. This also was the time of the meetings and social events for the Caribbean 1500, but due to time constraints, we only went to a couple of meetings and none of the social events. Our situation was complicated by the fact that Night Heron's marina was a 45-minute drive from the Caribbean 1500 marina, and we didn't always have a car available. We unfortunately missed out on a lot of the camaraderie and informational meetings, so we didn't receive the full value of participating in an organized event. Because we didn't meet any of the other cruisers beforehand, nobody knew us, and we didn't know anybody else, during the cruise itself. Jeff and CiCi did get to meet some of the other cruisers after the race ended.

As an aside, there's one person who has crewed in all 18 Caribbean 1500 rallies: Davis Murray. By now, Davis is well-known in Caribbean 1500 circles. At the couple of meetings we went to, he was one of the speakers who had lots of good advice (he also coordinated the radio check-ins during the voyage). Davis is also a singer/songwriter who recently released a CD (there's an internet link below).

In the next section, meet the crew of Night Heron.

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