Sailing is fun, but racing? Even better! And what better place to experience the thrill of speeding through the warm turquoise Caribbean ocean off the island of St. Maarten with the strong trade winds at your back.
As part of my Carnival cruise excursion, I was not just a passenger on board one of the America Cup regattas, but I was allowed the opportunity to be part of the crew – something I won’t soon forget.
The multi-million-dollar 12 Meter Challenge Fleet racing boats were Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes, winner of the 1983 America’s Cup, and the Canada II, considered one of the fastest boats in the yachting world. The races date back to 1851 and Queen Victoria and have since become one of the most prestigious trophies. The impressive, cutting edge yachts which are 70 feet long, weigh 35 tons and have an 86-foot mast are some of the fastest sailing vessels in the world.
After the dockside briefing, I was directed by a surly young male dock attendant to go to the Canada II.
“But I’m writing about this and I really should be on my country’s boat, the Stars and Stripes,” I whined at him for the second time that morning. He just gave me a sour look and walked away. I was only able to calm my bubbling inner rage by remembering that my ancestors emigrated from France to Canada, before finally settling in Rhode Island.
“I need an active person to be part of my crew!” said Captain Dan as our pontoon boat launched to take us to the waiting regatta.
“Me!” I raised my hand.
“You can grind,” he said. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t what I was thinking.
Some other passengers were assigned “less important roles,” like winching, trimming sails, timing, paparazzi, and watching. And one man received what many thought to be the most coveted job: bartender.
As we pulled up to the racing yacht, the crew pulled me aboard and positioned me at the grinder. Soon, I received instruction on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear grinding.
The sails were hoisted, and our boat took on the beautiful and sleek profile that you see in magazines. It was magical.
Read the rest of my St. Maarten adventure as part of the crew of in an America’s Cup regatta in WaveJourney.
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