After a day and a half of beautiful weather, shifty winds and great sailing, the crew of Jabal was crowned Saint Lucia J24 national champions at the Yacht Club on Sunday afternoon.
The experienced racing team of skipper Nic Forsberg; Franck Chevrier and son Luc (14); Sean Compton; and Didier Lagauzere, competed fiercely in eight races on the water off Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay. But it was by no means a straightforward sail to victory as the small fleet of five J24s fought hard to take the Frank Capers Memorial Trophy for 2013.
In a dramatic reminder that competitive sailing can be an unpredictable sport, the crew of Buffalo Soldier (formerly known as Claudio Vogel) had an unfortunate equipment failure which brought down the mast and forced them to retire from the regatta in the second race. From there it was Sugar Beach Attitude skippered by Fredric Sweeney; JCB skippered by Mike Green; and Grayling, skippered by Stephanie Devaux-Lovell, who went against Jabal and each other, and the first day saw a number of very close finishes with only Grayling failing to win a first.
By the end of day one, Jabal, sponsored by Kia Motors, and JCB, sponsored by JCB, were in a dead heat, with Sugar Beach Attitude in third place and the youth sailors of Grayling in fourth.
With four races to sail and a blue, blustery morning ahead, the four J24s jostled for position off the start line on Sunday for day two of the championships, and there was renewed focus from all the crews as Sugar Beach Attitude took the first win of the day.
Although the youngsters continued to snap at their bows and Grayling in particular showed a big improvement on their first day in the water, JCB and Jabal kept the competition aggressive. After race seven, the top three boats were absolutely neck and neck on points, so it was literally down to the last race to determine the championship.
The atmosphere on the committee boat with its handful of dedicated supporters was tense but excited as the start sequence for the final race commenced. With seconds to go until the horn, three out of the four J24s crossed the line early, and the race was restarted after a general recall.
Olympian ‘Silver Fox’ Mike Green took JCB across the line in first place, but early in the race there wasn’t much in it, and at one point underdogs Grayling went way ahead of the fleet, only to suffer a twisted spinnaker and lose a considerable lead.
As the four crews raced around the final mark, it was Jabal that took advantage of the wind and found their way to first place with 12 points, ahead of JCB (13pts), Sugar Beach Attitude (14pts) and Grayling (28pts), which indeed was the final result of the national championships. It was encouraging to watch the two youth teams fight hard against the more experienced crews, and observers agreed that the high level of competition augurs well for the 2013 Mango Bowl Regatta on November 29 and December 1.
At the prize-giving ceremony, Saint Lucia 2013 National Champions Jabal were awarded the Frank Capers Memorial Trophy.