A race to Saint Laurent du Maroni?

Nereid's Rally ad

Nereid’s Rally ad

What followed was a real race to the Maroni River in French Guiana.

I had been contacted by the tourism office of Saint Laurent (one of the rally sponsors), as they were organising a large public welcome for the yachts. Fine, but to do so, they needed our time of arrival to coincide with their preparations. Good grief!

Saint Laurent waits for the Nereid's Rally

Saint Laurent waits for the Nereid’s Rally

We agreed on trying for 18:00, three days after leaving Roiden Rust. With just 250 nautical miles to cover, the yachts needed to average only 83 miles a day to arrive in time.

No such luck…

The winds were unfavourable and only one yacht (Virginia Dare) made the entrance of the Maroni River as predicted. A text message from the satellite phone on Lion King was sent to advise organisers of the delay, but apparently it was not received.

My apologies to the whole town of Saint Laurent du Maroni, the Mairie, the kayak club, the tourist office, the fire brigade and the Gendarmerie, who had come out in force to welcome the yachts. We did the best we could.

It should not be an issue next year as I am considering placing Internet linked tracking devices on all yachts. That should effectively take the guess work out of when the fleet is due!

A warm welcome from the Amerindian community in Saint Laurent

A warm welcome from the Amerindian community in Saint Laurent

Despite arriving one day later than expected, our welcome was a hearty one nevertheless.

A crowd of spectators and the media braved an unseasonal downpour to greet us as news spread of our arrival.

A Creole welcome too!

A Creole welcome too!

As the sailors made their way ashore, they were treated to a show of traditional dance by Creole and Amerindian artists. Truly spectacular!

After the obligatory media interviews and a showering of welcome gifts, the rally participants and spectators were offered drinks and a buffet that clearly satisfied even the hungriest of sailors.

Nereid's Rally welcome pack

Nereid’s Rally welcome pack

On behalf of the Nereid’s Rally, thank you Saint Laurent du Maroni. We have all been overwhelmed by your generous hospitality.

The second leg to French Guiana.

Joe on Spirited Lady follows Lion King

Joe on Spirited Lady follows Lion King

Leaving Hurakabra on the 16th of September with the ebb, the Nereid’s Rally participants made their way to the jump off point at Roiden Rust Marina by moonlight. All but one yacht had a trouble free passage. Lion King managed to do the stragglers (Eileen included), the courtesy of collecting all the fishing nets barring the route down-river.

The Guyanese Coast Guard kept a close watch over the Rally.

The Guyanese Coast Guard kept a close watch over the Rally.

Luckily the coast guard was at hand to tow the stricken yacht to the safety of the anchorage off Roed en Rust.

Mr Cleo Da Silva runs what is perhaps the closest thing Guyana has to a leisure marina here, hauling out small vessels on trailers from a slip. Our sincerest thanks to him and his staff for assisting Lion King and ensuring the timely continuation of the rally.

Guyana Welcomes Nereid’s Rally

Nereid's Rally welcome at Hurakabra Resort, Guyana

Nereid’s Rally welcome at Hurakabra Resort, Guyana

It’s been a slow first leg of the 2013 Nereid’s Rally. Squalls, contrary winds and currents have made the crews work hard at reaching Guyana.

The Nereid's Rally is front page news!!

The Nereid’s Rally is front page news!!

Eileen of Avoca, as expected, was the last yacht to reach the Essequibo River. The rest of the fleet had already been greeted at Roiden Rust and moved on to Hurakabra Resort where an official welcome took place on the 11th of September.

Bob and Christine at Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

Bob and Christine at Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

Line honours for the first leg of the Nereid’s Rally went to Virginia Dare. Having started from Grenada, Bob and Christine thought they had to make haste to catch the rest of the fleet, but no matter how hard they pushed their yacht they never seemed to catch up. Now we know why. It seems they led the fleet from the start!

Celebrity status for all...

Celebrity status for all…

At midday, the press, government, and tourism board officials arrived at Hurakabra in force for interviews and a welcome ceremony that can only be described as “one to remember”!

What the media had to say... Click to enlarge

What the media had to say… Click to enlarge

The rally was literally front page news.

Evidently there is a burgeoning interest in yachting in Guyana as locals clearly wanted to know more about the rally that had sailed from the Caribbean. It made us all feel very special. Guyanese hospitality is reportedly second to none and I am pleased to report that the crews of the Nereid’s Rally readily concur.

First Leg, Chaguaramas to Guyana…

Golden Moments

Eileen of Avoca sailing Trinidad’s northern coast

Eileen made a good start from Chaguaramas, being the first boat to leave for “The Boca” at precisely 4pm. Making the most of the unexpected head start, the diminutive yacht remained in the lead for the first 12 hours. But only because not everyone was comfortable (or insane) enough to search for the complementary current and land breeze effect just metres off Trinidad’s rocky Northern coast.

With Lion King approaching fast, it was not long after dawn that the lead passed to this immaculately maintained Hanse 54.

Rounding Galera Point, a half knot of current rapidly increased to 2 all the way to Darien Rock, slowing the fleet considerably.

Spirited Lady and Kaisosi chose a route through the centre of Galleons Passage and subsequently found themselves pushed toward Drew Bank off Tobago.

An escort of dolphins during the first leg of the Nereid's Rally

An escort of dolphins during the first leg of the Nereid’s Rally

Good news for Eileen as it would take them many hours to make up for lost time.

By Thursday night Lion King had managed to make contact with Virginia Dare, the dark horse of the fleet, who’s crew was unknown to any of us as she had started the rally from Grenada.

It was unclear at this stage whether she was ahead or trailing the main fleet.

On Thursday night, off Darien Rock, Kaisosi overtook Eileen.

Spirited Lady as seen on my A.I.S.

Spirited Lady as seen on my A.I.S.

By Friday midday, Spirited Lady raced by at a speed that doubled anything I could squeeze out of Eileen, even under full sail and motor.

Eileen takes on crew for the first leg.

Eileen takes on crew for the first leg.

Not that I was particulary worried. I had no reason to rush…. 😉

Apart from Jo on his Moody, who had resigned to starting the rally several days later (Still waiting on parts?), by Saturday, the only yacht that might still be behind Eileen of Avoca was Virginia Dare.

Pirate... NOT

Pirate… NOT

A note on pirates: This fisherman came to within 15m of Eileen on route to Guyana. What did he want?

To say hello of course, and maybe take a close look at my crew!

He then sped off chatting on the radio in Spanish to all who would listen about the flotilla of sail boats he had welcomed in the last 24 hours.

Next update upon arrival in Guyana!

How the race, that isn’t a race proceeded.

All the sailors at the Curve Bar, Tobago

All the sailors at the Curve Bar, Tobago

The Tobago start wasn’t going to be a huge affair this year with just two boats (myself included) set to leave from Store Bay. Not that that stopped us from having a big send-off party. Everyone at the anchorage were invited for drinks at the Curve Bar in Crown Point to swap stories and boast about their navigational exploits. Fun was had by all.

Thanks Katy and John of Store Bay Marine Services for hosting the event. Next year it will be bigger and better with a pig roast, music and crab races on the beach (BYO racing crab) set to make the Nereid’s Rally departure a local fête.

Note that all yachts have the option to leave from Tobago but larger yachts will need to bunker elsewhere as fuel is DIY with jerry cans.

On my way to Guyana..... not....

On my way to Guyana….. not….

Here, Romain on Whistler is posing for the start. Having already sailed once to French Guiana from the Caribbean he was supposed to make short shrift of this passage. However, his rally was over before it even really started.

Whistler’s ageing mainsail was unexpectedly torn at the seams and so one of the favourites for completing the rally in record time was obliged to pull out to contemplate the purchasing of a sewing machine instead.

A “did not finish” (DNF) for our Corsican contestant… But all is not lost for our French fans! He has vowed to be back and take part in next year’s event.

Eileen of Avoca

Eileen of Avoca

Next we have Eileen of Avoca, the smallest member of the fleet, measuring just 23ft. While there is no doubt she will complete the rally, it’s going to take a lot more than good local knowledge to keep up with the 40+ footers!

Spirited Lady at anchor

Spirited Lady at anchor

Spirited Lady, a Spirit 56 is a classic beauty! Her owner, Susie was the first to show interest in taking part in the 2013 Nereid’s Rally and we are all delighted to have her as part of this inaugural event.

Lion King a Hanse 53

Lion King, a Hanse 53

Lion King, a handsome Hanse 53 owned by Harry and Ans is a real contender for line honours. Despite the ubiquitous Disney association with the boats name there is no doubt that this yacht means business. The question is whether anyone will be able to keep up once Lion King stretches is legs?

Kaisosi, an elongated Admiral 40

Kaisosi, an elongated Admiral 40

Kaisosi is the only catamaran in the fleet. A lengthened Admiral 40. Her crew Terry and Annette have sailed these waters once before, having made their way to the Caribbean from South Africa via Brazil. Will the yacht perform in contrary winds?

Virginia Dare, a Hallberg Rassy 39

Virginia Dare, a Hallberg Rassy 39

Virginia Dare, owned by Bob and Christine. An elegant Hallberg Rassy equipped with a 55HP Volvo. Contrary winds, contrary current? Not a problem!

Delamara, A 39ft Moody. Single-handed by Joseph from Barbados will miss the rally start because of a faulty started motor. He intends to bypass Guyana and head directly for Saint Laurent du Maroni to catch up with the rest of the fleet.

Mai VII, our only other French contestant, has pulled out of the Rally the day of the start citing mechanical issues.

Restless, skippered by Ron, is waiting on a new mainsail in Grenada. We hope it will arrive in time so he can join the rally in French Guiana.



For those interested in the ramblings of participants during preparations and the event proper, we have an open facebook group called “Nereid’s Rally” that you can join.

Not all contestants use social media, so I’ll endeavour to post some photos on this site on their behalf.