We have always been aware of the fact that due to her big bottom (keel), our Marianne is just not the fastest lady out there. But we had never had the chance to actually compare our speeds and maneuvers with others. A boat designed for around-the-world trips generally only leaves the harbor for the next crossing of an ocean, and not for a competition. But when we heard about „La Grande Regate de Nosy Be“, we just couldn’t resist.
Skippers of all 15 boats were to meet up at 11 a.m. on Saturday for a briefing of the regatta. Meeting point: the Bar of the Crater Bay Marina. This was a brilliant plan, especially since the meeting started about one and a half hours later. So you might imagine how thirsty a bunch of sailors get when sitting at a bar, waiting to be briefed.
So once the briefing by the Marina boss Rudi began, we had quenched our thirst and most of us were actively trying to pay attention to the instructions, which were given in a beautiful mixture of French, English, and German. Sailors seem to be masters of nodding and agreeing, whilst still goofing around and interrupting with a fun remark at every possible opportunity. Once everyone had fully understood how to get to the Russian Bay and return the next day, we all got into our Dinghies, got on board of our boats, and met back at the start line.
Thanks to my Captains’ strategic positioning in the line-up, we were actually able to cross the start line as one of the first boats. But after only a short time, even the last boat had caught up and passed us. To antagonize our slightly bad mood, we had a delicious beer to go with our just as delicious baguettes. A little more motivating than constantly being passed by others, was watching the catamarans not being able to sail as close to the wind as we could. With this little handicap, they had to tack (turn) more times than we did. Because of this, three of these floating houses were actually well behind us shortly before the finish line.
Either I had not payed attention at the right time during our regatta meeting the night before at the “Number One Club”, or this meeting until 3 a.m. was slightly counterproductive. We had been warned of a reef in the south of this bay we were close to, but we were clearly off to the west of the bay. Nevertheless, all of a sudden our equipment told us that we had merely 1.5 meters of water underneath the keel. So in order to avoid us touching ground and damaging Marianne, we tacked out of that place as fast as possible. This maneuver cost us our position and we ended up crossing the finish line for that day second to last.
Hungry and exhausted from four hours of intense sailing, we finally got in our dinghy and paddled to the beach where we were welcomed by pure goodness – potatoe salad, loads of meat, and grilled fresh fish. Unfortunately the Madagascans are not as great engineers as they are cooks and thus the set up sound system remained silent for the night. The thirsty sailors drank beer and told fish stories on end, until finally we grabbed our guitars to get the party started.
We were rewarded with beer and cocktails of rum and coconut milk. The drinks kept our throats clear, our voices loud and crisp, and our spirits up. Song after song we entertained the seemen until late at night all had finished their last drinks and gone back aboard. Not us. We decided it would be nice to spend the night at the beach, in the soft sand, underneath the beautifully starlit sky. Relaxing! At least the night was.
The next morning? Not so much. Our dinghy had been stolen and was nowhere to be found in the entire bay area. But we wont let those little thieves get us down. We took part in the beach games and competitions against our fellow sailors and tried to keep our own mood up. Later that day we had our second try at beating the modern catamerans and others on the way back. Even though we had lost some weight with the dinghy being stolen; still no chance. We arrived so late that they disqualified us. We knew we were slow … but really? That slow?
As a consolation prize and a little thank you that we spiced up the night with our instruments, Rudi seriously gave us a dinghy of his! We are so grateful for this “prize”! It saved our day, but not just our day, it basically saved us a LOT of time and money! Emotional ups and downs are an integral part of this dynamic project and I am delighted to be able to end this post with this personal highlight of ours.