Tragedy in the North American Rally to the Caribbean

While the Caribbean 1500 fleet was cooling its jets in Hampton waiting for Sean to expire, another seasonal bluewater cruising event, the North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC), was running into some serious trouble farther north.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

While the Caribbean 1500 fleet was cooling its jets in Hamptonwaiting for Sean to expire, another seasonal bluewater cruising event, the North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC), was running into some serious trouble farther north. Most of the NARC fleet of 21 boats, led by organizer Hank Schmitt aboard Avocation, a Swan 48, departed Newport, Rhode Island, bound for Bermuda (and thence to St. Maarten) on Tuesday, November 1, with a relatively clean five-day forecast from weather-router Susan Genett of Real Weather. But the unexpected development of Sean changed the dynamic of the event several days later.

SAIP-120200-FECarib1500-15_0

The fastest NARC boats reached Bermuda before things got too hairy, but the slower boats got caught in stronger winds that were first northerly, then shifted south. One boat, Elle, a 46-foot Beneteau, was abandoned on Sunday, November 6, for reasons that remain unclear. Though the boat had suffered a steering failure, this reportedly was repaired before the crew evacuated to Oleander, a container ship. During the evacuation, one crewmember from Elle fell overboard and spent half an hour in the water between the two vessels before being retrieved. In the end, all the crew were safely delivered to Bermuda.

Another boat that suffered serious steering problems was Riot, a 49-footer with a rather young crew aboard. The 23-year-old skipper, Coleman Bowen, told the Bermuda Royal Gazette: “A lot of stuff started to break. I mean, everything broke. We lost steering three times in three different ways.” The boat also suffered serious damage when a local Bermudian pilot boat attempted to take it in tow. In the end, Riot’s crew managed to bring her safely into harbor unassisted on Monday, November 7.

I discussed these events with Hank Schmitt on the morning of Friday, November 11 (the very day the Caribbean 1500 fleet departed Hampton), and he was rather critical of the role played by well-known amateur weather-router Herb Hilgenberg, of Toronto, Canada, who was advising several NARC participants. According to Hank, Herb’s overly conservative advice had led some boats to spend far too long reaching Bermuda. As we spoke, he was still worrying about Triple Stars, an Island Packet 380 that had already been at sea 10 days and was still over 250 miles north of Bermuda.

“Herb told them they should stay north and wait for better weather when they had north wind that could have brought them here in a couple of days,” Hank told me. “Now they have south wind and can’t get here.”

In response, Herb criticized Hank in an e-mail for leaving Newport when he did. “The NARC rally should never have started to begin with,” he wrote, “and I believe Hank Schmitt is looking for someone to take the blame for his bad decision.”

Sadly, word came the very next day that Jan Anderson, one of two crew aboard Triple Stars, had been lost. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, an EPIRB assigned to Triple Stars was ignited at 1339 on Friday, November 11, followed five minutes later by a radio call from Rob Anderson stating that his wife had been swept overboard by a 30-foot wave. A commercial vessel, High Jupiter, diverted to the scene and after taking Rob aboard conducted a search for Jan that was abandoned the following day.

According to Hank, Triple Stars had suffered autopilot problems prior to being abandoned. Reportedly, there was also an issue with the roller-furling mainsail. Rob Anderson, who was taken to France aboard High Jupiter, was not available for comChment at press time.

Photo by Michael Eudenbach

Related

101218BTSC-9887

Just Launched: Little Big Boat

Peter Nielsen looks at Beneteau’s latest entry-level boat and a new cruiser from Tartan Group Beneteau’s commitment to entry-level boats has been reaffirmed over the last year with the assimilation of the sporty Seascape line of pocket cruisers and the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more