BEQUIA FISHING BOATS -
AND THEIR SKIPPERS
(Article first published in 1999)
CLASS 7 (28FT) THE BIG ONES!
BLUFF - skipper Orbin Ollivierre
Friendship Bay boatbuilder and Sailing Club Commodore Orbin Ollivierre (45), built Bluff for the Bequia Sailing Club some five years ago. Orbin is one of Bequia's foremost boatbuilders - his 30 or more boats range from tiny 12ft double-enders to the 85ft Wave Dancer - but Bluff was his first Class 7 fishing boat.
This year is Bluff's sixth Regatta, and Orbin's seventeenth. First overall in 1995 and 1996 and second overall in the 1997 Bequia Easter Regattas, Bluff last year encountered the newly-built Perseverance which outstripped all the other boats in this class, leaving Bluff with just two third places. This year Bluff is "maybe rigged a bit better", and Orbin hopes to improve her placing. He always enjoys competing in the Canouan and Carriacou regattas - (Carriacou last year found him not only up against Perseverance and Don't Doubt, but also against the new, slightly longer and very fast Tobagonian Trubble Sum) - but not surprisingly he prefers Bequia with the excitement of the home crowd to cheer them on!
Skipper's tip for this year: "Perseverance will continue to dominate - there are no new boats around".
Most admired skipper: Wayne Gooding (Don't Doubt) "He's always fighting to win"!
DON'T DOUBT - skipper Wayne Gooding
This striking yellow Bequia double-ender was built by skipper Wayne Gooding, (41) and launched about 18 months ago, fulfilling his lifelong ambition to build and race a 28 footer. Born into a family rich in boatbuilding tradition, and himself a first class boat builder, Wayne is quietly passionate about boats and racing, and competes whenever possible - only playing in the Bequia's String Band will prevent him from going out!.
Last year's Bequia regatta was Don't Doubt's first, and despite being relatively untried (and having to retire from the first day's race), Don't Doubt still brought third and fourth in the other two races. Adjustments and refinements to the boat brought Wayne a first place at the Canouan Regatta in August, three firsts (and first overall) in Carriacou in August and second in the Bequia Sandpiper Race in January. He is in no doubt that the competition amongst the top big boats this year is going to be "hot".
In previous years Wayne raced in another of his boats, Green Flash, which has "never lost a race", and which may race again this year in Class 5 - if a skipper can be found to maintain this unbroken record. (Green Flash's winning skipper from last year, Napoleon Sam, will this year be racing in Class 7 with Baltaza.)
Skipper's tip for this year: " To be honest - I am going to win!!"
Most admired skipper: Delacy Leslie (Devine): "He's a serious sportsman - whether winning or losing he's always there."
PERSEVERANCE - skipper Arnold Hazell
Two days before Easter Regatta last year, in terrible weather, Perseverance was launched after a race against time to get her finished. Although 48-year-old Paget Farm fisherman Arnold Hazell knew when he built her that she "would sail", and would be a tough boat to beat, he was ready for a battle with the other boats in this class. In the event he won every race. Perseverance brought second place in Carriacou behind Don't Doubt, but apart from this has maintained unbeatable form - she was certainly the name on everyone's lips at the end of Regatta last year...
The boat is planked with plywood rather that the more traditional spruce pine, but Arnold puts her great speed down to a perfectly set sail, finely shaped hull and a very skillful crew rather than any difference in materials. He has never made any adjustments to the boat or to the rig since she was launched - there was no need - and is quietly confident, (though not complacent) that this year hopes that she will again outsail her rivals. Arnold is also "looking forward to seeing Trubble Sum" (from Tobago) here in Bequia this Easter - adding an extra edge to an already highly competitive class.
Skipper's tip for this year: "I'm keeping my eye on Braveheart - she always puts up a tough fight".
Most admired skipper: Wayne Gooding (Don't Doubt): "He's very knowledgeable and handles the boat very good".
TROUBLE - skipper Mackie Simmons
Trouble, the grand old lady of Lower Bay has been gracing the beach and the waters around Bequia for nearly 100 years. Like all beautiful women, her age is uncertain. What is known is that she was in use as a whaling boat in Canouan in 1908 and that she has been in 52-year-old fisherman Mackie's family since the early 1940s. She was built in Bequia by William Wallace, and although out of necessity (Mackie still fishes in her) she has been virtually rebuilt over the years, she nevertheless retains a dignity which befits the oldest boat built on Bequia.
Mackie himself has never missed a regatta, or indeed a race within a regatta. He recalls that "way back it was the only form of entertainment" - and remembers the time when Lower Bay was the centre of racing. 1993 saw Trouble as overall winner in her class. Since then however, the arrival of a new breed of faster boats, built specifically for racing, has the changed forever the face of competition in the `fishing boat' races. This does not bother Mackie: "Change is inevitable. You can't have all winners - you have to have participants too. When I just complete a race I feel like I have won!"
Skipper's favourite race: Sunday - "The course is good and there is a good atmosphere at the finish" .
Most admired skipper: Wayne Gooding (Don't Doubt): "He really tries.. he likes to win and he works hard at it!" '
CLASS 6 (21 - 25ft) - A RARE BREED
LIMBO 2 - skipper Allick Daniel
Sailmaker Allick Daniel (38) was born in Owia, St. Vincent; he moved to Bequia when he was eight years old and lived with the Simmons family, learning his trade as a sailmaker from the renowned Bequia sailmaker Lincoln ("Bluesy") Simmons.
Allick has competed in every Sailing Club Easter Regatta but one since they started in 1982, and raced in every race outside the regattas. With his first boat Wendy (Class 2), Allick won first overall in 1992 through 1995, and last year he was first overall in the 25ft Limbo 2. No one quite knows when Limbo 2 was built; she started life many years ago as a Carriacou seine boat, but since Allick bought her two years ago, she has been completely rebuilt. She maintains the links with her past by racing regularly against Ace - another Carriacou boat - both here and in the Carriacou regatta which Allick loves to attend.
Class 6 is a small class - newer `big' boats have been built primarily for racing, and more length means more speed - and it could be that Limbo 2 and Ace race alone this year, or perhaps, with time allowance, they will compete in Class 7. It will make no difference to Allick: "as soon as two boats come, I'll be racing".
Skipper's tip for this year: "Ace (from Carriacou) will be first or second!"
Most admired skipper: "All of the guys - I ain't got no special one. Everyone who make the effort in that wind (last Easter) was brave".
CLASS 5 (18ft) - VARIETY IS THE SPICE
Last year there was so much variation in weight, design and type of construction within this class, that it was decided (not without some objection) to divide the class into three: 5A (heavier, older boats), 5B (newer, lighter boats) and 5X (new two-bow boats built to a form which varied from the traditional.)
5A: DEVINE - skipper Delacy Leslie
At 74, Delacy Leslie is proud to acknowledge that he is the oldest skipper racing in the Regatta. He has been building boats and racing since he was 14 years old ("racing is the only sport I like"), and has barely missed a single Bequia race or regatta in all that time. His record also includes 33 Carriacou regattas - where he is close to a legend - and he speaks warmly of the hospitality he receives there. 17ft 6in Devine was built in 1969 and Delacy fished in her up until about 10 years ago - including regular trips to Grenada and Tobago. Devine and her fellow Class 5 boats, Shamu (also built by Delacy) and the rebuilt Arrow, are amongst the very few original fishing boats still taking part in the regatta, making this sub-class perhaps the most traditional of all.
His crew is all family - his son Tee Wee and brother-in-law William will be with him in the boat this year. (Also in this class is Challenger, yet another of Delacy's boats, built for his son-in-law Curtis).
Skipper's tip for this year: Delacy thinks Challenger will be strong, but points out that the older boats Arrow and Shamu (and Devine) all did well last year. "Sometimes (winning) ain't for the fastest, its for the slow!"
Most admired skipper(s): Wayne Gooding (Don't Doubt); Lennox Taylor (Braveheart) and Arnold Hazell (Perseverance): "... he started with just a little boat and now..." '
SHANNA-LOU - skipper Dootsie Leslie
Those who have followed Bequia's regattas over the years will be familiar with Class 4's Shanna-Lou and her consistently good form - skippered both by Dootsie, and his son Ray (see below). Both last year and the year before brought second overall in Class 4 for Dootsie, but this year Shanna-Lou, now a full foot longer, will race in Class 5. The reason for the change in length? There were no Bequia-based boats left to race against in Class 4, and Dootsie had no intention of letting that stop him doing what he loves - so he made her longer, thus upping her class.
Built in 1973, Shanna-Lou, (named after this daughters Shanna and Louanne) is 62-year-old Dootsie's pride and joy, and he is excited at the prospect of new challenges in this year's regatta. And he is confident: Arnold Hazell has helped design new, differently shaped sails with more boom and shorter in the head, and with these, according to Dootsie, "...she's going to do good!" Ideal conditions for Shanna-Lou would be a moderate breeze - allowing him to arrange tacks better and more calmly.
Skipper's tip for this year: "If plenty wind blows - Challenger, otherwise I will have no problems!" Most admired skipper(s): Arnold Hazell (Perseverance) -"He takes everything easy; he don't panic"; Orson Ollivierre (Challenger) " ..knows his skill about tacking.."
5B: TORNADO - skipper Birdie King
Built by Orbin Ollivierre about 2 years ago, Tornado made her debut in last year's regatta, winning second overall. Her skipper then as this year, was 53-year-old Hamilton fisherman Birdie King, brother of the Turtle Sanctuary's `Brother' King. Birdie has raced in most Bequia regattas in recent years (including skippering the 1928-built Arrow) and is looking forward to more success this year with Tornado. The boat is "light, powerful and able to withstand a lot" with a "very good hull", and `Birdie' is quietly confident. Regattas in Canouan and Carriacou have lost their appeal for Birdie - he prefers to race at home where he knows that there will always be a good crowd to follow the race.
Skipper's favourite race: Race 2 (on Sunday) -"It has much more to do with the boat - with plenty of downwind and upwind".
Most admired skipper(s): Wayne Gooding (Don't Doubt) "He's a good captain - good tactics", and Arnold Hazell (Perseverance) "He's very smart in a race."
5X: SUGAR WATER - skipper Ray Leslie
Last year was the first for this `special' class, devised to include two new boats, Sugar Water and Invincyable. These newcomers, although still "double-ender" in form were considered to be sufficiently different in hull shape (wider with a more rounded outline), to warrant a class of their own. Thirty-three-year-old carpenter Ray Leslie built Sugar Water "to beat the other 18 footers", and she was launched just two days before last Easter's first race. This year Ray hopes that he might be competing against the boats in Class B and not in any `special' class. Ray's first regatta was in 1982 when he was just 16, and racing in his father's boat Shanna-Lou brought him second place overall. Since then he has only missed three regattas, and with Shanna-Lou was overall Class 4 winner in 1995.
Like so many of his fellow sailors, Ray loves to race whenever there is a boat in his class to beat, and wishes there was more opportunity to do so throughout the year. For this year's regatta he is hoping for brisk 12 -14 knot winds to get the most out of Sugar Water - which may have been re-named by Easter!
Skipper's tip for this year: "Me!"
Most admired skipper(s): "I admire a lot of them in different ways; I admire my father (Dootsie Leslie, (Shanna-Lou) a lot. There are a lot of good skippers around - boats are very ticklish - you have to be brisk inside when you are moving fast".... "Wayne, (Don't Doubt) is good... he makes good tacks".
CLASS 2 (14ft) - IN GREAT SHAPE
NEVER D - skipper Alphie Osborne
The name stands for "Never Doubt". Alphie Osborne (58) decided to build Never D three years ago after the boat he previously raced, the 13ft Big 5, was bumped up from Class I to Class 2, where she was pitted against boats a full foot longer. A fisherman by trade, there was some question as to whether he would succeed, but as Alphie says, he "never doubted" it - and she has taken first over all in her class in each of the three Bequia Regattas since she was launched. Why does the boat sail so well? According to Alphie, its all down to "a very good waterline".
Alphie loves to race - "my whole life is based on racing", and has competed in nearly every regatta since 1979 - long before the Sailing Club was formed. If there were more races during the year - Alphie would be there!
My Way, a Class 1 boat launched just before last year's regatta, was also built by Alphie; he believes that this year My Way has a real chance of challenging the domination of My Love 1 (see below).
Skipper's tip for this year: Bennita G will be the one to beat in Class 2 - "it's a very good boat".
Most admired skipper: Wayne Gooding (Don't Doubt): "He has a very, very deep urge for winning races: he could take the slowest boat and would still win. He accepts winning and losing with a smile".
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