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West Marine's Atlantic Cup - A Rally from Tortola to Bermuda

Each year, after cruising the Caribbean for the winter comes to an end, yachts from the United States gather at Village Cay Marina, in Road Town, Tortola, to meet, discuss their adventures and group together to return to the States in tandem. The event is aptly named The Atlantic Cup. Started by Steve Black, founder and organizer of the West Marine Caribbean 1500, this rally offers Caribbean cruisers the opportunity to return to America each summer so that yachts can sail the waters of their respective areas.

I visited with Steve at Village Cay. "This is the largest group we have had participating in the rally from the Caribbean to the United States - we have 20 boats and will be stopping in Bermuda before continuing on to Newport, RI and Hampton, VA. We have eighty sailors on board - fifteen of the boats came down with the 1500 in the fall, three have participated in earlier rallies with us and we have two newcomers, so there is a really relaxed mood in the fleet as everyone is used to ocean passage-making."

The Atlantic Cup is open to seaworthy yachts of any type or nationality. The lower size limit is set at 34 feet LOA. All boats must pass inspection and must be sailed by two or more sailors, with final determinations made by the Event Committee; there must be at least one experienced offshore sailor onboard. En route, professional weather forecasting is shared daily by the fleet with twice daily radio chats that include position reporting and keep the fleet in touch.

Individual skippers chose to enter the Cruising Class or the Rally Class. Boats sailing in the Cruising Class do so for the adventure of making a good and safe passage and are not judged on performance or handicaps or required to maintain engine use logs. Their safe passage was recognized in the order in which they arrived in Bermuda. Boats sailing in the Rally Class were assigned PHRF handicaps and reported engine usage nightly. Unlike races, the rally permits the use of engines with running time added to the elapsed time as a motoring penalty. The corrected time for each boat reflects her time allowance and engine usage. Skippers had the option of electing, at any time, to change from the Rally Class to the Cruising Class.

I was very interested in a bright red yacht, Clover III, sailed by Captain Dave Fraiser. We walked the dock to her slip where I met the crew of five who were based in the BVI for the winter. Dave tells me, "We had a great time in the BVI this winter. We did the Swan Rendezvous at the Bitter End Yacht Club in North Sound, and we won our class in the BVI Spring Regatta. We also did the Scandinavian Regatta. We are returning to Newport with the Atlantic Cup and will then be in the 100th Newport - Bermuda Race. We then go to the Mediterranean where we will do the Swan Cup in September and then cruise for awhile before returning as part of ARC." Clover III is a 1998 Swan '56, Racer-Cruiser with a fixed keel.

The finish and awards party was held at the Hampton Yacht Club. However, the traditional event continued to stop in Bermuda to allow for a second weather window before sailing on to New England, Europe, or the Mid-Atlantic. The results for the Bermuda Fleet were announced at the awards dinner, the Gosling's Dark and Stormy Party at the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club, hosted by Commodore Sheila Gringley. We congratulate these winners and look forward to next year's Caribbean 1500 fleet.

Top results for the Bermuda Fleet are as follows.

1 - Agua Dulce
2 - Alacritiy
3 - Joy for All

Class 3 - Completion Awards

1 - Romany Life
2 - Music
3 - New Wave

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