The Flamingo Regatta
A BIG HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who donated money to our Barra De Navidad Cruise-in-Week Flamingo Regatta FUNdraising race for the local schools, which we participated in, in February. The event was a huge success thanks to many of you! First a little background on the regatta and how we’ve been involved the last two years…
As you may or may not know, Barra de Navidad is a small fishing/surfing/beach town that warmly welcomes tourists and winter residents (primarily Canadians with a few Americans thrown in, and a smattering of Europeans too) and appreciates our contributions to the local color and economy. Each year, the gringo boating community returns that appreciation by holding fundraising events during Cruise-In Week in early February. And Due West has participated in the “Flamingo Regatta” FUNd-Race (so-called because the course is marked with floating pink flamingos!), for the past two years.
This event is very important to the local families and children because in Mexico the government builds the schools and then provides enough funding to pay the teachers and utilities. However, ongoing maintenance and improvements such as groundskeeping, building repairs, and equipment purchases are the responsibility of the community. Each year, two of the six schools in town are designated to receive half of the money raised during Cruise-In-Week. And the use of the funds is monitored closely to ensure they are being used to benefit the children of Barra de Navidad.
Cruise-In Week Donations Go Far!
Last year the event raised a little over $11,000 US to split between the two designated schools. One recipient banked the funds while they apply for matching grants to build a roof over their outdoor recreational area. The second school, a kindergarten, completed a long list of overdue projects – repaired the underground water cistern; rewired the entire facility; fixed ceiling fans; purchased a projector, sound system, copier, and PPE necessary to re-open the school for classes last year – and that’s just half their list! As you can see, a little bit of money goes a very long way in the right hands, in Mexico.
YOUR donations helped this elementary school purchase all of these items and then some!
This year, thanks to many of YOU and other supporters in the boating community, we blew past last year’s school fundraising totals. In addition to the almost $9,000 USD donated through the boating community, money was also raised via ‘bets’ from the shore on race day (each water-front bar offered “betting on boats” as patrons watched the race from shore). An online Bingo night, plus hats and t-shirts for sale, rounded out the fundraising events to bring the total raised to over $15,000 USD.
Last year during Barra de Navidad’s Cruise-In-Week we also participated in providing manual labor, helping to paint the interior of the public library. This year due to Omicron ramping up at the time, no gringos were allowed in the schools.
Due West race-ready! Any items not needed for racing (like spare jerry cans, spare anchor, etc), were loaded into our dinghy and left at the dock along with our kayaks.
For two weeks before the race, Kirk worked tirelessly to make Due West shipshape and race-ready. Our diver, Arturo, cleaned the bottom of the boat the day before the race so we had a fast bottom too. Last year we came in 3rd in the Flamingo Regatta and this year we had our sites on 1st… So how did that go?
Cluster at the Flamingo Regatta Start
On the day of the race, light air greeted us at the start, combined with a silly “reverse start“ where boats started one at a time based on their handicap (starting about nine seconds apart) — instead of all starting at once as a typical regatta would. And Due West is NOT a light-air boat. All boats were required to have their motors off at least one minute before the race started.
The upshot with no wind was that all the boats parked on the start line, including Due West. And unfortunately, one boat, who shall remain nameless, chose to not follow the rules of shutting off their engine—and barged their way into the start line full speed ahead—wreaking havoc at the pin end of the start line and causing a potentially very dangerous situation. Thankfully Due West was physically unharmed. But her crew were rattled after the near-miss, and safety concerns for others. Which threw us off our game.
With all our years of meditation and breathing exercises, not to mention our years of racing, and “keep the boat sailing, keep your eyes on the course!” no matter what happens… with adrenaline racing through us, we did not do that very well this time around. The sailor who barged his way into the start line should have known better! A race like this is meant for everyone to have FUN, not for serious racing—and for many cruisers, this was their first race ever. But there’s no accounting for some people’s kids…and this FUNd-raising Regatta had no protests allowed. The race must go on…
We even made the Racing Sheet in the printed version of the Bay Area’s Latitude 38 Magazine, check us out on page 66!
By the time the wind filled we were at the baaaaack of the pack, DFL (Dead F-ing Last), and pointing in the wrong direction… so with no chance of winning, we decided to take advantage of the somewhat improved breeze to test our sail combinations. Welp, that didn’t work too well… still DFL after the third mark rounding. So on the last leg, with humpbacks breaching in the background, we changed sail combinations again, and had Due West sailing really well (see photo below)! And we actually picked off one boat before we ran out of course length, finishing second-to-last, not DFL. If it had been a longer course, we likely would have reeled in several more boats, but that was not to be. Aaaannnd… as it turned out there was a prize for DFL, which went to someone more deserving! LOL.
Big thanks to LeeAnne Clark on s/v Juliette, for the great drone footage of the Flamingo Regatta!
Along the way, we learned some very valuable info about our newer sail combinations and which sails work best together going upwind versus downwind. Cruising in Mexico is typically about 80% motoring, and we’d not yet had a great opportunity to put our new-ish Code Zero to the test. (A Code Zero is a headsail cross between a genoa and an asymmetrical spinnaker that is used for sailing close to the wind in light air, or downwind in heavier air.)
A Nice Afternoon Sail Around Bahia Barra
After the regatta ended, the breeze had filled in nicely, and the humpback whales were calling. So while the rest of the boats headed back to the marina and the margaritas, we took off in the opposite direction, sailing Due West due west, into the ocean for a couple of hours. Due West had bone in her teeth, and we were loving life! Tosh & Tikka, not so much… Tosh got seasick, and Tikka crawled under the head in the bow, about the worst place she could have gone from a comfort perspective.
Before sunset, we returned to the marina (Tosh & Tikka were grateful!) and we headed to the post-race party. We were thrilled for the lovely afternoon sail, and for how well Due West sailed given the right breeze!
Tosh & Tikka in their “kitty-condo” were so happy to have the engine turned off!
A Big Thanks from the Barra School Kids
As a thank you to all of the cruisers who’d helped make Cruise-In-Week a great success, the schools that benefited from the fundraising put on a delightful celebration for us.
We were also treated to some great Floreo de Reata, or Mexican Trick Roping by one of the school kid’s fathers. (See video here.) The ropes used by vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) are hand-made from agave fibers and each vaquero carefully chooses his own ropes. This guy had a different rope for each trick he did.
Stay tuned for more adventures as we sail north to Puerto Vallarta soon… but first Heidi is taking a trip to the US for work and to visit family. We will miss this lovely Marina Isla de Navidad in paradise and all the nature that Barra and the Costalegre coast have to offer. We plan to return next winter for a visit on our way to/from Zihuatanejo… but as always our plans are written in sand at low tide, and you never know where the wind will blow us next. We never imagined our two-week visit to Barra would turn into two years! We have COVID to thank for that—and we have loved every minute of being here!
Pure Paradise! Due West is in the middle of the left-most linear dock, at Isla de Navidad Marina, and Lagoona de la Navidad, also full of anchored boats in the distance.
Kirk and Heidi: Have a safe trip and enjoy your adventure. As always, thanks for sharing