Sailing the Carib 1500 Cruising Rally


Best Performing Cruiser Under 78 Feet - in West Marine CARIB 1500

Peter & Carol Willauer's red J/42 'Eight Bells' (built as an "L" Live-aboard J/42) finished 1st in Class and 2nd Overall behind a 78' ketch in the 52 boat fleet which endured 94 hours of heavy air (2 reefs and 85% jib) in 25-30 knots and 12 foot seas. One boat was abandoned off Bermuda and another two dropped out for repairs.

Peter reports that the J/42 is a "remarkable" sea boat, never once putting the stemhead under when broad-reaching down the face of large seas…and never once taking a breaking wave from aft onto the deck. The boat was fast enough to surf down the wave ahead of the crests. Even more amazing, he said, was how the boat dealt with the cross waves in the Gulf Stream. Because of the low freeboard, stability and clean decks, the crests of steep cross-waves simply washed across the hull with no tendency to roll the boat…hardly affecting the forward motion at all. Closest boats in terms of performance under the conditions were the Swan 44 and Swan 46, which corrected out 6 and 4 hours behind the J/42 respectively.

EIGHT BELLS spent more time sailing than all but two boats in the fleet, using its engine for only 16% of the time (33 hours) over 202:10 hours elapsed time and most of that was on the last day, bee-lining to Tortola in light, moderate air since they still at 22 gallons left. A number of the boats used their engines 50-60% of the time. On the Carib 1500 the amount of engine time is added to the elapsed time for the race. Peter said some boats had their decks littered with plastic jerry jugs of fuel. The J/42 was the smallest boat in Class 3, yet corrected out 63 hours ahead of the 2nd boat in its Class, a Baltic 43 which finished 26 hours behind the J/42, rated 6 seconds per mile faster and used the engine 67 hours.

Great Lakes Owner Takes 3rd in Caribean 1500...

By Mark Mahowald

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know that the J42 performed wonderfully on the Rally this year. The organizers said it was the roughest weather of any of the Rallies to date in terms of sustained high winds. We sailed the 1,500 miles in 8 and 1/2 days, and for more than 3 of those days, we used only the 100% jib, for about 30 hours, we saw winds between 35 and 50 knots (with some higher gusts) and used only about 8 feet of the jib rolled out. We had a squally gulf stream crossing with NE winds from 25 to 35 knts, and had two days of Gale conditions. We had a number of waves break into the cockpit, and took one knock down from a wave (which popped out the screens from the large opening ports on the port side). The solid water from breaking waves tore off one side panel of the dodger and slightly bent the dodger frame, but otherwise we had no damage. Other boats lost head stays, steering cables etc.

We ended up taking 3rd in the fleet of 49 boats, the only two boats who beat us were Hunter's Child (by 6 hours corrected time), sailed by Steve Petengill and Warren Lurs (something of a pro team), and a deep draft, Swan 53. My crew was made up of friends who, like me, had only sailed in the Great Lakes. We had a rating of 69 (reflecting a penalty pole and Spinnaker that we did not carry on the Rally - we are a shoal draft, aluminum mast J42) and the Swan rated 39. With this rating they beat us by 3 hours, without the 6 second penalty for gear we did not carry on the rally, we would have been within 30 minutes of them. We beat the next boat in our section by a little over 24 hours corrected time (it was a Saga 43).

Some other notes: We sailed 192 nm one 24 hour period with the wind always forward of 60 degrees apparent, and blowing between 15 and 25 knts. A steady 8knts, into pretty rough seas, without pressing (were took it a little easier after the gale). Only two boats motored less than we did (we were within one hour motor time of the lowest engine hours). We hand steered though the heavy weather, and the boat never lost control and always had a solid feel. There was no creaking down below, and except for the occasional breaking wave, the boat provided a great ride.

Anyway, I thought you would like to know that a J42 followed the footsteps of 8-Bells and performed well, against much larger boats, in the passage to the VI. It was my first taste of heavy weather Ocean sailing, and I was glad to be in a J42 and able to sail through it.