by Carol Cronin
I’ve sailed against Bahamians Jimmy and Lori Lowe for more than two decades, and I’ve always felt they perfectly embodied the Snipe class motto of Serious Sailing, Serious Fun. Don’t try to cross them on the race course (unless of course you’re going the wrong way, and have also asked politely). And at the parties, definitely give the pair some space on the dance floor— especially if Jimmy is starting to “sway.”
Last week, I watched them pull off a miracle. Despite all predictions, the Id Crook Memorial Snipe Master World Championship took place in Nassau as planned, just two weeks after Hurricane Matthew brought 140 mph winds and 10 feet of storm surge to the island.
The Royal Nassau Sailing Club is a Snipe haven. Every year this small but welcoming white concrete building hosts two of the four regattas that make up the Winter Circuit. Once RNSC was awarded the 2016 Master Worlds, members committed a lot of time and money to rebuilding, repainting, and restoring their facilities. And by late September, everything was ready to go.
Until Matthew blew through.
In the first days after the hurricane, it seemed like the event would either have to be cancelled or relocated. All of the docks were destroyed. The Club’s ground floor had been flooded with a mix of Montagu Bay and oil from the kitchen fryer, leaving walls and floors coated with a salty, slimy, conch fritter wash. Power and cable were out island-wide. How could such a big mess possibly get cleaned up in time to host a major regatta?
Anywhere else in the world, regatta organizers would’ve pulled the plug. Instead, Jimmy and Lori assessed the damage and quickly sent word: come to Nassau, and we’ll have a great championship. Many of us watching from afar shook our heads in disbelief, but we were all eager to enjoy Montagu Bay’s fabulous crystal clear waters and perfect breezes. So we swallowed our doubts and showed up—not sure what we would find, and hoping the locals could somehow work around the destruction left by the biggest storm to hit Nassau since 1929.
Driving in from the airport, there were signs of hurricane damage everywhere. Roofs missing shingles. Houses missing roofs. Trees with salt-burned brown leaves. Trees blown over. Limestone walls with tumbled-down sections. Downtown, most of the traffic lights were out, which made intersections a bit of a challenge. “If you’re on the main road, you have the right of way,” Lori explained.
When we arrived at RNSC, Montagu Bay sparkled turquoise. In front of the club, unconnected pilings and ragged concrete supports were all that was left of the docks and slips—except for one lonely powerboat, which was apparently unharmed but now marooned in a boat lift without access to electricity.
But the boat park looked just like any other regatta, and we were quickly distracted by the familiar flurry of greeting friends and rigging boats. Our Snipe trailer had been shipped over from Miami and delivered to the Club, and now it stood waiting for us. Several teams had already stepped their masts and were getting to know their charter boats. Inside, sail measurement was in progress on the freshly cleaned tile floor downstairs, while registration volunteers greeted us with a smile upstairs. And once we were finished with our paperwork, the bar was only a few steps away—where yellowbirds (a specialty Nassau rum drink) flowed once again, now that the club’s refrigeration had been repaired.
So we rigged our boats and bought our drink tickets and caught up with our Snipe family. Meanwhile, Jimmy and several helpers cobbled together a neat L of temporary dock space from six sections of plastic floats, which had conveniently washed up on a nearby beach and then been donated to RNSC.
Along with a few key lines to hang off while waiting for the single hoist, we now had space to tie up our boats. And by the time we launched for the practice race, someone had built a sturdy plywood mini-dock that linked the front of the club to the nearest float.
The floating docks were narrow but surprisingly stable, even with several sailors standing on each section. Our only concern was catching a toe in one of the gaping holes (caused by several missing plastic caps). The next morning, we arrived early to find Lori filling in the voids with plastic bags of sand—and still smiling.
Despite all the extra cleanup work at home and at RNSC, somehow Jimmy and Lori even managed to save up enough energy for some Serious Sailing; they won the Grand Masters’ Division and finished eleventh overall. At the awards dinner, they were each awarded honorary lifetime membership by RNSC. And afterward, they made their way out to the dance floor to enjoy another night of Serious Fun.
There were many, many people who made it possible for thirty-eight Snipe teams from nine countries to compete on beautiful Montagu Bay and to enjoy some world-class Bahamian hospitality. But Jimmy and Lori were the ones who had the grit, vision, and blind determination to make it happen. Hurricane Matthew definitely met his match.
Thanks to Primi Murgui for the powerboat lift and sailing photos. There are many more with the regatta report: Master Worlds Final