We were lucky enough to be in the Exumas for the 5F’s – First Friday in February at Farmers Festival. It is a three day affair. I was told (but I’m not sure) that it was arranged by the Government in an attempt to get people from all the islands together in one place to celebrate – and mix up the gene pool a little!! Perhaps “fornication” should be added to the 5 F’s – but don’t quote me on that! Whatever the purpose, we had been hearing about it all the way down the islands. When we were in Black Point we saw their entry “Smashie” and from then, our money was on them. There were a couple of boats in various stages of completion; one had the keel plank laid and the transom starting to take shape; another had the planking all laid up and was ready for finishing off. (You might need to click on some of the photos to see the detail).
We sailed down to Little Farmers Cay on Friday in an armada of boats all heading in the same direction. We anchored near Oven Rock, a little away from the main beach; a long dinghy ride in, but it looked like a zoo down there.
The whole event took place off the beach at Ty’s Sunset Bar and Grill. There was a DJ pumping out music at decibels that destroyed eardrums and the kitchen was churning out food with no let-up. A great atmosphere, and by now we had met (or at least recognized from previous stops) many of the cruisers, so it was like a reunion.
One race on Friday (I think it was a practice) and three on Saturday. There was no wind for the Friday race and the start line was close to where we had anchored so Garth went over in the dinghy and took some photos. We don’t think that much attention is paid to rules – some were rocking the boat, some were sculling – whatever took you to the finish! Which was simply a mark laid in the water – no line to cross.
Some of the boats were well equipped – some were simply glad to be out there …
The winds were fresher for Saturday’s races – we went out to watch the start. The booms on these boats extend way beyond the transom – we found a boat called H2O (same as our Harbor 20!) and helped them undo their sail as their support boat was bringing a different one. The skipper of H2O was not a young man and I’m sure he brought lots of experience to the team. They were certainly in there with the top guys.
There were numerous sail changes as the wind picked up. Unlike the formal start sequences that we are used to, everyone just waits, anchored, sails down, in a (sort of) straight line until all the boats are ready. There is a dinghy flying a Bahamian flag which runs up and down the line, the race officer shouting out the course to three or four boats at a time as he goes – once it seems as though everyone has their chosen sail on, and knows the course, he waves a flag in the air – and it’s all systems go.
Some go well, some go badly. It seems as though the more competitive boats pull themselves forward on their anchors without raising their sails immediately. This gives them some momentum and clear air, and only then do they pull up the sail. For the rest, it is chaos!!! The booms are so long that some hit the water as the sail goes up – the helmsman loses steerage and there is banging and crashing and shouting …..
We zoomed down to the first mark and it was just as interesting. So much has to happen and everyone is converging at the same time. Boats coming up to the mark just yelling “starboard” continually, whether or not they have water on the mark – how there is not more damage or people in the water I’ll never know! These guys are really good sailors.
Our Smashie was one of the better boats and came second overall I believe – we backed a winner! This is all done for cash prizes and very impressive silver trophies, so they are all “in it to win it” that’s for sure.
The winner was Whitty K – we had chatted to them on the way to the start and they had seemed to be pretty confident. We waited a while for the prizegiving but as it got dark we thought about our long dinghy ride back and decided it was time to go. What a fabulous event.