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April 25, 2004

At Sunday evening’s awards ceremony for the Mieco Beach Yacht Club race a significant announcement was made: The owners of the yacht Queen Jane, Jordan and Kate Bigel, are not sailing south. Instead they are the sixth boat to come to the Marshall Islands this season that has decided to stay here for at least a year!

The fledgling yacht club’s committee would like to think that the holding of monthly yacht races, and the fun had at their complementing parties at the Marshall Islands Resort, has a lot to do with the skippers’ decisions to stick around. But word from the international yachties is that, while they love the club’s events, it is the people, the land and the reefs of the Marshalls that has made them put a hold on their world travels for 12 months.

This is great news for the Marshalls, as the presence of yachts brings valuable tourism dollars into the economy and their visits to the outer islands brings benefits ranging from skippers and crew fixing equipment for locals to the buying of handicrafts. Add the warm cultural exchange that takes place and we should all be saying three cheers to the boaties.

On the subject of cheers, there were many rounds of them on Sunday evening after the running of the race. The loudest, however, were for club commodore and former High Court Judge Dee Johnson, who this week farewells the Marshalls.

Johnson’s role in the club includes coordinating the race, which was this week held in superb sailing conditions. The parade across the finish line in front of the Marshall Islands Resort started with Roxanne taking out line honors. The sleek sloop was followed by Windswept, Capricorn Cat, Dancer, Libby Lane, Navi-Gator, Wind Runner, Seal and Rainbow Chaser. The race is run on handicap, with the winners on corrected time being Dancer in first place, Roxanne second, Windswept third and Capricorn Cat fourth.

The skipper of Capricorn Cat, Blair Grinolds (who has promoted the Marshalls by writing many letters about our country for the popular US west coast magazine Latitude 38) sailed out of Majuro headed for Samoa on Monday morning. Close behind him was another long-time friend of the Marshalls, Rixzene Ayers, skipper of the graceful ketch Karmaladen. Ayers has spent over a year visiting our outer atolls and has enjoyed her time here so much she intends to do a refit of her boat in Fiji and then return to RMI in November.

With the number of yachts visiting the Marshalls growing steadily each year, Ayers has wisely booked her RRE mooring in advance, because who knows how many boats will be bobbing about in our lagoon when she emerges again from the wide ocean blue.

Author:  Karen Earnshaw

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