‘Rum Runners’ liven up trans-At race

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The crew of one of four Farr 65 ocean racing yachts participating in a trans-Atlantic race from Antigua to Portsmouth, England, via the Azores, made a traditional nautical delivery to the U.K., bringing rum from the islands.

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Spirit of Minerva skipper Pete Whitelaw and crew Mark Barton, Rory Johnson and Roger Johnson earned the moniker "The Rum Runners" as they came ashore at Gunwharf Quays after completing the 3,500-nautical-mile Ondeck Atlantic Challenge.

The nickname was earned with a stopover at the birthplace of rum, Barbados, to pick up as cargo the very first shipment of Mount Gay's 1703 Old Cask Selection super-premium rum. The Barbados minister of tourism Richard Sealy signed the bottles, which are to be auctioned for charity, and a presentation case containing six bottles was carefully stowed on board before slipping dock.

As well as Spirit of Minerva, three other Farr 65 yachts completed the Atlantic Challenge. Each yacht sailed with a skipper and professional crew as well as amateur sailors paying for the experience.

The first yacht home at 11:30 p.m. last Friday, Spirit of Isis, first sighted land as it was 10 miles off Lizard Point. The second boat to arrive at 3 a.m. last Saturday, Spirit of Juno had a steady 15- to 20-knot wind and by the time they had reached Portsmouth, "the crew had learnt how to slip off the top of the waves and not crash our near-30-ton surfboard down onto the sea." Only 30 minutes separated Spirit of Minerva and Spirit of Diana.

Family and friends and, of course, "The Rum Runners," celebrated in style at a Mount Gay Rum party held to welcome back the crews.