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50 Boats Danced at the 25th Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta

Eilean returns to Antigua after undergoing renovation in Italy. Photo: Lee Smith
Eilean returns to Antigua after undergoing renovation in Italy. Photo: Lee Smith

The smell of varnish was in the air and bronze and stainless steel gleamed as contestants for the 25th Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (ACYR) gathered to race. Fifty six boats from ports in the Caribbean and around the world came to compete and show off their classic beauty.

This is a regatta of superlatives that go beyond who can sail their boat the fastest. The oldest boat taking part, the 82ft gaff schooner Coral of Cowes, was built in 1902. The longest boat, at 183ft, was the schooner Athos. It was spectacular to see the diminutive Springtide, a 24ft sloop, alongside one of the ten boats over 100ft in length.

The efforts of the crews and owners to varnish and polish were rewarded at the Concours d’ Elegance. The overall winner was the famous 51ft yawl Dorade, built in 1930. Winner in the category for privately maintained yachts was the Caribbean cruiser Spirited Lady of Fowey. Cruinneag III, a 2011 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers veteran, took home the Arne Frizzell prize for the most seaworthy boat.

Last year, the 55-year-old ketch Lone Fox took home the prestigious Panerai Trophy for best overall corrected cumulative time, along with the Wayfarer Trophy for first overall Classic and Vintage boat. This made the Fox, chartered by Don Ward and sailed by Ward and friends, the yacht to beat. The tension was high between Saphaedra and Lone Fox in Classic B class. For the first two days Saphaedra, a 51ft ketch, held the best overall corrected time, but Lone Fox had two great days of sailing and once again made off with the Panerai Trophy. Saphaedra, however, did win the Wayfarer Trophy.

The Mount Gay Trophy was awarded to the local boat, Mariella, a 79ft yawl built in 1938.

There was a good showing of traditional Caribbean workboats. The eight boat fleet included six sloops and two schooners. The local sloop Zemi once again took home the trophy for the best elapsed time for the fleet.

The 72ft Fife ketch, Eilean, built in Fairlie, Scotland, in 1936, returned to Antigua, her homeport, to much fanfare. She underwent a major restoration in Italy, supported by Officine Panerai, the exclusive Italian watch manufacturer, the official sponsor of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, and major sponsor of the ACYR. Eilean’s eclectic history includes 36 Atlantic crossings as well as featuring in Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ video in 1982. The famous video was shown at the awards ceremony ahead of the band’s lead-singer Simon Le Bon taking the stage to make a short speech to say how much he had enjoyed sailing aboard Eilean again during the regatta.

Kenny Coombs, the driving force behind the event, also had plenty to celebrate. He received two awards – the ‘Old Bob’ award for 25 years at the helm of ACYR and additional special prize from Signor Angelo Bonati, CEO of Officine Panerai.
“The 25th Anniversary of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta was a huge success with fantastic boats, great conditions, and best of all were the competitors, who enjoyed the festival of sail and went home happy,” Coombs told All At Sea.

The regatta was not without drama. A broken bowsprit following a collision on day two did not stop the Anguilla-based Alden schooner Charm III from racing the next day. A local woodshop fabricated a new bowsprit, and in a matter of hours a few guys delivered it to the dock asking for the boat that ordered the bowsprit. They were so casual that they could have been asking for the boat that ordered the pizza. Charm III’s owner Richard West was awarded the Spirit of Regatta Trophy for his determination to get back into the race.

More drama surrounded the yacht Firefly when, only seconds from the start, someone went overboard. The alert crew had the person back aboard before the gun.

The very generous sponsors offered evening activities and parties.  Panerai sponsored a hospitality booth that offered a much needed espresso in the morning and well deserved glass of wine or champagne in the evening. Mount Gay, the source of the much coveted ‘Red Hats’ sponsored an evening event providing free rum drinks and giveaways of t-shirts and the popular hats. On Sunday, Sail Maine sponsored a delicious event with drinks and food.

For full race and award results, visit: www.antiguaclassics.com
Devi Sharp is a retired wildlife biologist and is exploring the birds of the Caribbean with her husband, Hunter, aboard their sailboat Arctic Tern. She is a regular contributor to All At Sea.

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