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A Woman at the Helm of the Antigua Yacht Club

It was only when Elizabeth Jordan was in her forties—divorced and children departed in pursuit of their own careers—that she decided to sell her company and take up sailing seriously. Little did she suspect that she would end up in Antigua as the first woman Commodore of its Yacht Club!

Always keen on sailing, she began by acquiring her commercially endorsed yachtmaster’s and instructor’s license in the UK.  Her second investment was in Arc Angel, a 36 ft Swan, comfortable for cruising, competitive for racing and ideal for teaching would-be sailors.

Racing in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) had always appealed, and it was getting cold in England, so she made for the Canaries. She left Las Palmas in 1999 and headed for the Caribbean with her all-female crew (the first one in the history of the ARC), coming in third in her class. Her daughter—also a Yachtmaster—was first mate on the crossing.  

Elizabeth went on to race in Antigua Sailing Week 2000 and took a liking to its friendly and active yachting community. She decided to settle there and run a charter business, proceeding to skipper term charters from the Grenadines to the BVI for four seasons with Antigua as her base. She went on to combine this with a large villa for rentals, which became very popular with racing crews. She has also successfully participated in regattas throughout the Caribbean, notably chartering for “girlsforsail.com”, all female crews yet again, for three seasons in Antigua Race Week.

Always a very popular and active member of the Antigua Yacht Club (AYC), Elizabeth became much involved in organizing its social events, to the members’ obvious delight, as well as taking part in all its sailing activities. Her energy and enthusiasm were infectious and it was in December 2007 that the male-dominated Yacht Club made the decision to appoint the dynamic Elizabeth as their very first female Commodore. 

She hopes that, with the new, keen committee, the Club will become more active both on and off the water, and started with a bang by organizing the best Christmas Dinner Party ever.  Land events such as “Sunday is Funday,” to which children and other animals were invited, and the monthly Quiz Night, have already proved very popular. The “Pimms Parties,” with afternoon tea, croquet, and boules, have met with similar enthusiasm. Film nights are also on the agenda.

On the water, the regular scheduled races have continued, beginning with the Round the Island Race in January, concluding this time with a party on the lawn in front of the AYC. The traditional half-way party took place at Castaways in Jolly Harbour as usual, the majority of participants in the  infamous “Miss Round the Island” (male beauty contest) being yet again French!

As the Jolly Harbour Yacht Club’s Valentine’s Regatta is always scheduled for February, the AYC’s next event will be this month, with the Carlisle Bay Beach Bash. Sub-titled “Sailing to Hawaii” for the last three years, eager participants have worn imaginative costumes and consumed tropical food and drinks. This March, however, it will be “Sailing to Acapulco”, and it is hoped that costumes will be equally creative and participation just as keen.

April and May herald the annual Classic Yacht Regatta and Sailing Week. June is more relaxing with the Green Island Race and May more cosmopolitan, with the “Cruise to France” (a three-day trip to Deshaies in Guadeloupe and back, with great emphasis on French food and wine!) at Whitsun.

Back at the AYC itself, the club is now open on Saturdays and Sundays with a new dinghy sailing programme. It is also the intent to expand the Youth Sailing Programme, with the AYC’s Olympic sailor and Caribbean champion Karl James as instructor.  Elizabeth and her Vice Commodore, Frank Pearce, and Rear Commodore, Franklin Braithwaite, are also eager for any suggestions/ideas from both members and non-members for the AYC.

So if you fancy a dinghy outing followed by a glass of Pimms and maybe a game of croquet or boules, you should certainly visit the Antigua Yacht Club, where you can be sure of a warm and hearty welcome with a lots of fun thanks to Commodore Elizabeth Jordan, her new manager Richard Chadburn, and the rest of the AYC committee. Cheers!

Biologist and former Eurocrat Gilly Gobinet took up permanent residence on Antigua in the Caribbean in 1984. She has been painting and writing—and sailing—ever since.  Her work can be seen at originalcaribbeanart.com

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