This was the ninth Anguilla Regatta and I have been to every one. As a journalist, I should remain impartial, but when it comes to the Anguilla Regatta, it gets my vote as one of the best on the Caribbean Calendar.
Over the years the Anguilla Regatta has gone through a few changes as they explored ways to attract more boats. This year it was obvious that funding for the three-day event had been cut back. If it was a problem, the organizers didn't show it, and put on the best regatta to date with 22 boats taking part.
"One of the big surprises was the multihull class," said Andrew Rapley, race officer for the regatta. "Not only were there more multihulls but, boy, were they good. They were on the line on time, on speed, and it was a real exciting class to see."
While the ex Route de Rhum trimaran Dauphin Telecom flew around the course, Robbie Ferron's Lagoon 410 Katzenellenbogen, slugged it out with the Brazapi 41 Guimamalou. The two cruising cats pushing it to the edge of protest while scrapping over a mark in the Anguilla Channel on day one. Both boats went on to score an equal number of points over the series. However, having won the sixth and final race, rules dictate that overall victory be handed to Guimamalou.
If Ferron was disappointed to be relegated to second place, he didn't show it and, at the awards ceremony, praised the regatta, calling it "a bumper year."
For three days, boats sailed beneath acres of grey cloud. Rare conditions for the Caribbean, but most welcome by the sailors manning the windward rail.
Although winds remained in the 10 to 12 knot range there was plenty of drama and, for the largest boat in the fleet, it began on the first day. Rounding a mark set close to the beach in Rendezvous Bay, Nico Cortleve's X 612 Nix ran aground. Although stuck for several minutes, the sporting skipper made little fuss over the grounding and went on to claim second place overall in cruising class. This class was dominated by St. Maarten's Sir Bobby Velasquez, whose Beneteau 45F5 L'Esperance swept aside all-comers with six bullets.
"Moderate winds are nice. Over the last few weeks we've had more extreme winds," noted Garth Steyn, captain of the Catalina 36 Moondance and owner of the St. Maarten Sailing School. Steyn's crew of trainees received quite a workout on the foredeck, often gybing the pole on the long downwind leg on day one and again during the windward/leeward courses on day two. Crossing the start on Friday, the trainees received a lesson in 'how not to do it' when the boat ahead crossed the line early and turned back, colliding with Moondance. Steyn made light of the incident and his novice crew went on to score six bullets and win cruising class.
Sunday, the final day, and the combined fleet got a better view of the traditional West Indies Work Boats, the Carriacou Sloops, in vintage class. Given their own class and courses, the work boats bring something special to the Anguilla Regatta. Alexis Andrews – who is doing so much to promote the building and preservation of Carriacou Sloops – won the class with Genesis, and one wonders if there is another sloop on the circuit that can beat him.
For the last race, yachts follow the popular 'triangle' course. The first leg takes them from Sandy Ground, northeast, to Crocus Bay. Local knowledge can pay massive dividends on this part of the race. The same goes for any race that finishes in Road Bay, where many competitors, unaware of the punishing wind-shifts inshore, have had victory torn from their grasp. Having raced in Anguilla many times, Frits Bus, owner/skipper of the Melges 24 Team Coors Light, knows about the wind-shifts and how to play them. Going into the final race, four points ahead of Ian Hope-Ross' Beneteau First 36.7 Kick 'em Jenny, Bus hit all the right notes to finish first overall in spinnaker class.
One boat that that will remember the final race is Panic Attack. Jan van den Eynde's Open 750, forced out at the committee boat end, lost someone overboard while maneuvering. So quickly was the swimmer recovered that she barely had time to get wet!
"Overall, great weather, great wind, good participation and a lot of fun," said Donald Curtis, one of the regatta organizers and the MC at the awards ceremony.
Curtis noted that all the money generated by the Anguilla Regatta goes towards the Anguilla Youth Sailing Program and promised a special regatta to mark the tenth anniversary in 2012.
Info and results: www.anguillaregatta.com
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He hosts the radio show YachtBlast on Island 92, St. Maarten, and is the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information visit: garyebrown.net