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Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2005

When you think about it, there really are not many yachts in the world that qualify as entries in Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Even the Spirit of Tradition Class, (which may include brand new craft) have to be built to look like “old” boats, above the water line at least. This means that anyone brave enough to have a Spirit of Tradition Class built is doing it just because they simply love the “look and feel” of these fabulous vessels. Their owners have probably searched the world for a Classic and been made to realize that there
may not be a lot left for them to rebuild.

Most of our entries in Antigua have sailed here from Europe or the United States (even in some cases from New Zealand or Australia) just to compete in our island’s annual event. This year there were 60 boats, which made it the best attended Classic Regatta we have ever had. And what an excellent collection they were!

If you started out with the magnificent J Class, all originally built between the two World Wars and now costing up to five times as much as they would have done, then you might just get the picture. The oldest yachts were the Whitstable Oyster Smack Ibis built in 1888 and the Margurite T, a Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter of 1893. Both these yachts are indeed very beautiful, but not exactly greyhounds of the ocean. Both required years of hard work and a barrel load of money to be in the condition to sail to our little island in the first place. Let alone the sheer determination of their owners!

On the other hand, there was the magnificent schooner Windrose. She is 134 feet long, not counting the bowsprit, and was superbly built in Holland in 2002, having been designed by Gerard Dijkstra. She is absolutely mind-boggling! Perhaps my favourite yacht of all time. But, can you believe, even she was dwarfed the 179-foot schooner Fleurtje! Naturally, there was a logjam of small craft and mid-size vessels – all somebody’s pride and joy!

Perhaps this is the big difference between the owners of the “ Classics” and the owners of the modern yachts, which race in the likes of Antigua Sailing Week. The latter gentlemen may only keep their steeds for a few years before throwing them on to the market place and searching for a faster or more high tech machine. Whereas the owners of these wonderful old boats practically become “married” to them
until one or other passes quietly away.

Anyway, the weather conditions were in a benign mood for all three races: full sail, including topsails and fisherman. If anything, perhaps a tiny bit on the light side for most. But the 60 yachts, schooners, sloops, ketches and just about everything else you can think of set out across the blue Caribbean Sea to the south of Antigua.

Once again, a sight I will never, ever, ever forget. From our eerie, the dogs and I watched this remarkable pageant of sail, a sight that would have astounded even old Joshua Slocum himself. This year Velsheda and Ranger, the beautiful “J Boats” had Windrose, complete with a wardrobe of new sails to contend with. All around the course, with the schooner’s crew working their butts off, Windrose
was in a boat-for-boat battle on all the legs they were to sail! I was speechless with excitement and so were the dogs! Then, in one of the first classes to go, there was another big schooner, the 105-foot Henry Gruber-designed Ashanti IV. To see her increase her lead over the fleet, fisherman topsail and all, was one of the sights I will remember when the days of summer come and we have little to do except prepare for the possible hurricanes. But the 94-foot Fife designed and built Sumurum, originally gaff cutter in 1914, was either brilliantly sailed or had a well-hidden and completely silent electric motor. For she repeatedly beat such vessels as the 86-foot 1938 Nordwind, once used by Herman Goering, the Fife-built Mariella, designed by Alfred Milne in 1938, the 73-foot Bolero, once the pride of the American ocean racing fleet and built in 1949 as well as the 1926, 60-foot yawl Rugosa. She is presently owned by Halsey Herreshoff and designed and built by his grandfather, Captain Nat.

Of course one of the most famous names is that of Ticonderoga of 1936. She was designed by L Francis Herreshoff and this graceful vessel needed a little more wind and ideally a little more reaching to excel. Her long-time skipper, Tom Reardon, coaxed her along to get a first-in-class in all three races against newer competition. A sister ship to big TI, called Victoria of Duxby, virtually a new boat by Classic standards, was built in 1974 in New Zealand and actually beat her Grandmother with a faster elapsed time. But she was in a
different class. Not often do you see two TI’s on the same bit of ocean!

Stepping down in size, one of the first fiberglass boats to be built was the Bermuda 40 class designed by Bill Tripp senior. We had two racing this year and the clear victor was Eddie Barretoe in his Moonshadow, with three firsts.

A great deal of interest was centered around the UK designed and built Spirit Class, which were shipped to Antigua from Europe just before the event. They have long overhangs and tall Bermuda rigs and they raced in the Spirit of Tradition Class. In fact these lovely little boats are reminiscent of the 30 square meter-class of old. One of them, Reprobate, won the single-handed race just before the
regatta.

Of course there are many yachts that space doesn’t allow me to talk about. Anyhow you have probably realized by now that no one could love the Classics more than I do and I just wish that we had even more days when these wonderful old designs of yesterday strutted their stuff. So to Kenny and Jane Combs I join a growing list of people who have become your admirers. He is the Chairman of the Classic
Regatta and looks the part. Without Kenny and Jane, I seriously doubt that the Classic Regatta would have ever come so far. Also, thank you to Brian and Judy the owners of the big Dione Star and the volunteers who man the Committee boat. We mustn’t forget Mike Rose, who manned the radio over the event, was never flustered and as usual became a real credit to the Regatta. On one day after the racing, we had the much-anticipated Parade of Classics through English Harbour. A very big thank you to the members of the Royal Naval
Tot Club of English Harbour who helped this whole splendid event get off the ground from the very beginning. Viva the Classics and their owners!

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