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Antigua Sailing Week

I have to admit to a feeling of anxiety regarding the weather just before this year’s Antigua Sailing Week. It rather appeared as if there were going to be light and variable winds and showers for most of the event. And that is just about what happened. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune hit us right where it hurts most. Then, we heard that a big yacht transport vessel had apparently had engine trouble and amongst its cargo was the brand new 100ft Maximus, recently built in New Zealand. Apparently, the whole kit and caboodle was stuck on the other side of the Panama Canal and there was little hope of her reaching Antigua in time for the Regatta. Then, if that wasn’t enough, rumour control told us that many of the Bareboat fleet had to pull out for one reason or another. Anyway, c’est la vie.

But there were a few good things, including the appearance of 70-year-old Tom Hill, who I remember racing against many years ago when he had the first of his many Titans. Tom came, raced and conquered! This time in his big, red Titan XII. Tom took Racing Class with a string of firsts and won overall to take the Lord Nelson Trophy, and the many other cups and prizes that go with it. Without such vessels as Pyewacket and Morning Glory, Titan XII was as unstoppable as the Colorado River after a winter storm. He has been a great supporter of Antigua Week almost since it began. Mind you, a lot has changed since his succession of “little” Titans. In most of our own racing yachts, Judy and I have battled with this fine sportsman from Puerto Rico, but it was with our S&S 34 Morning Tide that we had our most monumental tussles with him. I seem to remember on that very long beat from the west end of Cades Reef up to the finish, Tom and Dotty were usually in front of us but we would gradually claw him back and the honours may or not have been fairly even at the finish!

The racing round at Dickenson Bay on Monday was by no means thrilling. The entire racing of Division A had to be abandoned owing to lack of wind in the morning session. But Division B, the Cruising gang, managed to get
away in the afternoon. It was pretty slow going, however, and at times large numbers of competitors were pointing every which way.

On Tuesday, the big boats of the racing fleet were supposed to race around the island, but the Committee sensibly decided that the wind being both fluky and light just had no muscle to send the yachts off on a 50-mile drift. So it was no go and the big boats had to wait until Thursday. As luck would have it, they were able to get round at a fair clip, giving Titan the chance to win the new Yachting World Trophy for best elapsed time around the island. In the meantime, little Lost Horizon, Jamie Dobbs’ little Olson 30 (25 years ago she was our Riptide) was having one heck of a fight with Enzyme from
Trinidad and Eib Marina Bas Du Fort from Guadeloupe.

Then, in the last-but-one race, many of the competitors left out a mark which really did not make any difference to the miles sailed. But it was a mark of the course, so Lost Horizon took a penalty which took her down from first to second overall. Not bad for what is now a very old boat.

In the Division B fleets, there was some really good racing with many boats getting into the money. Take Tango Mike for instance. For this week, she was called Budget Marine. Gambling on there being plenty of wind, for there is usually over 20 knots or so, her owner had decided to use a floater instead of a spinnaker.

Well the wind direction made for a lot of downwind legs, and the boats that opted for spinnakers obviously had the edge. Budget Marine managed to hang on to a second place in class.

Perhaps one of the really gratifying things was the performance of the down island boats like Enzyme
from Trinidad. We all know there is a big fleet of racing yachts in Port of Spain, and they appear to have really sharpened up their act. Also going very well were the French yachts from Guadeloupe and Martinique. Our local racing skippers in these classes really had to fight tooth and nail to stay with the down island boats. Captain Hugh Bailey was sailing his second string boat Hugo B although nobody thought that she was anything like as fast as his usual Beneteau 435 Hugo. However, Captain Bailey came a very credible third to Wayward, a Beneteau 43 from Trinidad sailed by Jerome McQillkin and the winner, Hugh’s long-time adversary, Sir Robert Velasquez in L’Esperance from St Martin.

Some of the more worthy results were in the Cruising division. In particular, Pavlova II really did well as most people would have thought she was past her best. And what about Arawa, an old Columbia 50 which would have been more at home in the Classic Regatta. This elderly Bill Tripp design went extremely well in the prevalent light weather. Her owner suffered an injury to his jaw in last year’s event, so it was gratifying to see him back and beating many much younger competitors. I cant help thinking that both Arawa and Pavlova II must have had local knowledge on board for they hardly ever put a foot
wrong.

In Racing Class 4, both Mermaid II and Caccia A La Volpe dropped out of the racing halfway through the event. Mermaid II lost her mast, though how in that wind I’ll never know, but it’s difficult to go well without a spar, isn’t it. Caccia A La Volpe, usually a very keen competitor, dropped out after a protest hearing went against her.

Here we must congratulate the owner of Top 50. She is a purpose-design long distance ocean racer for such things as the transatlantic race or similar. Not ideal for inshore around the cans like Sailing Week. But just about every year he enters Sailing Week and comes close to last. Does it stop him from returning? Not a
bit of it. Well done indeed M. Luc Coquelin. One day you will get your conditions and “Tout le monde, attention!”

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