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Antigua Sailing Week 2012: Thrills and Spills

Hugo B proudly flies the flag of Antigua on her spinnaker. Photo: Paul Wyeth/Antigua Sailing Week
Hugo B proudly flies the flag of Antigua on her spinnaker. Photo: Paul Wyeth/Antigua Sailing Week

Antigua Sailing Week is the Caribbean’s longest running and most prestigious sailing regatta and the 46th edition was an absolute cracker. It is the final curtain call of the Caribbean racing season and sailors come to Antigua Sailing Week from all over the world to experience Caribbean racing at its best. Shore side was just as spectacular with a myriad of parties and fun on offer, including one of the most memorable live concerts in the event’s rich history.

The week of racing kicked off with a solid 20-25 knots of wind providing exhilarating sailing and no shortage of drama. In the big boat racing class, CSA1, Stefan Lehnert’s Tripp 56 went out of control three miles offshore and in the commotion crewman Phillip Lehnert went overboard. Within minutes, Richard Matthews’ Oyster 82, Zig Zag, successfully recovered Lehnert, who was uninjured. Lehnert’s father was a relieved man and once ashore delivered a crate of champagne to Zig Zag and a big thank you. The smart response was a true indication of the spirit of Antigua Sailing Week.

The breeze remained above 20 knots for the third consecutive day of racing. The sizeable yachts in CSA 1 were an awesome sight, smashing through the start line to windward before freeing off at the Ocean mark and accelerating downwind, bow up, at speeds of 20 knots plus.

Racing on the Santa Cruz 72, Antipodes, was a true Australian legend. At 85-years-of-age, Syd Fischer was probably the oldest competitor at Antigua Sailing Week. Fischer shares a record of five America’s Cup challenges.

The highlight of this year’s live music entertainment was ‘The son of Bob’ – Ky-Mani Marley. The band played to over 3000 people in Nelson’s Dockyard, concentrating on renditions of his father’s biggest hits: ‘Jamming’, ‘Could you be loved’ and the thought provoking, ‘No woman no cry’ and ‘Redemption Song’. Marley played for over two hours and the massive crowd left the event village buoyed by a fantastic experience.

After three days of scintillating race action, well over a thousand people gathered at Pigeon Beach for Lay Day. For the more energetic, stand up paddle boarding, rowing and dinghy racing were all on offer. Beach cricket was very popular with famous Antiguan cricketers Sir Vivian Richards, Curtly Ambrose and Kenny Benjamin joining in the fun with the gorgeous Carib Girls.

After a day off, racing resumed. All week, CSA 2 was a highly competitive class and on day four, Ulrich Rohde’s Swan 53, Dragon Fly Plus, won both races (but only just). In the fifth race of the series, Chris Brand’s Swan 53, Merel Four, took line honors but could only watch with despair as Dragon Fly Plus came through the line 21 seconds later to take the win on corrected time.

In the Bareboat Class, the titanic struggle between three German yachts from KH+P continued. For the penultimate race of the series, Horst Schulze’s, Sea You Later, won the race by just 34 seconds from Alexander Pfeiffer’s L’Oiseau des Iles. Andreas Kadelbach’s Cayenne was third. All three of these yachts occupied the top three places in the seven race series, often overlapping as they went through the finish line.

On the last day of racing, two classes went to the wire.

In CSA 1A, there was a nail-biting finale to Antigua Sailing Week. Geoff Hill’s Santa Cruz 72, Antipodes,won the last race of the day to take the division.

In CSA 5, Geoffrey Pidduck’s Six Metre, Biwi Magic, came out on top in the final race to win the class, after a titanic struggle with Stephen Carson’s Dehler 34, High Tide.

At the Final Awards Ceremony in Nelson’s Dockyard, Richard Wesslund’s J/120 El Ocaso was awarded the Lord Nelson Trophy for the best overall performance of any yacht during Antigua Sailing Week. El Ocaso scored seven straight wins in CSA 4, but it was far from easy. Most of the races were decided by less than a minute.

“Winning The Lord Nelson Trophy really caps off the season” said El Ocaso’s Richard Wesslund. “This has been the most competitive regatta by far; we have been pushed hard in every race. Every year the crew votes on the events we will compete in and Antigua Sailing Week was top of the list. The race management and shoreside has been absolutely first class – a fantastic event.”

For more details and full class results, visit: www.sailingweek.com

Louay Habib is a freelance yachting journalist who has competed at regattas and offshore events all over the world.  He writes for a variety of clients including, The Volvo Ocean Race and the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

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