After the Antigua Classic fleet has returned to the dock, washed down and hung up to dry, the crews, now spiffy and awash in cologne, are ready for the main event of the day – cruising and unabashed gawking.
Spectators particularly need to be warned. Without sunglasses you may almost drown in the deeply glowing varnish of these magnificently groomed yachts or blinded by their perfectly polished brass. From gazing at the smallest or the largest, it is very possible to slip in one’s drool.
It is difficult to distinguish between the yachts professionally or privately maintained. But there are some which have those special little touches, some for adornment, others functional, that set them apart. Some of these beautifully made works of art may induce awe and even a feeling of reverence.
Eleonora, the magnificent 136-foot Nat Herreshoff gaff schooner built in 2000, has the end of her main boom carved with a graceful gold “E”. This boom rests on a striking X-shaped inlaid boom crutch. Beautifully stitched leather sheaths her running backstay blocks with other intricate leather protectors placed at strategic places.
On Altair, the gorgeous 107-foot William Fife gaff schooner built in 1931, are two main halyard blocks artistically stitched with oiled leather. Several stitched leather winch handle pouches with protective extensions reside near winches. Old fashioned wooden cleats on the deck aft of the foremast are precisely spaced and well placed.
Ashanti IV, a stately103-foot Henry Gruber schooner built in 1954, has the most amazing and unique helmsman’s seat of inlaid woods shaped like a whale’s tail. At the end of her main boom is her coat of arms and decorating each side of her bow is an elaborate gold sea dragon.
Ticonderoga, the 72-foot L. Francis Herreshoff ketch built in 1936, has a most elaborate gold eagle on her stern, a real eye-catcher as are the gold dolphins capping the rails amidships. A most exquisite and unusual teak ventilator rests upon the aft hatch.
These carefully crafted adornments and hand-made protectors reflect the pride and care that their owners feel about their yachts which are, in one sense, floating museums.
You also can’t ignore some of the more interesting yacht crews which are special in their own ways such as the bagpiper playing aboard Eleonora. Probably the youngest crew in this year’s fleet is the little boy on the bowsprit of Vilona May. In a rare, relaxed moment is Tom Reardon snatching his breakfast on the foredeck of Ticonderoga. Don Street in his white hat is amidst the crew in the cockpit of Altair. And summing up the whole exhilarating regatta experience is the West Indian crew sleeping on the Sunfish: “When I works, I works hard. When I sits, I sits hard. And when I tinks, I goes to sleep!”