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Fast and Beautiful Antiguan Classic Regatta 2011

Sixty-eight yachts ranging in size from the 26-foot, David Boyd Sloop, Springtide, to the 180-foot Andre Hoek Ketch, Marie, competed in the 24th Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. In this context a 'classic yacht' can qualify based on their age, while other, newer boats, qualify based on their design.

Thursday, and overcast skies found crews madly wiping raindrops from the varnish as they awaited the arrival of the judges for the prestigious Concours d' Elegance competition. The judges examine the bright work, decks, interior, rigging and adherence to traditional designs and overall presentation. This is the opportunity for each boat to showcase their attention to detail and maintenance.

Aboard Rebecca of Vineyard Haven, a 60-foot Nat Benjamin Schooner, built in 1999, owners Pam and Brian Malcolm told me her story and conveyed their pride in being custodians of this classic design. Below, the interior was warm and shiny with silver Bali and Angelique wood from Suriname. To the Malcolm's delight, their schooner was awarded first prize for a privately maintained
Classic Class boat. Other Concours d' Elegance class winners included Susie Standhope's Spirited Lady of Fowey and the newly launched Carriacou Sloop New Moon, which arrived from Carriacou. The classic Latifa was the overall winner, taking home the Arny Frizell award; a beautiful scrimshaw plaque.

With a large trough of low pressure over Antigua, conditions were less than ideal for racing. Friday dawned clear with light winds. Colorful spinnakers were flown on the downwind legs and conditions favored the lighter boats. The gentle winds gave the new competitors an opportunity to test the local conditions and learn more about the competition.

The mighty J class sloops Velsheda and Ranger continued their old rivalry and charged across the start line. The J's weren't alone in their nautical jousting. Competition was equally as fierce among the traditional Carriacou Sloops. The light winds favored the new build Zemi, while some of the heavier sloops, ironically, the ones with engines, could have used more wind.

The light conditions did not detract from the evening events and generous parties sponsored by local and international businesses. The Panerai hospitality booth provided participants and observers with drinks and snacks. Mount Gay Rum threw a 'Dark and Stormy' party that had a few folks wobbly the next day.

Walking the docks at the end of each day of racing was a joy and, by the list of home ports inscribed on shining transoms, it was easy to see that Antigua Classics attracts yachts from all over the world. Atrevida, a 95-foot Herrschoff staysail schooner, built in 1923, was the oldest boat in the regatta. The schooner arrived from Brazil and it did not go unnoticed that they had great music and celebrated the end of the day with champagne.

Sunday, and the final day of competition showed promise. Crews were keen, alert, and ready to put into practice all they had learned during the previous two races. There were scores to settle, but the winds died and many boats came to a standstill at the second mark. Jokes about setting an anchor did the rounds, but not all the yachts were becalmed and there was some controversy when the committee boat announced that the race was abandoned. This was particularly hard on Gaia, as she was only a few boat-lengths from the finish line, but the committee felt that if they let Gaia complete the race it would be past dark before the smaller boats finished.

The Government of Antigua has recently declared 'Sport Yachting' a national sport. Eventually, this will offer all young Antiguans between the ages of eight and 18 the opportunity to add dinghy sailing to their school curriculum. Aboard Gaia, they took the initiative and invited along a local dinghy sailor and give him a taste of sailing a big boat.

Although this year's regatta would have benefited from more wind, it was still a huge success and the organizers rejoiced in the record number of boats taking part. Classic yachts, three days of sailing, a single-handed race, gig races, cream teas and a parade of yachts through English Harbour. All this and the familiar skirl of bagpipes to welcome the boats home at the end of each day, from the yacht Serenity.

Antigua, where the legends live on.

For full results, visit: www.antiguaclassics.com

IT TAKES MORE THAN ADVERSITY TO STOP LONE FOX

First overall in the Classic and Vintage Class, collecting the Wayfarer Marine Trophy, and winner of the regatta overall, was Ira H. Epstein's Lone Fox.

That Lone Fox even made it to the regatta is amazing. Having been laid up after seriously damaging her keel while racing in Maine, she was re-launched in freezing weather only to suffer the loss of a headstay two days out of Bermuda. Incidents that could have removed the Robert Clark designed 62-footer from the racing scene for a long time. But Epstein and his gutsy crew pulled together and made it
to Antigua.

As overall regatta winner, Lone Fox was awarded the much prized Panerai Trophy and the stunning, special edition, Panerai Timepiece.

Devi Sharp is a retired wildlife biologist. She is exploring the Caribbean with her husband, Hunter, aboard their sailboat Arctic Tern.

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