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Jol Byerley’s Aug 05 Letter from Antigua

It seems a bit
weird really. Most people, when they hear that we might be selling our Dehler
34 Hightide have the same reaction.
“You can’t do that,” they chorus, “it will be the end of an era”. Well, I don’t
know about that but after a lifetime of racing in England and the Caribbean I
rather feel that I have been there and done it, too. Apart from that, our dogs
Dinty and Scrumpy would much rather have a little motor boat which doesn’t do
the “tippy” thing and threaten to hurl them into the sea!

We have had Hightide for more than 15 years now and I think that she has been
our all-time favourite boat. Judy and I have several times cruised her down to
the Venezuelan coast and none of our boats both large and small have been more
enjoyable. When it comes to racing, ok, she doesn’t have the blistering speed
of Riptide, our Olsen 30. But, we had
a mind-boggling crew of topless ladies and picked up more than our fair share
of silver ware. But all good things come to an end, don’t they? Almost as one,
our lovely lady crew seem to fade away (husbands, babies and things) and it was
then if at any time that the so called era might have ended. But she is so
pretty and so truly enjoyable, should we sell her there will be a few tears, I
am sure.

Now that the Rolex Transatlantic Race is all
over, I realize that more than half of the vessels taking part spent most of
last season in Antigua. Some were brand new, some were not so new and some like
Sumurun, Nordwind and Mariella in
the Classic Class were elderly indeed, having been built between 1914 to 1938.
The weather was absolutely foul! However, we received daily reports by email,
and our hearts were in our mouths. It was icy cold and for a lot of the time
blowing a full gale on the nose. After spending the winter in the balmy climes
of Antigua, it was not surprising that the crews wondered what on earth they
were doing out there. On board Mariella
was Doctor Robin Tattersall of Tortola. Well into his seventies, Dr Robin was
making his first Atlantic crossing and spent many long hours at the wheel while
the rest of the crew (with two girls included), fought like hell with storm
conditions, battling with the rig, torn sails and doing their best not to be
hurled over the side into the tempestuous sea. Most of our readers will know by
now that the record set by Charlie Barr on the big schooner Atlantic was at stake. However, this
record was easily broken by Mari-Cha IV
and several others. Mari-Cha IV took
9 days and 15 hours, 55 minutes and twenty three seconds, while Maximus – brand new and direct from New
Zealand via Antigua, was second on the water, with the fabulous schooner Windrose in third place. But Atlantic‘s record of 12 days 4 hours 1
minute and nineteen seconds has lasted for over one hundred years.

A fellow Antiguan
and a friend of ours, young Roddy Grimes Graeme was aboard the 115ft Sojana. He is one of the new breed of up
and coming young professional photographers. To say that some of his resulting
photographs made me glad to be going to bed with Judy and the dogs every night
would be putting it mildly.

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