There is an international beauty contest that rivals all others because its girls are so staggeringly beautiful. You can’t help but admire the cut of their jibs, their sweet, graceful bows, and their dainty sterns. No wonder we think of boats as members of the feminine gender—we love to run a hand over their hulls, playfully swat them and willingly spend large amounts of money on them. But the big difference between women and boats is that boats don’t talk back!
The Boat International Concours d’Elegance is held each year at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta which draws yachts from all over the world. The two major Concours categories are Best Professionally-Maintained Yacht and Best Privately-Maintained Yacht. Each category has five divisions: Traditional: vessels built as work boats; Spirit of Tradition: vessels recently built along “classic” lines using modern techniques and materials; Vintage: vessels over 50 years old; Classic: vessels over 25 years old; and if classic motor yachts enter, the Classic Motor yachts category is included.
Every year about 60 outstanding classic yachts assemble at the Antigua Yacht Club, each of them unique or unusual in its own way, whether through design or craftsmanship. All are delicately curved mirrors of varnish, paint and brass that reflect their surroundings. The varnish is so deep you could drown in it, the brass so bright it hurts the eyes. But there’s more to it than the dressing. There are those special touches that undoubtedly influence those judging the yacht for a Concours award.
What else do these judges consider? Most important is “the look.” “The look” is the overall appearance of the boat, particularly decks and rig which are traditional in keeping with its age and class. The sails must be furled neatly, the lines coiled perfectly on deck, the brass polished without a blemish, the varnish blazing on the deck house, the hatches, the companionways, the rails. The winches and cleats must be properly positioned—and having traditional leather work on blocks, winch handle pockets, turn buckles, etc. is important in keeping with the yacht’s tradition. A plus is original equipment such as the windlass, the binnacle and the wheel.
Below decks everything should be authentic or basically unchanged. Modern navigation equipment is acceptable but the paneling should be original as well as such fixtures as light switches, drawer pulls, fiddles, vents, etc.
The overall winner of the 2007 Concours d’Elegance was Belle Adventure, a Bermudan ketch. She caught the eye immediately, whether docked or sailing. Her deck house is low and elegant, the varnished hatches and deck boxes built with traditional glass lids protected by metal rods. Behind the wheel is a brass rudder indicator and the cockpit holds a lovely table.
Belle Adventure had several special touches that caught the pleasure of the judges. The captain must have known that the way to win a judge’s heart was to feed him. Beautifully displayed on the aft hatch was a delicious array of goodies accompanied by an elegant silver and glass pitcher. Another unique touch was the little silver frog sitting on a silver lily pad on one corner of the cockpit table.
Serious competition abounded such as Mariette, the 84-foot gaff schooner, her beautiful Spencer-engraved blocks and her low deck house with curved banister. An important new contender to the fleet this year was Kate, the most recently built 12-meter from St. Kitts. Her sleek canary-yellow hull and natty crew made her a bright, graceful eye-catcher wherever she went. Ticonderoga was her usual magnificent self; varnish perfect as ever, as was one of her polished brass ventilators reflecting this author.
From small exquisite boats to big spectacular schooners, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta is a feast for the sailor’s soul. But certain crew should be mentioned, too, such as Dude the cat from Galatea guarding the Heineken bottles and two other “dudes” all dressed up to party!
Generous sponsors included Panerai, Boat International, Mount Gay Distillers, Cable & Wireless, Ocean World, Antigua Yacht Club Marina, Indies Trade, Laurent Perrier, Gleeds Digicel, Acqua Films, Bacchus Wines, National Parks Authority, SJ00 Sandstrom, Carib Bean Coffee Roasters, Chippy Fine Yacht Woodwork, Woodstock Boatbuilders and other local establishments.