Last year Don Ward's delightful Cherubini 44 Winsome not only won her class, she also came a record first in all four races in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Having former rival Hans Lammers, at the helm was a definite plus and we look forward to similar successes this month.
Accountant Don Ward came to Antigua in 1973 on a three-year contract, and like so many others, stayed. He became interested in sailing when he "rescued" a discarded 10ft Puffin in 1974. Proudly setting off downwind in Dickenson Bay, he had no idea how to get back and had to be rescued. Then followed a succession of boats: a Sunfish, a Mirror dinghy, a GP 14 dinghy, a homemade 22ft plywood day-sailer; a Contessa 26, and an S and S 34 for 14 years, which everybody loved.
During this period, Don was learning both to sail and to navigate by trial and error. The latter – or reefs hit in the absence of a depth sounder – became immortalized as red dots on Don's Antigua chart hanging in his office. The need for third party help and/or some serious kedging were the criteria for awarding a red dot.
Since then, Don likes to think his navigation skills have improved with more advanced instruments. However, he never had a problem negotiating the entrance to Nonsuch Bay, using the time-honored method of eyeballing, until he acquired his Garmin Chart Plotter. Ending up on several occasions in seven feet of water in Spithead Channel led him to question seriously the accuracy of his set of state-of-the-art equipment.
After a year with a Dehler 36, Don decided he had to have a pretty boat. He had read about the Cherubini 44 in Ferenc Mate's "Best Sailing Boats in the World" and went scouring Florida for one, but to no avail. In the airport on his way back, he picked up "Sail" magazine – and there was Winsome for sale. Fortunately, Jol and Judy Byerley were able to go and secure the sale on his behalf, as work commitments prevented Don from going himself.
Winsome has participated in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta every year since her purchase in 1995, with Jol Byerley at the helm the first two years. Over the years, friends, family and houseguests have all taken part but it is only comparatively recently that a really good crew came together. These number inter alia Gerry Bardoe ("Chippy"), Graham Knight and Geoff Pidduck – the latter sits quietly on the rail, saying little, then gets off Don's boat to go and win his class in Antigua Sailing Week. George Bridger is another regular – he fixes everything; Manfred Schweizer, skipper of Pedlar, has also crewed, and a newcomer to the island, Martyn Davis, is another quiet, competent guy.
In 2009, Hans and Cathy Lammers came aboard. Hans is both highly competent and competitive, and he helmed upwind and the starts of the races; most boats prefer the Committee boat end of the start line, but Hans prefers the pin end, which has clean air, and is invariably successful. Don's preferred race in the Antigua Classics is the Canon, with its four reaches. Winsome always wins that. The only time she did not get the gun was when pitted against a Cherubini 48, later defeated on handicap.
Don enthusiastically sails Winsome in the Classic Regatta single-handed races, coming a respectable third last year. His favorite race was coming back from Barbuda in a pursuit race one year: once he got in the groove, he tied down the helm, sat forward in the shade and went through the fleet! Last year, Hans Lammers was spotter in the Classic Single Handed Race and Don found it a total luxury to have someone point out potential hazards arising from, for example, a lazy sheet wrapping itself around a windlass. Don is convinced that Winsome's overall success in the Classics was largely due to Hans' superb quality and experience.
Winsome's most recent race, with new sail drops, was the Round the Island race in Antigua in January 2010, not one of her notable successes. The wind, out of the south, was deceptively calm, and rather than put on the reefing lines, Don and the crew had another cup of coffee and set off into 25-30 knot winds.
Although Winsome remains very close to Don's heart, he is seriously considering replacing her with something more comfortable. However, for those of us lucky enough to have sailed upon her or watched her win in the Antigua Yacht Classic Regattas, we hope she and Don will continue their excellent relationship for many years to come.