To the best of my knowledge I seem to remember we have only missed one of the 39 Antigua Sailing Week in Antigua. That was when I was captain of the Rose, a 500-ton replica of Captain Nelson’s Frigate H.M.S. Boreas. Rose was built in the traditional way in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She had no engines, no electricity and actually sailed like a dream! But that’s another long story.
Anyway, for the first day of Antigua Sailing Week 2006, Judy, the dogs and I left our home in English Harbour and headed for the world’s most perfect grandstand, on the top of Shirley Heights. This perfect piece of history was once guarded by battalions of red coated British troops. The Heights were the first line of defense in the mid 1700s protecting the Royal Navy ships in English Harbour well below. As we had recently sold our Dehler 34 we were not taking part in the Grand Daddy of all Caribbean regattas. But it was soon obvious that the same curse which had affected many other regattas and sailing events up and down the West Indian Islands was still hanging around Antigua! So, most unusual, there was very little wind indeed! Normally there is if anything too much wind at this time of year in the Leeward Islands. The seas are not what you might call friendly on the exposed parts of the coast. Already, although early in the morning, there was a group of people, binoculars glued to their eyes, watching the practically motionless yachts below us. Further to the west, the Division B yachts had managed a start or two but instead of the crash bang wallop of a normal day these little boats looked more like the vicar’s wife and her friends taking a stroll around the vicarage gardens before tea! This was going to be a long day.
Now, newcomers to Antigua might say that if you have long distance racing instead of “round the cans”, what do you do if the committee has to fly the shorten course signal. Apart from anything else where on the course is the Committee ? Now, as I have broadcast the morning weather on English Harbour Radio every morning for goodness knows how long, I can safely say that there is only one day in a hundred when the wind might be light enough for a shortened course signal. But this was probably one of those days! Now, at this juncture be advised that the racing Division was heading for Dickenson Bay leaving the island to port whilst the Division B boats (the Cruising Class) were leaving Antigua to starboard. Normally, no problem! But the wind died away if anything for the Racing Class, and did the same thing for the Cruising Class going in the opposite direction to Dickenson Bay. There were some yawning great holes for some and light and fickle for others off the west coast of the island. Anyway, Judy, myself and the dogs followed the Racing boat class. Off Willoughby Bay they were just making headway with a long and a short leg. Just! Off Green Island it should have been the start of a long reach then a spinnaker run. But the run became a hot and very tiresome affair until a 15 minuet rain squall livened up the proceedings. But when the squall had gone, so had the wind. Now, it follows that the yachts in the Racing Class eventually made it to the finish in Dickenson Bay but your average competitor was not a very happy camper. So who won this procession? Well, the big boats naturally went well to windward and it was yachts in the caliber of the TP 52 Rosebud, Titan12 a Reichel Pugh 75 and a Farr 60, Numbers which slopped their way to the front. There being no Racing Class 2, Racing 3 was won by DSK Comifin, Highlife a Kerr 11.3 with Crash Test Dummies a Melges 32 from Trinidad just edging out Lolita, a previous ASW winner and Murka 2 a Swan 45 supposedly helmed by Chris Law. My once very dear Riptide, a Californian designed Olsen 30, now called Lost Horizon II in Racing 4 beat Chippewa 39 and Ensign into 2 nd and third.
Kick’em Jenny, with my son in law at the helm, kept the St Maartin flag flying with a very good performance in Racer Cruiser 3. Whilst in Performance Cruiser 3 Budget Marine named after Robbie’s own company did very well by winning her class. But the surprise of all was the performance of Acadia which looks like the sort of thing my grandma or Aunty Mable would have designed. But she goes like an absolute rocket. She is owned and sailed by Burt Keenan who once owned several different Acadia’s and figured in most of the SORC’s. So this might be the only reason! The following day, although the whole of Division A, was cancelled due to lack of wind or one thing or another, the Cruising Class managed to get off all of their races. It’s worth mentioning that a lot of Antigua based boats including Oyster Catcher 25 and Sojana in Performance Cruising 1. Hugo B, sailed by Hugh Bailey and her great rival L’Esperance sailed by Bobby Velasquez of Bobby’s Marina in St Martin had great racing in Performance Cruising 2 and in Performance Cruising 3, four local boats including Blue Peter, Pavlova II,Ice Boat, and Budget Marine all cleaned up.
The following day, the fleet came back from the successful party night in Jolly Harbour on the west coast of Antigua to once again race up and down the south coast. It seemed to me that there was a reasonable enough wind and in fact we could hear the shouts from the more competitive crews up at our eerie in Turtle Rock. In this race Titan 12 came into her own just beating Pindar across the line outside Falmouth Harbour. This was racing more as it should be and it was obviously a relief to some of the crews. Little Lost Horizon was beaten on time by Caccia Alla Volpe but these two boats were getting stuck in. Startrail, a Farr 72 loved the long beat up the south coast in Racer Cruiser 1 as did Pavlova II, and Blue Peter in Performance Cruiser 3. In the extremely competitive Bareboat Classes our old friend Jan Soderberg from Sweden was beginning to stamp his authority on one and all.
In race 4, Titan beat Rosebud by something around a minute and the results could have gone either way. Crash Test Dummies shot back to the top again as did Caccia Alla Volpe in her class and Sojana and Oyster Catcher in their class. Acadia won Cruising 2 by almost ten minuets ahead of Sunshine. On the fifth day the breeze again fell light and with the race officers Peter Grim of Florida and David Arnold of the UK pulling their hair out in huge chunks, the crews of most of the boats were gritting their teeth and even quite enjoying it. After all this happens around the Isle of Wight, Burnham Week and even up on the Clyde! Perhaps we have all been rather spoilt by the constant winds here in Antigua!
In the West Indian Bareboat Championship the top three boats from each class had the right, after five days of racing, to race for the Championship. And guess who won it…