A large sign at the Anguilla ferry terminal in Blowing Point reminded visitors that May was the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Anguilla Revolution, when 315 British paratroopers ‘invaded’ the island to restore order, followed by post-liberation skinny dipping with the local sans culottes. Over the other side of the island in Road Bay, however, May 2007 meant the 5th anniversary of the Anguilla Regatta, where traditionally hordes of St Maarten boats come over the channel for the weekend to battle the locals for some offshore silverware.
Fifteen yachts took part in the main regatta, along with a much-improved showing of local A-Class boats in Sunday’s race, and a full fleet of Optimists for a youth series.
Friday’s course sent five classes of boats from Road Bay, round Anguillita along the south coast to a mark off Cap Juluca, and back to Sandy Ground. The two St Maarten defending champions, L’Esperance and Carib HIHO, both reveled in conditions, tearing past some of the Caribbean’s most desirable real estate in just over three and a half hours. In Spinnaker 2, Kick ‘em Jenny nudged out Synergy by less than a minute on elapsed time, converted to nine minutes when the Frers’ stodgy rating was taken into account. Open and Multihull classes were rather unfulfilling, with just one boat in each class in contention; Steve Donahue’s Juluca and Herve Harel’s Harel Yacht Brokers respectively.
If champagne corks were popping on Friday night, Saturday’s racing opened up a metaphorical Nebuchadnezzar of real pain. Not, perhaps, for Richard West’s Charm III, one of the local torchbearers, who won all three of his Olympic triangle races, but definitely for Robbie Ferron on Budget Marine Too, who found himself T-boned in Race two by Kick ‘em Jenny and L’Esperance after a bad port/starboard tack call. Likewise for Harel Yacht Brokers, who lost a mast in Race one. L’Esperance, shunted from Non-Spinnaker to Spinnaker 2 on account of being too damned fast, rose to the challenge of some desperately tight racing to claim another three bullets.
On day three, despite flagging energy reserves, boats embarked on another imaginative course from Road Bay, rounding in Crocus Bay, out to Prickly Pear, to Meads Bay and back: a grueling proposition for tired limbs, but victory at last (by just 18 seconds) for Kick ‘em Jenny over L’Esperance, and more clean sheets for Charm III and Frits Bus’s Carib HIHO, who both returned with a comfortable lead. In the afternoon, as many of the St Maarten yachts slipped off towards home, the local 28’ wooden boats set off for the Sir Bobby Velasquez local boat race, which was eventually won by Eagle, from Sonic, Light and Peace, De Tree, and UFO. The presence of these beautiful local boats, with their open plank hulls and looming sails, has not always captured the imagination in the Anguilla Regatta, but this race was a perfect finale to a great three days’ racing.
In the Optimist series, the pride and joy of the Anguilla Sailing Association’s busy youth program, Kendal Richardson beat off Kadeem Joseph and Noah Gumbs with some fine seamanship.
Soundbites on the sand were as supportive as the racing was dramatic. Frits Bus had praise for ‘tough’ racing, where, “the sailing is great, the venue is great and the atmosphere is fantastic.” The visiting victor looked forward to greater participation from the St Barth’s fleet in the future. Tortola’s Dr. Robin Tattersall on Diva, who first came to Anguilla in 1969 when today’s regatta co-organizer Laurie Gumbs was still a baby, said it was, “still wonderful. It’s a very intimate regatta but with serious sailing.” A broken masthead fitting for the asymmetric sail caused Tattersall, who won the first Anguilla Regatta, to retire on Friday, but repairs were completed in time for a return to the BVI across the Anegada Passage.
Sir Bobby Velasquez praised, “one of the nicest regattas in the Caribbean” and had generous words for rival knight Sir Robbie Ferron. “It’s part of what we’re doing. As long as you’re racing and being competitive, this will happen.” Not surprisingly, Velasquez also threw his support behind the local boat races. “My dad was from over here and that’s the way sailing started here. It’s a great thing to put the two together.”
Organizers Laurie Gumbs and Peter Parles can now toast their first landmark anniversary. At this rate, a billboard in 2043 will announce the 40th anniversary of the Anguilla sailing revolution these two have helped bring about.
Nick Marshall is an English journalist who was consultant editor of All At Sea from 2003 to 2005.
Non-Spinnaker: Charm III, Richard West (Anguilla).
Spinnaker 1: Carib HIHO, Frits Bus (St Maarten).
Spinnaker 2: L’Esperance, Sir Bobby Velasquez (St Maarten)
Open: Juluca, Steve Donahue (Anguilla).
Multihull: Harel Yacht Brokers, Herve Harel (St Martin).