The Anguilla Regatta has been described as the biggest small regatta in the Caribbean; it is also one of the sweetest.
This year’s regatta, sailed May 6-8, attracted 17 boats, which was slightly up on last year. The event kicked off with a feeder race from St. Maarten, and perhaps herein lies my only criticism of my favorite regatta: The feeder race should be standalone and have its own prizes. This would encourage boats that are visiting Road Bay to take part in this fun and friendly regatta thereby putting more money into the Anguilla Sailing Association (youth sailing) which this event supports.
Saturday and day two of the regatta brought a nice southerly breeze and I joined race officer Paul Miller on the start boat as it dragged anchor all around the bay, delaying the start by almost an hour until we could get it to set.
With racing under way the starts went like clockwork, the start signal for the one class acting as the five minute warning signal for the next.
The first two races were on windward/leeward courses and saw some pretty handy spinnaker sets and a couple of spectacular broaches in the racing fleet. The mast of a Melges 24 being dragged into the water is heart-stopping for spectators never mind crew.
Boats from St. Martin made up the bulk of the fleet and noted antagonists Sir Robbie Ferron and Sir Bobby Velasquez went at it like, well, jousting knights. Competing in cruising class, Sir Robbie’s J39 Ossenfeffer and Sir Bobby’s Custom Beneteau 45F5 L’Esperance now rate the same thus turning their legendary rivalry into a match race. A habitual winner, it was a shock to see L’Esperance lose to Ossenfeffer in every race and Sir Robbie punching the air (and was that a little jig?) as he crossed the finish line.
Sailing in the same class, Ben Jelic and his rather bizarre custom Kiwi 35 Wild Devil continued his winning ways, scoring bullet after bullet to put himself so far ahead that he could have watched the final race from the shade of a beach bar and still taken home the trophy.
For Saturday’s third race Paul Miller set a 10.5 mile ‘butterfly’ course. “I think it’s important that this kind of regatta has a mix of races,” he said.
Sint Maarten’s Frits Bus and Team Island Water World must bless the day they upgraded to a newer Melges 24, the stiffer hull paying massive dividends in races won.
Untouchable in racing class, Bus went home with four bullets and a bottle of champagne or two under his belt.
Although the America’s Cup boat Canada II failed to score a podium place, she made some spectacular starts. Totally powered up, she passed so close the committee boat that you could have struck a match on her hull. And it was given that she would take line honors in every race.
In the light winds, the four boat multihull fleet failed to put on their usual show of speed and almost lumbered across the start line. By day’s end, Carib Cat (26ft) was leading on points and a bullet on Sunday gave her the overall class win ahead of the Du Toit 51 Quality Time.
For Sunday’s race I joined the crew of the student-built, 36ft Dudley Dix-designed Purple Heart. Her crew of seven included old-guard Garth Steyn, Ian Mobbs and Rien Korteknie, and three teenage girls, Steyn’s daughter Christy (17) and her friends Jessie Templeton (16) and Sarah-Jane Templeton (14). The crew put the fun back into being on the water, even though there was hardly any wind for the entire race. The chatter of the girls, who sometimes broke into song, and friendly instructions to constantly tweak the sails and move our weight around the boat to make it go faster was a lesson in how it should be done if you want young people to get involved and enjoy the sport of sailing.
The race started with a light breeze but by the time we cleared the bay, rain showers sent the wind scurrying around the compass or stole it altogether. Boats were beating, some were reaching and some were running all within a half-mile radius. At one point I looked down and saw a starfish on the bottom and when I looked again it appeared to have overtaken us.
As the first boat drifted towards the outer mark, the race officer announced he was shortening the course but with so little air the finish seemed light years away. Some boats started their engine and motored in. One was L’Esperance, whose misery at the hands of Ossenfeffer was now complete. On engineless Purple Heart we sailed and drifted until we hit the line.
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Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is the author of the thrillers Caribbean Deep and Caribbean High. Works of nonfiction include, Biscay: Our Ultimate Storm. For more information visit: garyebrown.net