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Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2013

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Under stormy skies. Photo: Jean Jarreau / www.ClassicRegatta.com
Under stormy skies. Photo: Jean Jarreau / www.ClassicRegatta.com

In 2012, I went to 16 different regattas all over the world but I was truly blown away by the sheer enjoyment of the Antigua Classics Regatta.

Over 60 amazing examples of traditional yachts took part from magnificent schooners to little pride and joys, lovingly cared for by wooden boat enthusiasts. The sight of these wonderful yachts barrelling through Caribbean surf was spectacular to say the least and this, the 26th edition, was one of the windiest on record, however, the wonderful spectacle was second to the atmosphere amongst the fleet. Antigua Classic Regatta competitors are truly passionate about the event, no wonder so many boats return year after year. I was lucky enough to race on four very different yachts and enjoyed a real flavour right across the fleet.

Day One, on board Donald Tofias’ Wild Horses was a real eye-opener. The head-turning 74ft yacht in The Spirit of Tradition Class is a dreamlike creation based on the 12-metre class. Without the shackles of class rules, stepping aboard Wild Horses was like taking a trip into Never-Never land. The first detail that strikes you is the spoked wooden wheel, which seems to defy the laws of physics, until you find out that the antler-shaped varnish spokes and circumference are laminated onto brass involving hundreds of man hours in its construction.

Wild Horses was most definitely galloping on the first race, 25 knots of breeze and a rising sea made for a wild ride, power reaching through the surf with rogue waves slapping tropic-warm water down the gunnels, we took the gun and the win on corrected time and Wild Horses went onto win Spirit of Tradition Class A from Jochen Hertzke’s Spirit of Rani.

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Race Two was a totally different experience aboard Dave Buller’s, Hartley 40, Old Bob. Ask anyone who has been to ‘Classics’ if they know the boat and they will probably start chanting the boat’s name. Made from concrete with colourful t-shirts on the fenders and a crew decked out in bright clothing, blowing party hooters, Old Bob is the life and soul of the regatta.

The wind had picked up for Race Two, touching 30 knots with three metre waves; Old Bob was being tossed around, even though she weighs close to 40 tons! However, the rough conditions didn’t dampen the crew’s spirits, as they cheered every boat around the racecourse blaring out sea shanties with green water filling up the cockpit!

“It’s Classics and we are out for fun!” beamed Dave Buller after racing. “If you can’t have fun at this regatta, there is no hope for you. It was pretty rough out there today but that was never going to dent our spirits, we sail the boat as best we can and we always have a good laugh. As one of the slowest yachts, a lot of boats pass us on the reach, but we make sure we give everyone a good cheer, it’s what the regatta is all about.”

Race Three was to be followed by the Parade of Sail around English Harbour. My ride for the day was Savvy, a Carriacou Sloop sailed up from Grenada by Danny Donelan and a bunch of friends from Port Louis Marina on the ‘Spice Island’. A spectacular reaching course had Savvy in her element. It was wet on deck but the hi-fi was blaring out reggae tunes all day, singing along to Bob Marley and cracking a few unrepeatable jokes was a great way to spend the day. After racing, things got a little bizarre. The Grenadians were keen to be noticed at the Parade of Sail and started to appear from down below dressed in super hero costumes: Batman, Superman, The Green Flash, Spiderman and of course not forgetting The Incredible Hulk on the helm!

The final race of the regatta, I was on board one of the most famous race boats in the world. Stormvogel has won line honours in The Fastnet, Sydney Hobart, Middle Sea Race and the Cape to Rio race and I can’t think of another yacht that can claim such a pedigree. Built in 1961, the 74ft ketch, designed by Van de Staadt and built in South Africa, is in fantastic condition, thanks to the careful attention of boat captain and Kiwi boat builder Ian Hulleman. Stormvogel won the race and placed first in the entire fleet after cumulative time correction, much to the delight of the crew.

The racing at Antigua Classic Regatta was fantastic but the evening entertainment was just as enjoyable, the highlight for me was the open-mic night organised by Antigua rock band, Itchy Feet. Competitors took to the stage accompanied by one of the Caribbean’s finest bands. Cape Breton fiddler Rosie MacKenzie was absolutely amazing and that is probably the best word to describe the 2013 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Heavy seas and strong winds took their toll at the Panerai Antigua Classics with many boats reporting damage to rig or sails.

Sympathy must go to The Blue Peter. Having crossed the Atlantic to race in the Caribbean, the beautiful 64ft Alfred Mylne design from 1930 lost her mast when a chainplate reportedly pulled out of the deck. It is thought that strain caused by the dismasting also may have caused cracks to open in some of the hull planking.

Other victims were the 51ft Saphaedra, she broke off the tip of her alloy mizzen mast, while the 60ft ketch Peter von Seestermühe’s wooden mizzen mast broke at the spreaders.

The gaff cutter Chloe May was another casualty. Her topmast splintered. There were also a number of reports of sail damage.

For full results and more, visit: http://antigua classics.com/v1/

Louay Habib is a freelance yachting journalist. For the past twenty years, he has competed at yachting regattas and offshore events all over the world. Louay writes for a variety of clients including the Volvo Ocean Race and the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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