The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, sponsored by Panerai was blessed with superb sailing conditions. The spectacle of magnificent traditional yachts, barrelling through Caribbean surf, was a truly amazing sight. For five days, the trade winds played ball – 20 plus knots producing white horses on the beautiful sailing grounds on the south coast of Antigua. This lucky scribbler took a ride on a different yacht every day.
The mighty J/Class, Rainbow was my first ride. The original Rainbow was launched in 1934 for the famous Harold Vanderbilt but was scrapped for the war effort. The present day Rainbow was designed by Dykstra Naval Architects, and built at Holland Jachtbouw’s yard in Friesland, the Netherlands. The latest version has a luxurious mahogany interior, the mast is carbon and the yacht bristles with the latest custom deck systems. The power of Rainbow blows you away. Without deploying the kite, we only got to a top speed of about 14 knots but the momentum of the powerful bulb keel as it cuts through the Caribbean swell is awesome. The wake is a white vortex that stretches back as far as you can see. Rainbow was meticulously built, the standard of workmanship precise and exquisite. Since I was a child I have dreamed about sailing on a J/Class and the experience was truly memorable.
One of the only large Fifes of her ilk in North America, the 83ft Adventuress beckoned on the second day and her skipper, Seth Salzmann, has a heavy burden. Kenny Coombs, the previous skipper and the ‘Father of Classics’ passed away last October. Adventuress’ owner Victor Janovich has a crew of young, keen inexperienced sailors. Many of them come from the middle of Canada. Skipper Seth has been sailing all his life and has the eyes of a hawk, watching the crew to make sure they get it right. He uses old fashioned commands from days gone by.
“That’s the way I was taught – old school,” explained Seth. “Adventuress will be going up to Maine after the regatta and then across the Atlantic to Scotland. She is going back to the yard where she was built. Racing this week sharpens up the skills and gives the crew a lot of experience; the North Atlantic can be a bit wild, so the regatta is an important part of their learning curve.” On Sunday, Adventuress took part in The Cannon Race, and along with many other yachts, flowers were put into the water as a mark of respect for Kenny Coombs.
Built in 1902, Coral of Cowes was the oldest yacht racing at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Skipper and owner Richard Oswald, who lives on board the yacht, charters Coral to paying guests. I stepped aboard and was delighted to trim the main sheet on the Fred Sheppard designed gaff rigged schooner. With an overall length of 108ft and a displacement of close to 70 tons, Coral of Cowes is a mammoth yacht. The hull is built of teak planks, bronze-fastened, over five-inch English oak frames; 26-tons of lead make up her keel. Coral is a real handful in a big breeze. Richard is a very big man and he needed that strength to wrestle with the wheel as we smashed to windward. The Cannon Course is great for watching the fleet and we reached past boat after stunning boat, but that also made it pretty tough on the main sheet. Coral was ducking or going high to avoid the traffic and the main needed constant adjustment. I don’t mind admitting to running out of energy at times! It was a real pleasure to sail into Nelson’s Dockyard for The Parade of Sail. Coral of Cowes is over 100-years-old and we were roundly applauded by the spectators.
For the last race on the Windward course, I joined the Carriacou Sloop, Exodus. The sloops all moor up together outside Skullduggery’s Bar and there is a party atmosphere in the mornings. A splash of Jack Iron rum on the tiller and we were off. Rob Fabre is the skipper and in his late 20s. He is a serious wooden boat junky. Exodus had been put back together after hitting a reef last year and it is a serious science project for Rob. The hull has been faired, the rig tweaked and a removable wooden bowsprit flies the spinnaker. We got off to a cracking start, reaching out to a deep water mark, hiking hard. Exodus is a witch off the breeze but upwind the other sloops were quicker and caught up as we played the current inshore. On the long beat to Shirley Heights the sea really kicked up as we neared the top mark and we were behind. Antiguan tactician and Laser Olympian Karl James called for the spinnaker and spinnaker staysail and we took off barely under control. A Carriacou Sloop does not have the elegant lines of the classics but wow what a ride.
Several classes were decided on the last day of racing. Overall victory as well as first place in the Classic Class went to the American clipper-bowed 105ft classic ketch Whitehawk which received an Officine Panerai watch. Other overall prizes went to Lily Maid (Vintage), Nazgull of Fordell (Spirit of Tradition), Genesis (Best Elapsed Time) and Desiderata (Classic GRP).
In Vintage Class A, Carlo Falcone’s Alfred Mylne-designed ketch Mariella won the last race of the regatta to take the class title by just one point from Scott Franz’s Herreshoff 72, Ticonderoga.
For full results and more, visit: antiguaclassics.com