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Big Winds Big Seas at Midpoint of Stanford Antigua Sailing Week

Under the bluest of blue skies and with the easterly trade winds established early and often, the 16 classes of yachts in Sanford Antigua Sailing Week enjoyed classic Caribbean conditions today during the third day of competition in the 40th running of this annual festival of sailboat racing.  And with three days of racing now completed, the cream is rising to the crop as the leaders in many divisions are beginning to separate themselves from the field.

In what has to be considered a major surprise, in the second of two windward/leeward contests off Willoughby Bay for the Division A racing fleet, the Cookson 50 Chieftain – sailed by an Irish crew skippered by Gerard O’Rourke – corrected out to first place in the Racing I class ahead of the Volvo 70 ABN AMRO ONE, handing the round-the-world race winner its first setback in what’s believed to have been an undefeated spring of racing in the Caribbean. ABN AMRO ONE still tops the leader board in the class, but Chieftain is making noise with a string of outstanding performances.

Chieftain’s victory, however, was but one of several memorable events in a wild day of racing in winds that topped off in the mid-20-knot-range and tested the skills and abilities of every Sailing Week crew, as well as the members of ABSAR, the Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue Service.

ABSAR’s first response call was to aid the dismasted 44-footer Caccia Alla Volpe, which lost its spar in a windy beat in the first of the Willoughby Bay races.  “It wasn’t the rigging, it just crumbled,” said Caccia crewmember Tommy Paterson, who doubles as the chairman of the Sailing Week race committee.  “There was a whale out there and we’re trying to blame him, but I don’t think we’ll get too far.”

As ABSAR was rushing to Caccia’s aid, they learned that there was a man overboard near the first windward mark on the Division A course.  “As we were going toward Caccia we saw the sailors on (the Beneteau 40.7 First Away) yelling and pointing,” said Jonathan Cornelius, a longtime member of the dedicated ABSAR team.  “We spotted their man-overboard drogue and about 100 yards away we picked up the guy who’d gone over the side. He was spitting and sputtering a bit, but otherwise he was fine.”

First Away was not the day’s only casualty. ABSAR also dealt with a sailor who’d been struck by a boom and required several stitches.  And the Performance Cruising II yacht Three Harkoms, a Custom Oceanis that had been one of the leaders in its class, lost its steering and was unable to complete its race.

But for all the tales of woe and strife, there were many crews who not only dealt with the big wind and cresting seas, they excelled in the testing conditions.  Take Sergio Sagramoso’s Beneteau 40.7 Lazy Dog, which scored two victories today in the Racing IV class to continue their Sailing Week winning streak.

Special mention must also go to three boats in the Division B field, which today raced on the challenging South Coast Race, a winding 18.9 mile course along the island’s southern shores that began and finished off Falmouth Harbour.  In Cruising I, Cuyler Morris’s Firefly, a Morris 45, swept its third consecutive race to remain perfect for the week.  So, too, did the Switch 51 Following Tides, a cruising catamaran sailed by Robert and Darlene Hill, which will depart from Antigua soon after Sailing Week to cross the Atlantic Ocean to take in the America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.  The other three-time winner is Chess, Jan Soderberg’s Moorings 445, in Bareboat IV.

There was plenty of other action off Antigua today.  Here’s a look at other provisional results and a peek at some of the class standings at the midway point of the regatta.

In Racing II, after a pair of wins today, Avia Willment’s Rodgers 46 Universal Marina remains atop the leader board. Clay Deutsch’s Swan 68 Chippewa also scored a pair of bullets today to maintain its grip on Racing III.  The Racing V pacesetter, after a third and first today, is the Sigma 400 Sunrise skippered by Scott Chalmers.  Sailing Lickety Split, John Kwitek’s Gunboat 48, corrected out to two wins in Multihull Racing today, but they still trail Bruce Slayden’s Gunboat 62 Looking for Elvis in the class rankings.

In Performance Cruising II, the top boat, after today’s victory, is Hugh Bailey’s Beneteau 456 Hugo B. Huey Too, Bernie Evans-Wong’s Cal 40, also won today and is atop Performance Cruising III.  Antiguan sailor Hams Lammers, on his handsome Rhodes Bounty Sunshine, was a winner today and is atop Cruising II.

Heliodore, Georg Ondrej’s Dufour 50, took today’s race in Bareboat I. Rossi, an Oceanis 473 skippered by Christophe Nielsen, is the Bareboat II leader. In Bareboat III, that honor belongs to today’s winner, Martin Sager’s Dufour 40 Fury.

Tomorrow, with three days of racing down and two to go, the fleet will enjoy the traditional Lay Day for Sanford Antigua Sailing Week with a special 40th Birthday Party and celebration at Shirley Heights.  Among the local performers that will be on hand to commemorate this special edition of Sailing Week will be the National Youth Pan Orchestra, the Vitus Cultural Masqueraders, the Shiva School of Dance and the Revo Band.

For more information, updated standings, photographs and more, visit the Stanford Antigua Sailing Week website at www.sailingweek.com.

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