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Jol Byerley’s Feb 08 Letter from Antigua

It seems to me to be rather strange that alternate Christmas and New Year periods seem to be quite breezy and not very nice for yachtsmen in comparison to the average West Indian winters. This one was windy and rather hazy and even the big boats (well over a hundred feet) left English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour and headed off on charters, treading carefully either to the north or the south. Several days of 25 knots plus can build up quite a sea which gave the little boats one heck of a bumpy ride while even the big boats had to tread with care.

Anyway, Christmas in English Harbour was, despite the weather, very pleasant and as usual, Christmas Day in the Dockyard with a Champagne party put on by Hans Smit of the Hour Glass Foundation and his really lovely handmade jewelry store The Goldsmitty, was a lot of fun for everybody. An Antiguan band with intriguing name of High Tempa entertained the crowds in Nelsons old naval Dockyard from mid day to dusk. This has been going on for years now and it’s great to see families with their children come and enjoy what has become a very traditional Christmas party.

We also had three yacht races in what has become known as the Hightide Series and this was followed by the Nelson’s Pursuit Race on New Years Eve. My old Dad, when my family lived on the banks of the River Thurne in Norfolk, instigated one of the first pursuit races and called it a Chinese start. Quite why he called it a Chinese start I will never know. But the slow boats started first and how you crossed the finishing line was in fact the finishing position. It was a lot of fun, especially for the contestants that never usually saw anyone behind them! Of course, no one took it very seriously, except perhaps the older boats who generally never won anything.

Now, unfortunately this is being written before the rather grandly titled “Nelson’s Pursuit Race” was sailed. But it does seem that the idea is here to stay. So although Antigua is a long way from the Norfolk Broads and East Anglian pubs that did a thriving business after the race, it’s very nice to do something which is not that serious and seems to be enjoyed by everyone.

Congratulations to Carlo Falcone for gathering a fleet of shiny new Dragon One designs, which most of the time will be raced up at Harmony Hall on Nonsuch Bay. Considering that most people sail their own boats across the lonely Atlantic to get as far away as possible from chilly old Europe, it really shouldn’t be difficult to get these Dragons racing during the winter months here in Antigua and, for what it’s worth, we are building a very much scaled-down six metre type to race around Falmouth Harbour, which, with any luck, will start this winter.

The first boat has already been launched and is called Springtide and belongs to yours truly and Peter Mullins jointly. What a delight to sail it is. She has been built by Oliver Greensmith and his lads at his boat yard in Antigua’s Cobs Cross and anyone who would like to talk about this very fairly-priced little yacht can contact Oliver Greensmith at Antigua Boat Builders Company, Cobbs Cross, English Harbour, Antigua, Phone (268) 772 6621 or myself.

There can be few more beautiful places to sail than the area around Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour. In conclusion, may Judy and I wish all our readers a happy and very pleasurable 2008.

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