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The Fleet Enjoys Challenging Conditions Racing to Falmouth Harbour

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On a day that brought bright sunshine, passing rain squalls, radical wind shifts – and finally, the stiff easterly tradewinds that have made the isles of the Caribbean a sailor’s paradise for centuries – the 204 boats racing in the 40th running of Stanford Antigua Sailing Week had a taste of everything today on Day 2 of competition in this classic annual festival of yachting. And it was a day to remember for Volvo Ocean Race winner ABN AMRO ONE, winner of the Yachting World magazine Round-the-Island Trophy for fastest elapsed time in the pair of races around Antigua.

The regatta’s second day saw the entire fleet set forth on a racecourse from a starting line off Dickenson Bay to a finish off the legendary harbour of Falmouth. For the six racing classes in Division A, the 25.9-mile clockwise course down the island’s western flank completed the 2nd leg of the two-part Around-the-Island Race. Division B, comprised of ten cruising and bareboat classes, sailed a slightly shortened course of 20.8 miles that also sailed down Antigua’s west coast – essentially covering the same waters as in yesterday’s opening day of the event – in the Falmouth Harbour Race.

With skipper Mike Sanderson in command of an all-star crew aboard ABN AMRO ONE, the boat known as "Black Betty" again won her class to lead Racing I and continue her memorable spring of Caribbean victories. "Once again ABN AMRO ONE did us proud today," said Sanderson. "We had some superb sailing conditions which suited us really well and allowed us to show everyone on the island what this boat can really do. We raced as hard as we could so the crew had a lot on. It’s great to win the Yachting World Round the Island Trophy."

Aboard the Swan 48 Avocation, a boat racing in the Performance Cruising III class that’s chartered to a talented team of Southern Hemisphere yachtsmen that includes Australian Geoff Hill – who was also part of the crew of Love and War, the overall winner of the 2007 Sydney-Hobart Race – the conditions experienced around the track were typical of what most of the fleet encountered.

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Starting off in about 11-knots of easterly breeze, Avocation sailed a hectic, action-packed first beat before rounding a turning mark and setting a kite for the initial downwind run. It was on the run that the breeze began to fluctuate with shifts of 15 degrees or more, ultimately heading the racers, many of whom were forced to drop spinnakers and raise headsails as the unsettled wind went forward. A series of passing squalls brought more fluky wind under 10 knots but also provided opportunities: after a testing opening beat that left them in the bottom third of their class, Avocation enjoyed fresh breeze from astern and managed to slowly claw back among the leaders.

By mid-day, however, the squall lines had passed and under blue skies and fresh breezes of 20-knots and more, the fleet came back on the now-established wind for an ideal beat to the finish off Falmouth Harbour. Avocation enjoyed a spirited tacking duel with Rob Duncan’s Beneteau 48, Yoyo, but Yoyo was the big winner, taking the class victory today and vaulting to first place in the Performance III standings.

Here’s a wrap-up of other Day 2 action at Stanford Antigua Sailing Week. Note: All standings are provisional pending possible protests.

In Racing II, the Rodgers 46 Universal Marina, skippered by Avia Willment of the United Kingdom, won today’s race and now sits atop of the division. In Racing III, Clay Deutsch’s Swan 68 Chippewa followed up yesterday’s second-place result with a bullet today to move into first in the 9-boat class. In the Racing IV tussle among nine Beneteau 40.7s, Puerto Rico Sergio Sagramoso’s Lazy Dog made it two wins in a row to consolidate her hold on the top spot. After today’s victory, Scott Chalmer’s Sigma 400, Sunrise, is now the leader of the Racing V division. And in the Multihull Racing class, Travis McGarry’s Gunboat 62 Looking for Elvis is perhaps looking for a sweep after its second consecutive win the five-boat field.

The sleek, powerful Wally 80 Indio, skippered by Italy’s Andrea Recordati, is another boat that has started Sailing Week with a pair of wins to lead the 12-boat fleet competing in Performance Cruising I. Performance Cruising IIIs 19-boat division, the largest in the fleet, is now led by Pavlova II, a Swan 43 skippered by Richard Burbidge.

U.S. boatbuilder Cuyler Morris is doing the State of Maine proud in Cruising I, where he’s recorded back-to-back victories aboard his Morris 45, Firefly. In another place, Elmo may be the most popular resident on Sesame Street, but in Antigua, Jake Jefferis’s Grand Soleil 43, also called Elmo, is sitting pretty in first place in Cruising II. The Switch 51 Following Tides, the floating twin-hulled home of U.S. sailors Robert and Darlene Hill, has proven she knows her way around a racecourse, and remains the leader in Multihull Cruising.

The sailors in the Bareboat classes are obviously on vacation, but you’d never know it from some of the competition they’re enjoying on the crystal waters of Antigua. In Bareboat I, Heliodore—Georg Ondrej’s Dufour 50—is in first among 17 entrants. There’s justice in Bareboat II, where the Oceanis 473 Justice, chartered to U.S. sailor Justin Barton, is the early leader. Martin Sager’s Fury, a Dufour 40, is the top boat so far in Bareboat III, while Chess, a Moorings 445 sailed by Jan Soderberg and his crew, is the best of the bunch in Bareboat IV.

Tomorrow’s action will take Division A on a pair of windward/leeward races off Willoughby Bay, while the racers in Division B will tackle the 18.9-nautical mile South Coast Race.

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

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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