by Louay Habib
With yacht crews representing 26 different nations, the 46th edition of Antigua Sailing Week was a truly international affair. Few would doubt that the sailing waters around Antigua provide one of the best race tracks anywhere in the world and English and Falmouth Harbours offer some of the best facilities, hotels, restaurants and bars in the Caribbean.
However having the best ingredients for success is not enough. Combining those raw materials requires dedication and expertise and for a regatta, that should always start with the race management. Antigua Sailing Week's tag line is 'where sailing comes first' and above all else providing well-run, competitive racing has been the key to the regatta's success in recent years.
"Having listened to the positive feedback from competitors, we made very few changes to the format for racing this year," commented Chairman of the Race Committee, Kathy Lammers. "The fleet was divided to give the smaller boats and bareboats a style of race course to suit them and likewise for the bigger faster boats. Racing for all was designed to keep them out on the water for about three to four hours, with everyone returning to shore at roughly the same time to enjoy the social activities. Class splits were designed to race similar boats, generally with similar ratings, against each other. This is not an exact science but by racing similar yachts in each class, it makes for fairer results and everybody enjoys close racing."
By Antiguan standards, weather conditions were lighter than usual with wind speeds varying from 20 to 10 knots during the week. Only one day produced fully powered Trade Wind weather but the full schedule of racing was completed and the lighter winds created some tactical conundrums for the competitors.
With 10 yachts of 60 feet or more racing, Antigua Sailing Week had one of the largest numbers of big boats for many years. CSA 1 was composed of high performance racing yachts crewed by professional sailors from the America's Cup, Olympics, Volvo Ocean Race and Vendée Globe. The winner was Eduardo Wong Lu Vega's Peruvian Soto 48, Kuankun. The team from Peru does not have that level of competition back home and had to sail intelligently to get the better of RP78 Whisper, skippered by His Majesty, King Harald V of Norway.
CSA 2 was mainly composed of high performance cruising yachts. Christian Potthoff-Sewing's JV53, Auliana was dwarfed by the bigger yachts in the class but the German team revelled in the lighter conditions to win the class. British Frers 94, Bristolian, skippered by Patrick Wynn, and Hector Velarde's Peruvian Nelson Marek 92, Locura enjoyed some fantastic boat on boat racing. Locura was the victor after time correction but Bristolian won more line honours. No doubt the two crews shared the gentlemen's bet of a case of champagne.
CSA 3 was composed of lightweight performance yachts and included last year's overall winner, Richard Wesslund's American J/120, El Ocaso and the much fancied American Swan 42, Arethusa skippered by Phil Lotz. Arethusa sailed a near perfect regatta to take the class win and The Lord Nelson Trophy for the best performance by any yacht at the regatta. Peter Peake's Trinidadian team on RP37, Slippery came third but only just. Slippery beat the young Antiguan National Sailing Academy's Digicel Challenger by just 32 seconds in the last race, to take the last podium place.
The honours in CSA 4 were contested between three race charter yachts. Antigua Sailing Week has seen a growth in these well prepared competitive yachts often sailed by a group of friends or individuals brought together as a team. The class was decided in the very last race with Philippe Falle's Deep Blue Racing Team taking the title, sailing British Grand Soleil 43, Quokka. Two British First 40s put up a great fight all week. Lucy Reynolds' Southern Child and Jeremy Thorp's Lancelot II were second and third respectively.
For regulars to Antigua, Carlo Falcone's Caccia alla Volpe and Ross Applebey's need little introduction and the two yachts swapped the lead no less than four times in CSA 5. The class was composed of displacement cruisers and Caccia alla Volpe was the lightest of all, which probably suited the conditions. However, Scarlet Oyster sailed well to push Caccia alla Volpe all the way and it was not until the last race that Caccia alla Volpe secured victory.
Geoffrey Pidduck's Six Meter, Biwi Magic romped to victory in CSA 6, winning all seven races. Pidduck has competed at Antigua Sailing Week for nearly 40 years and has never managed a perfect score before - a fantastic accomplishment for a helmsman who is 60 years older than his bowman! Antigua's talisman sailor, Sir Hugh Bailey has been competing at Antigua Sailing Week for decades but this year his CS40 U-Go was a new entry for his team. Well prepared and expertly sailed, U-Go also achieved a perfect scoreline of wins in CSA 7B. CSA 7A was won by the Uruguayan team sailing Jeanneau 57, Batucada.
With 29 yachts split into two Bareboat divisions, some of the most competitive sailing at Antigua Sailing Week is in the Bareboat classes. Alfred Geisser's Swiss team was returning to Antigua Sailing Week, having won the overall Bareboat title in 2011 and its Dufour 455, KH+P Sea You Later was a force to contend with winning all bar two races to win Bareboat 1 and the Sunsail Trophy for best Bareboat overall. In Bareboat 2 there was a battle royal between Christoph Nielsen's German team racing KH+P Bageal and Coleman Garvey's Irish team racing Warvor. After seven races the two yachts were tied on points but KH+P Bageal was awarded the class win by virtue of number of race wins.
Antigua Sailing Week also offers fantastic after-race parties with some of the best bands and DJs entertaining the crowds late into the evening.
On Tuesday night or Lay Day eve, Nelson's Dockyard became a cool open-air night club for thousands of revellers with live music from Tian Winter and his Iconic band and DJ's Private Ryan of Trinidad and Woogie of the United States spinning dance tunes into the night.
Lay Day on Wednesday is more than just a day away from the race course. Pigeon Beach is walking distance from the main marinas and the Nonsuch Bay RS Elite Challenge provided a marvellous fleet racing spectacle for hundreds of spectators. Nonsuch Bay Resort also provided a fantastic beach barbeque under the watchful eye of its award winning Caribbean Chef of the Year, Mitchell Husbands.
The final awards party on Friday evening heralded the end of the week and crews gathered in Nelson's Dockyard for one final time along with dignitaries including Dame Louise Lake-Tack, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Honourable John Maginley, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, to celebrate the winners, dine on fantastic seafood and dance late into the night. Many crews commented that the grand finale was the best awards party they had ever attended, not just in Antigua but in the Caribbean.
Antigua Sailing Week is the longest running and most prestigious regatta in the Caribbean catering for a huge variety of yachts and competitors. The 47th Edition of Antigua Sailing Week will take place from April 26 to May 2, 2014. For full results, pictures, video and much more visit: www.sailingweek.com.
For full results HERE