David Glenn offers his final thoughts on a superb week in Antigua
I’ve been asked on a number of occasions this week for my
views on the new look Antigua Sailing Week and each time I’ve replied that
perhaps what matters more are the
thoughts of the sailors themselves. Admittedly I was among their number this
week, but that’s my job.
So if I’m acting as a conduit for those thoughts my answer
is that the 45th Antigua Sailing Week was a great success, a big
improvement in terms of race organisation and by concentrating the regatta in
Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour the exhausting onshore logistical
challenge this regatta used to present has been removed. The pendulum has swung
away from trying to satisfy local politics to providing sailors with what they
want – highly enjoyable racing and a fun shoreside programme including a lay
Managing the 100 plus strong fleet on two courses worked
well and I kept hearing from sailors that they liked the straightforward
windward leeward format and occasional reaching leg which if nothing else acted
as a ‘spreader’ to keep upwind and downwind yachts sensibly separated.
However, the attempt by the organisers to occasionally mix
up the A and B fleets so that crews could see some of the big boats in action
caused a fair bit of angst and the heavy traffic this resulted in was a cause
The rating ‘groupings’ were well thought out, clear evidence
that the committee understood the yachts they were managing.
Two highly experienced sailors who had taken part in up to
seven Caribbean regattas over the winter told me that this event had proved to
be the best of the bunch and it has to be said that for racing sailors,
experienced or aspiring, Antigua now offers a very appealing mix. It doesn’t
set out to attract the ultra professionals, it is not grand prix, it doesn’t
intimidate, it is middle of the road – quality club sailing in the Caribbean is
how I see it. And it was great to see a healthy Sunsail charter fleet in
action, spinnakers or not, having a great time and eyeing up their next step on
their way up the racing ladder.
Contrary to popular belief the weather doesn’t always
co-operate in the Caribbean but the chances are it will and this week it did,
big time! We started with a blast and ended with softer breezes which provided
sublime sailing conditions. If you want to hone your skills in steady breezes
and shorts and T-shirt warmth – who doesn’t? – this is where to sail.
And then when it blows and you get onto some of those
white-crested, azure rollers which tumble down the south coast of this
spectacular part of Antigua you feel you’re in sailing heaven. It really is the
perfect combination and this is what sailors the world over come for. This time they flew in from Australia,
China, Russia, Brazil and of course the USA and Europe, some to join their own
boats but many chartering good quality race boats, a very important part of the
mix and one which I think could be developed.
There’s nowhere in the Caribbean that can match Nelson’s
Dockyard for a combination of historical significance, sheer beauty and, of
course, functionality. Where else can you stretch out your 3DL or Kevlar sails,
hose them down on the lawn, dry them out and have them back onboard your yacht
sitting right there on the dock? Nelson’s Dockyard still does what it says on
the tin, but thankfully for a very different type of client.
If I had to be critical – and maybe this is an age thing -
the intensity of the wonderful Caribbean bands which played throughout the
event could have been a tad overwhelming for those moored close to the stage in
the Dockyard, but I suspect the answer to that would be to administer more
rum-based anaesthetic. A tricky one!
The Caribbean regatta calendar has become a busy one, but
there is room for all. Each must identify its niche and build on its strengths
of which Antigua is blessed with more than most.