From dolphins to earnest debate, how a new mood in Antigua is enticing old and new hands
Had we known our positions in both of today’s races before our daily de-brief aboard Philippe Falle’s Grand Soleil 43 Quokka, I suspect we wouldn’t have spent quite so much time bickering about who didn’t alert who to the school of dolphins that popped up around our boat between the races. Knowing that we had won both of the short but busy around the cans races, I suspect the conversation would have taken a different turn.
As it was, once the good natured banter and finger pointing about the dolphin sighting had died down, the task of breaking down the key moments of our day and learning for tomorrow got under way. And while this might sound like a rather dry topic for a party island, the conversation was revealing both for the crew in working out how to move on and as a representation of what Antigua Sailing Week has become for many others that are racing here.
The attraction of racing in the Caribbean by day and partying by night needs no explanation, but where the event has started to change is in the number of crews that have bought a slot on a well prepared and competitive boat. Some have come to refine their racing skills, others have come as a group to race together but under the guidance of an experienced skipper and mate, such as aboard Quokka which has a mix of the two. The are other crews, such as those aboard Ross Appleby’s Scarlet Oyster who have raced together for many years and have effectively taken over the chartered boat with the blessing of its skipper for the week long regatta.
Whichever camp you’re looking at, the result is that the racing in the handicap classes is close and hard fought and extremely rewarding.
Much of the credit for this must go to the organisers, led by Kathy Lammers who, over the last two years have tweaked this well known event and provided a superb variety of races that doesn’t require military logistics and a fleet of taxis to ferry crews back and forth across the island after the remote starts and finishes. Instead, racing is based in the Falmouth and English harbour areas with the shoreside focused biased towards the historic and picturesque Nelson’s Dockyard where the entertainment and catering has come on leaps and bounds since I last did the event. This venue alone has now brought a focus back to the event and ensures that crews get to mix and mingle rather than dissipating as is the case with other events.
But this year’s Antigua Sailing Week has also reminded me how much fun it is to sail with a team of people who are eager to learn. While our two bullets today are clearly cause for a modest team celebration, the real buzz is in seeing the improvement aboard the boat and the boost that it gives both the team and the individuals who have come here to learn more.
Talking to some of the other skippers in our fleet reinforces this and I’m amazed to hear just how many of them have got bookings for next year on the back of this one already.
Antigua Race Week isn’t so much reinventing itself, as providing a reminder for former regulars as to how much fun the event can be if you have the right boat to race, while inspiring those who are doing it for the first time.
As one skipper put it, “If you can provide a well sorted competitive boat and put your clients on the podium once in a while you’ve cracked it.”
The daily prize giving and happy hour is all the evidence you need of that.
VIDEO – Day 1
The inside story on the crew from Voilactus and how winning The Hamptons’ Challenge brought them to Antigua to take part in the Caribbean’s premier sailing event.
Day 2: Antigua Sailing Week
1. Kuankun, Soto 48, Eduardo Wong Lu Vega, PER 481
2. Whisper, RP 78, HM King Harald V of Norway, IRL77777
3. Maximizer, Farr 73, Jose Arozamena, GBR711
1. Auliana II, JV53, Christian Potthoff-Sewing, GER 6053
2. Locura, N/M 92,Hector Velarde, USA 28992
3. Nix, X612, Cogent, IVB612
1. Arethusa, Swan CS42, Philip Lotz, USA 4216
2. El Ocaso, J/120, Richard Wesslund, USA 28920
3. Peake Yacht Services Slippery, Reichel Pugh 37, Peter Peake, GBR 9419T
1. Quokka 8, Grand Soleil 43, Philippe Falle of Deep Blue Racing, GBR 2215L
2. Lancelot II, Beneteau First 40, Jeremy Thorp, GBR 6840
3. Southern Child, Beneteau First 40, Team True, PUR 11