Sailing Week re-invented
- Sat, 5 May 2012
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 day.
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 for concern.
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.