With Sojana smashing the round island record, Sunday's sailing was racing at its best in all classes
(April 26) – In perfect sailing conditions around tropical islands, 140 boats in fifteen dedicated classes hoisted sail today in the azure waters off Antigua on Day 2 of the 42nd running of Antigua Sailing Week. It proved to be day of exceptional competition countless memorable scenes and a new race record.
The second day of competition was actually segmented into three separate contests. The Division A fleets set off on the eagerly anticipated 50 nautical-mile Yachting World Around the Island Race; the Performance Cruising classes negotiated a 34-nautical mile race to Fort James, setting forth on an easterly, clockwise direction; while the Cruising divisions, Bareboats and Multihulls also charted a course to Fort James, on a 17-nautical mile contest that took them westward to their finish line.
For Peter Harrison’s powerful Farr 115 ketch, it will most certainly be a day to remember. With Virgin Island Olympic medalist and America’s Cup veteran Peter Holmberg at the helm, the handsome blue 115-footer shattered the previous record for the Yachting World Round the Island Race (see previous story: http://www.yachtingworld.com/auto/newsdesk/20090327001743ywnews.html).
As on the inaugural day of action, conditions were once again ideal, with blue skies overhead and an easterly breeze of 16-18 knots with slightly higher puffs. And as on Saturday, there were many unforgettable moments scattered across the waters.
The early morning light was ideal as the Performance Cruiser 1 class?with 20 entries, the regatta’s largest?crossed tacks on close-hauled boards while working their way upwind on inshore maneuvers to escape the effects of a foul current. The image of the powerful boats, perfectly trimmed, against the sheer cliffs and bluffs was absolutely amazing. As many of the flat-out race boats have chosen to race in Performance Cruiser 1, opting to forgo the offshore contest around Redonda Island later in the week, the division is not only the biggest, it’s also the most competitive.
Soon after their start, spectators were treated to the visage of Harrison’s grand Sojana, leaning into the easterly breeze and swapping tacks with her competition. With Holmberg’s legendary touch on the wheel, while still driving her like a J/24, Sojana pulled off a remarkable early move: tacking close to shore, ducking the TP 52, Rio, and then crossing the hard-charging Rogers 46, Yeoman XXXII. From there, it was clear sailing and a record-setting performance.
In Racing 4, both Club Swan 42s, Long Echo and Interlodge, got tremendous starts, with American sail maker and tactician Geoff Ewenson making his considerable presence felt on the latter 42-footer. For the second day in a row, Antiguan Hugh Bailey on the First 456, Hugo B, again nailed the start, then legged out to an early lead in Cruising 2, climbing to weather and out-pointing the entire class.
For the four classes of Bareboat entrants, for which Sunday served as the opening day of competition, sailing was also close and exciting. Resplendent in their orange crew shirts, the nifty crew aboard the well-named Moorings 50, Nifty, soared off the Bareboat 2 starting line, as did Dufour 455, Sea You Later, in Bareboat 1.
And in the Racing Multihull class, famed British sailor Tony Bullimore joined the festivities on his 100-foot catamaran Spirit of Antigua, though it appeared Bullimore and his crew was still getting adjusted to the scene. “We’re going to start,” he radioed to the race committee after the starting gun fired and the big cat hovered several boat lengths from the line. “We’re not sure when but we are going to start!”
Across the board, there was a host of worthy winners on Day 2 of competition. Despite their record-setting ways, Sojana was displaced from the winner’s circle in the Racing/Ocean Series division by the Farr-designed Cookson 50, Lee Overlay Partners, the former Chieftain which is well known on both sides of the Atlantic and throughout the Caribbean.
In Racing 1, Charles Dunstone’s TP 52, Rio?also familiar as the formerly named Stay Calm?recorded its second straight first-place finish. The same could be said for three other skippers, who also nailed a race-winning bullet for the second day in a row: Jamie Dobbs’s J/122, Lost Horizon, in Racing 4; Martin Jacobson and Nick Burns’s Swan 44, Crescendo, in Performance Cruiser 2; and Richard Burbidge’s Swan 43, Pavlova II, in Performance Cruiser 3. Wrapping up the Performance Cruisers, Clive Llewellyn’s Grand Soleil 50, Mad IV, took top honors in PC 1.
In the tight Cruising 1 division, Ulrich Rohde’s Swan 53, Dragon Fly Plus?which was forced to retire on Saturday?earned a strong measure of redemption with a win on Day 2. In Cruising 2, New Orleans native Burt Keenan, a longtime stalwart in U.S. racing circles, found the reaching conditions much to his liking and scored a victory aboard his sweet Frers 48 cat-ketch, Acadia. Tony Bullimore’s Spirit of Antigua was unchallenged in the Multihull Racing class, and Larry Pollock’s Flint 54, Running Cloud, was also a winner for the second consecutive day in Cruising Multihull. So, too, was the Dragon, Compass Point, amongst the one-design Dragons.
The Bareboat winners on Sunday were the Dufour 455, KH P Girl in Bareboat 1; the aforementioned Nifty in Bareboat 2; the Sunsail 473, Rossi, in Bareboat 3; and the Dufour 385, KH P Sun King in Bareboat 4.
When all was said and done, the Antigua Sailing Week sailors joined throngs of islanders for music, food, dancing and celebrating at the Fort James Beach Bash on the isle’s protected northeastern shore. On Monday, for Day 3, the Division A fleets will sail the Willoughby Bay Race, starting and finishing off Falmouth Harbour, while the Division B competitors will return to race headquarters at English Harbour in the 17 nautical-mile Falmouth Harbour Race beginning off Fort James.
Photo of Peter Harrison crossing finishing line: Andrea Booher