Antipodes get the better of Sojana on a day of close calls, some heated moments on the start line and a dismissed protest. David Glenn reports from onboard
Peter Harrison’s 115ft Farr designed ketch Sojana must be
the busiest large yacht on the regatta scene, particularly in the Caribbean
where Antigua Sailing Week, the St Barths Bucket and Les Voiles de St Barths
have all been on the menu.
She might be the biggest yacht in Antigua this week but she
hasn’t had it all her own way and today in CSA 1A she was beaten into second
place twice by Geoff Hill’s Santa Cruz 72 Antipodes who in the lighter breezes
is getting the better of the 100 ton ketch.
According to Sojana’s skipper Marc Fitzgerald, once the
breeze gets into the low 20s Sojana
is hard to beat but on the penultimate day of racing the breeze eased
and together with some hotly contested starts Antipodes took full advantage in
two short sharp races.
With her big fathead mizzen and mizzen staysail Sojana needs
a well drilled crew to get her round the corners and on these short courses the
foredeck crew including the likes of Jonny Malbon and Fraser Brown were
certainly put through their paces.
I was offered port runner (more accurately checkstay) for
the day and found myself in celebrated company. Just in front of me steering
was double Olympic Gold medallist Poul Richard Hoj Jensen (Soling, Montreal
1976 and Moscow 1980) whose Dragon racing record is unmatched, Antiguan Olympic
Laser sailor Karl James was starboard kite trimmer and also tailed on ‘my’
runner winch in gybes. The blur of arms as James annihilated the sheet in the
gybe had to be seen to believed and he wasn’t too happy if my attention
wandered while manning the trimming button – all smiles later…!
Ian Budgen, Mo Gray, Colin Murray from Peter’s GBR America’s
Cup campaign were all aboard and the likes of Jonny Mourdant and Luc Poupon of
the famous French sailing family added up to a powerful and very experienced
crew – and it showed. The big ketch runs like a well-oiled machine and has
‘sorted’ written all over her.
As this regatta has progressed and anticipating an easing in
the breeze yachts like Jan Rupert’s Tripp 75 Blackbird and Antipodes are
realising they are in with a chance of a win so the starts have become
increasingly heated. And CSA 1B, which starts with us and who are looking for
an overall CSA 1 win, make life even more complex.
There was absolutely no quarter given in race one on a line
set just to the west of Falmouth Harbour. Poul Hoj Jensen threw the 115-footer
round like a Farr 40 and I have to say I had difficulty identifying some of the
gaps he managed to find. Richard Matthews’s Oyster 82 Zig Zag called us up as
we squeezed into our weather lane resulting in us quickly flipping onto port leaving
the rest of the fleet to head inshore on starboard.
The popular thinking is that going inshore will result in a
lift but today the wind had shifted slightly right – more to the south of east
– so our feeling was there would be more pressure that side.
The result was that we got to the weather mark just ahead of
Antipodes (hard to tell if right was entirely right) although not without
incident. At the top of the beat as we were approaching the mark on starboard
Antipodes got very close to us on port forcing Poul Hoj Jensen to alter course
as he anticipated a collision. Antipodes tacked right under our port bow close
enough for Marc Fitzgerald to break out the protest flag. The protest has just
been dismissed which quite surprised me although back in the cockpit I was at
least 100ft away from the action as Antipodes seemed to disappear under our
bows. I should add that we were travelling at 11 knots at the time and we
certainly had no option but to put the bow up.
The rest of the race went smoothly but we got into a right
old mess at the start of the second short race being squeezed completely off
the right hand end of the line. We had to bale out, come round and re-start and
although we had a fault free race from there on in we couldn’t save our time on
With three bullets and two 2nds each it means this class is
going to the wire so tomorrow’s final race is going to be a an interesting
clash spiced up by what some see as a dubious outcome to the Sojana/Antipodes
Photos: 1. Poul Richard Hoj Jensen steering Sojana yesterday
2. Peter Harrison monitors the opposition and calculates our corrected position.
Read David Glenn’s previous blogs:
Cowes Week of the Caribbean
Editor David Glenn offers his thoughts on this year’s Antigua Sailing Week
Blackbird’s wings clipped
Peter Harrison’s Sojana got close to her Antigua round the island race
record but aboard Jan Rupert’s Blackbird we had issues right from the