First day aboard my boat for the YW Round Antigua Race and I’m left wondering whether to declare my interest

Fortunately my wife rarely reads my blogs. Although she’s well aware that I’m doing Antigua Race Week, what I didn’t tell her was that I’d be racing with seven enthusiastic and photogenic women.

To be fair I didn’t know myself until I walked down onto the dock to meet the crew just minutes before we slipped our lines to head out for the start of the Yachting World round the island race. By then it was clearly too late to come clean. But as the photographers circled around the fleet in the opening stages of the race, it was clear that there would be plenty of evidence in the pubic domain.

This prequel race to Antigua Sailing Week was to be the first of four days aboard Quokka, a Grand Soleil 43 skippered by Philippe Falle. The boat is crewed by a team of fare paying amateur sailors with some fascinating backgrounds from a crime scene investigator to a balloon pilot. With a race of 58 miles, where a good chunk was spent on the weather rail, there was plenty of opportunity to find out what had brought this team together. More on that later in the week.

In the light 10-12 knot breeze our race took just short of 7hrs 30min, yet the trek around Antigua seemed to go quickly, the series of short legs around laid marks providing plenty to think about tactically, especially if you have an ample sail wardrobe to choose from. Switching from a reaching A-sail to a downwind symmetrical spinnaker and then back to a jib top keeps everyone busy and focused.

A good start gave us clear breeze and plenty of clear water to make our own tactical calls, a big advantage for the opening stages of the race. But at around a third of the way around, being in pole position presented a dilemma as we chased one of the marks that had broken free. The first hint that the mark we were trying to round had slipped its anchor came as the orange inflatable buoy floated downwind and out of reach by the minute. In the end the race committee informed the fleet behind us to round a RIB located where the mark should have been. Unfortunately the confusion led to a bit of paperwork from several competitors which kept the protest committee busy until late in the evening and hence delayed the publication of results and prize giving.

Apart from this, the race had proved itself once again to be a tactical one with plenty of challenging features and potential passing lanes.

Fastest boat around the island was the Reichel Pugh 78 Whisper sailed by HM King Harald of Norway who took the Yachting World Round Antigua Trophy.

For us, the race committee upheld our claim for redress and awarded us joint first on corrected time with Lancelot II skippered by Chris Jackson.

Sunday saw the start of Antigua Sailing Week in which the light winds provided another needle match between ourselves and Lancelot II. This time Jackson’s crew took the upper hand but I can feel a tight week ahead.

And in the meantime if my wife asks, you haven’t heard!