Antigua Sailing Week's headline sponsorship could be in jeopardy following US$8 billion fraud charge

The funding of Antigua Sailing Week, the headline sponsor for which is Stanford Bank, looks uncertain tonight as news emerged that the regatta’s backer Sir Allen Stanford has been charged over an alleged $8 billion fraud.

America’s Securities and Exchange Commission is reported to have said that the Texan billionaire financier had orchestrated an alleged “fraudulent, multi-billion dollar investment scheme”.

One Caribbean businessman involved in the local yacht charter industry whose yachts compete in the regatta said tonight that Sailing Week ‘would be looking for a new sponsor’ to the tune of between US$100,000 and US$150,000.

Stanford Antigua Sailing Week is one of the world’s best-known ‘fun’ regattas attracting several thousand yachtsmen, many of them from the UK, together with more than 100 yachts. It generates enormous income for the island and is a cornerstone of Antigua’s sporting and holiday calendar at the end of April.

This latest news comes on top of the murder last month of yacht skipper Drew Gollan who was gunned down in what was thought to be a bungled robbery between Falmouth and English Harbours in the heart of the island’s yachting community. That incident sent shock waves through the community who fear people will stay away. This latest blow could compound that fear.

When one arrives in Antigua at VC Bird International airport, there is no mistaking Allen Stanford’s opulent looking bank which is completely out of character with the rest of the island’s natural, shack-like architecture.

An imposing mansion-style building with its manicured lawns, palm tress with white painted trunks and a sweeping drive stands overlooking the airport. A cricket ball throw away lies Stanford’s private cricket ground and the unfortunately named Sticky Wicket restaurant. It’s another immaculate development which hit the headlines recently as the venue for Stanford’s 20/20 multi-million dollar prize money cricket match between England and the West Indies, a controversial event which raised eyebrows in the sporting establishment.

While yachtsmen will undoubtedly continue to turn up and race in Antigua if they find themselves without a sponsor – something even Cowes Week has had to cope with in the past – Stanford’s considerable injection of cash has helped keep the organisational wheels turning. Recently the regatta employed crack race organisers GWM Racing to run the complex regatta to bring it more into line with top sailing events around the world, a move that could only happen with sponsorship.

Watch this space for more developments and the effects this news might have on the future of Sailing Week in Antigua.