Friday 20th April 2012 will see the first race of the 25th anniversary of the unique Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the atmosphere dockside reflects the stellar collection of 55 timeless beauties

Falmouth harbour, Antigua is absolutely buzzing as a fleet comprising some of the world’s most beautiful classic yachts have assembled to take part in this unique (for atmosphere alone) event. Antigua Classics is the first regatta of the annual Panerai Classics Yachts Challenge, which includes 10 events over the coming season on both sides of the Atlantic. And to cap it off the Panerai restored 1936 Fife ketch Eilean has made her spiritual homecoming to Antigua following the watchmaker’s three-year restoration after finding her derelict here lying in the mangroves in 2006. She now looks better than ever. 

Walking the Antigua Yacht Club Marina’s pontoons is like going through a historic who’s who of classics – with Monaco Yacht Club’s Tuiga and ocean racing legend, the S&S designed yawl Dorade perhaps the two others competing for the limelight. The Concours d’Elegance could have gone to any of these or more but the beauty prize was finally awarded tonight to Dorade following current owner Matt Brooke’s no-expense spared refit in Newport. She is being tuned up again for more ocean racing, starting with the Bermuda race in June (which she originally came second in in 1930).

Yachting World is sailing onboard the oldest vessel here for the first race tomorrow, the 82ft gaff schooner Coral of Cowes (1902), which will not only be the first time she’s raced in the Caribbean, but the first time she’s raced in an alleged 72 years, having sat for decades in a mudberth in the Medina River. With 15 knots trade breeze for the single-handed race and our practice sail today (three-strand is mighty hard work on a poor scribe’s delicate hands), and more of the same forecasted tomorrow, the stage is set for some ultra elegant racing.

(Picture shows Coral’s crew literally sweating the halyards during our tune-up sail).