Racing finishes as the largest fleet ever show the love for classics continues to escalate thanks to the unique spirit of this Caribbean event.

A belter of a regatta: this was the largest fleet to ever assemble for Antigua Classics, part of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge – and any regatta that can be so much fun despite having had a couple of unseasonably light days, including an abandoned final race, is a credit to the spirit and organization of the event.

We may not have seen much of the traditional trades, but the 10-12 knot breeze during the single-handed race last Thursday and first of the fleet racing on Friday was perfect for the 68 crews to get to grips with their boats. And by the third day of racing they were rewarded to ‘all-time’ force five conditions during the reciprocal ‘Canon’ course. 
The final race was eventually abandoned as around 2/3 of the fleet were stuck in a breathless hole off Old Road Bluff west of Falmouth Harbour – much to the dismay of those who had found the fresh breeze further out and were counting on the race to top their class – but an arguably sensible decision from the race committee wanting to eliminate danger between drifting yachts close to the shore.

The 137ft Herreschoff schooner Elena stole the show in terms of spectacle and without another classic competitor anywhere near her size, recorded three straight wins in Classics A. Amongst the J’s and big boats in the Spirit of Tradition A class, Velsheda had a very sharp regatta, ahead of Ranger, last year’s class winner Rebecca, and the new 180ft Andre Hoek ketch, Marie. 
Final standings won’t be announced until tonight’s prize giving, when the overall winner will walk away with a special edition Panerai watch made exclusively for the regatta. But in terms of sheer beauty, Stormy Weather wins my vote (as well as winning her class) – a very welcome and popular return to the Caribbean for the S&S designed yawl, which has a remarkable offshore racing pedigree, and despite being one of the founders of Antigua Classics, has been based in the Med for more than a decade. She could even win her own ‘Stormy Weather Trophy’ for first overall in the Vintage Class.
Others who put in polished performances were Ira Epstein’s Robert Clark designed Lone Fox, chartered by a crew from the NYYC who went unbeaten in Classics C, as did the 33ft gaff cutter Orlando in Classics D. Don Ward’s Spirit 46 Libertine (one of three Spirit Yachts in the event) shone in the Spirit of Tradition classes, along with the 41ft Philip Rhodes Sloop Sunshine in the Classic GRP groups. 
The local Carricou Sloops seemed to revel in the lighter airs, with Eli Fuller’s Zemi topping the seven strong class.

The Single Handed trophy went to boat builder Oliver Greensmith helming the David Boyd sloop, Springtide. And although not taking part in the racing, the winner of the Concours d’Elegance prize competition went to the stunning Fife yawl Latifa, owned for the last 35 years by Italian Mario Pirri, a veteran of 13 single-handed ocean crossings.

If the remaining nine events in the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge calendar can maintain the type of the atmosphere generated here, it looks set to be a truly classic season. 
Look out for our full report and some more stunning photography in the July issue of Yachting World.

Photography by Tim Wright. 
Rebecca, Marie and the J’s battle in the opening picture, the formidable canvas of Elena, and Stormy Weather enjoying the Antiguan condtions once again.