Winds topping 24 knots and the Atlantic Ocean rolling in to the cliffs below Shirley Heights certainly gave all the crews in the last day’s racing at Antigua Race Week a demanding time causing disaster for some and sweet victory for others.
Excitement at the prospect of big winds may have dissipated for some as they headed up the beat along the cliffs of Shirley Heights from the start off Falmouth Harbour and encountered the full strength of the wind and the big seas. Many hugged the coastline looking for lifts and to avoid the current as they beat to “Africa” – and in fact many used the shelter of Shirley Heights to drop their spinnakers before rounding the downwind mark “Hercules”.
Some decided that discretion was the better part of valour and didn’t even raise their chutes. Some that did soon wished that they hadn’t. Local Antiguan boat Caccia Alla Volpe suffered a knock down broach in the “Africa” area and, although nothing was damaged, continued downwind under main only and straight back to the dock. Orfeo shredded its spinnaker and Aera’s genoa parted from its luff in a very sedate manner as it started to unzip itself tack first.
BVI boat Pipe Dream, after a storming downwind leg, was looking very strong but dismasted on the way back upwind. Two boats sailing in the Bareboat classes lost their mast and while Celerity, Stuart Robinson’s Swan 48 sailing in Racer/Cruiser II didn’t lose its mast, it went a very funny shape and forced them to retire. Starr Trail, leading its class going into the final day’s racing retired with an injured crew member.
Gwadloupe Challenge, a Jeanneau One Design, lost two crew members overboard but was able to recover them and retired. The finishing numbers overall were somewhat depleted as some didn’t start and some didn’t finish.
Pyewacket, a fast charging sled, got faster as the winds got heavier and tied up Big Boat class, first overall and the Caribbean Big Boat Series (CBBS) Racing Division, eight minutes ahead of Titan, Tom Hill’s Andrews 70, that was also revelling in the conditions. With Pyewacket first overall, Peter Ogden’s Spirit Of Jethou took second in class and Chippewa was third.
Pyewacket’s owner Roy E. Disney felt that the competition was a little stronger in Antigua than it was in St Maarten and the BVI – the other two legs of the CBBS. “But I would loved to have had a few boats little closer to us,” said Mr Disney. “It’s harder to sail consistently well and fast when there’s no one to compare yourself to.”
“We’ve been spoiled by winning so consistently. That [loss on Tuesday] was our first and only,” he added.
In racing II, Lolita, Frank Savage’s Swan 48 Lolita beat UK Swan Noonmark VI by two minutes but it wasn’t enough to regain its top slot in class from last year. Class victory went to Noonmark. Brigadoon VII, fourth on the last day, took third in class. Spirit Of Jethou was second overall and Noonmark was third.
One of the more depleted classes on the last day was Racing III which only saw four finishers. Antigua’s Jamie Dobbs sailing his surfboard Olson 30 Lost Horizon II racked up his fifth win of the regatta and flew downwind as did his rivals J/34 Garbo, Mumm 30 Twisted Lizard and Beneteau 34 Montebello. Second place in this surfing contest went to Garbo by a slim margin of just under 45 seconds. Twisted Lizard was third but took second in class and Montebello was third in class. Red Fever, seven points adrift of a placing decided not to race “to save the boat” and some of the crew went to join fellow Puerto Rican boat Titan.
No-one started in Sportsboat class.