The 186 entries on the Antigua Race Week start line this morning were treated to perfect sailing conditions

Today the curtain rose on the Caribbean racing grand finale with a clichéd but most definitely perfect 15-18 knot breeze occasionally reaching 22 knots, Caribbean sun and moderately bumpy seas. After the final count today 186 boats sailed the circuitous course to Dickenson Bay.

Division A headed upwind past Shirley Heights, downwind to a buoy off Curtain Bluff, dog-legged out to a buoy leading the fleet out past Cades Reef and then west of a number buoys to a close-reaching finish off Dickenson Bay. Flying in the face of local knowledge it paid to “head out” on the first beat as the wind clocked south – rather than hug the coast under Shirley Heights.

Bill Alcott and his Equation crew that includes Stu Argo and Ron Sherry in the afterguard racked up his first win in the Caribbean against Sotto Voce today. However, it was a close run thing beating Sotto Voce by a mere three seconds on corrected time. There was only 10 seconds between the entire big boat class with Favonious third and Chippewa fourth. Pleased that today’s racing consisted of short windward legs and long downwind legs Argo did concede that, “We ate it on the reaching leg” when they couldn’t carry their chute. Today’s race was for the downwind machines but spinnakers were only really carried as far as Curtain Bluff.

The note in the sailing instructions that “All boats shall pass to the west of Warrington Bank Buoys, all oil mooring buoys and the Sister Rocks” was not read by a number of competitors and generated a flurry of calls lodging protests to the race committee. Seven of the nine protests today were related to this and boats were either disqualified or managed to save themselves a point by retiring gracefully before the protest was heard.

Richard Matthews’ Flirt managed to top racing II beating the flock of Swan 56s in its class despite views that it needs more modifications and a larger keel.

Jamie Dobbs and crew on Lost Horizon II topped racing III followed by First class 10 EIB Marina Bas Du Fort and Caccia Alla Volpe; but no walkover with only 1.6 seconds between them. Bernie Wong, another Antiguan sailor, topped the three-boat sport boat class.

Racer Cruiser I saw highs and lows. Helsal 2, Constanter and Javelin were first second and third respectively. Spirit of Diana and Spirit of Minerva would have been a lot closer to the top of the scoreboard but, engrossed in a match race, sailed past the Curtain Bluff mark and had to head back upwind to round it. Gibian, the 100ft Wally, suffered a terminal wrap as it dropped for Curtain Bluff mark and wasn’t able to finally drop the chute until it had sufficiently shredded itself to do so.

Stuart Robinson’s Swan 48 Celerity beat J/46 Jacana by the slim margin of 3/1000s of a second in racer/cruiser II – so that could have gone either way. Swan 59 Tazani with Eddie Warden-Owen on the helm was third.

Chris Haswell’s 1st Away won racer/cruiser III, Milt Baehr’s Goodia won performance cruising I while Hugh Bailey’s HuGo, an Antiguan boat won performance cruising II.

Division B sailed a similar course to division B but without the initial beat into the Atlantic.

Illyria, Sir David Cooksey’s Oyster 53, beat the 70ft CNB Excalibur by a hair in cruising I and cruising II went to Doug DeCluitt’s Columbia 50 Arawa.

In bareboat III five-times overall bareboat champ Jan Soderberg came close to losing to Sea Biscuit – ex-Waisters and the boat that Soderberg has won on in previous years. Sea Biscuit, the lower rated boat crossed the line ahead of Soderberg’s Lofoten I but was, alas, one of those that neglected to following the sailing instructions and retired.

Fabi skippered by Dieter Kuhn and Rosco skippered by Joaquin Prager topped bareboat I and II respectively and Casanova and Tac Tic Toc won IV and V.

Racers were met by the second annual Great Dickenson Bay Beach Bash on their arrival today. As they dropped their anchors Curtley Ambrose and Ritchie Richardson were already taking on all comers in the celebrity cricket, a fundraiser for the Antiguan sickle cell fund. Sound systems were warming up, chicken and ribs were cooking, drinks were cooling and five bands were limbering up for action. Fireworks ushered in Atlantic, the last band for the Bash.

Tomorrow division A will race a windward/leeward course in the morning and an Olympic-type course in the afternoon. Division B will sail ‘the long way back’ to Jolly Harbour, the venue for the second night of fun and frivolity.