The 43rd edition of this Caribbean regatta kicks off successfully, despite the air-travel chaos, with Lee Overlay Partners winning the Guadeloupe Race.
The Antigua Sailing Week organizers don’t have much luck really. Last year their title sponsor Allen Stanford dropped out weeks before the event, in a whirlwind fraud scandal that rocked the island. This year the infamous Icelandic volcano chose to erupt, jeopardising the ability of many crews to make it out here. But a bit of airspace mayhem wasn’t enough to dent the growing enthusiasm for this, the 43rd running of an event considered the climax of Caribbean sailing calendar. Impressively, 120 boats have still showed up for registration.
Tomorrow (Saturday 24th April) was due to be the first day of all-class racing, but has been postponed to allow the remaining crews still delayed to arrive. Those competing in the Ocean Series (formed last year) started today though, with light easterlies accompanying the 40-mile race from Guadeloupe. This marks the first race of the Ocean Series – comprising three offshore events (including the 50nm Yachting World Round the Island Race on Sunday) held during Sailing Week. Despite the 90ft Polish Multihull Gemini 3 and Peter Harrison’s Sojana finishing first, Adrian Lee’s Lee Overlay Partners won on corrected time. The canting-keeled Cookson 50 favoured the easy reaching conditions more than the 100T Farr ketch Sojana. ‘It was a pleasant sail across, but there was not enough wind for us’ Andrew Dove (from North Sails Antigua and crewing on Sojana) told us, ‘we didn’t even have to put a tack in!’
For the dozen other classes split between two Divisions, racing will begin in unison with the Round the Island race on Sunday, with Division B sailing to Dickenson Bay. The re-instated Dickenson Bay beach bash is sure to please most competitors. Indeed there’s been a real drive this year to put the fun back into Sailing Week, with the popular local/Irish-ex Pat Paddy Prendergast heading up the on-shore activities and attracting the top Antiguan bands to drum up a carnival atmosphere. Lay day has also been reintroduced so crews can get to see and enjoy the island. Now that’s what Caribbean regattas are all about – good sailing and social conditions!
The pictures show Lee Overlay Partners (courtesy of Tim Wright, Photo Action), and Sue Pelling firing the canon as Gemini 3 takes line honours