Mix of weather conditions challenges Rolex Antigua Race Week fleet on day 2 1/5/06

While most local Antiguans enjoyed the national holiday of May Day today, crews aboard the 194 boats competing at the Rolex Antigua Sailing Week worked hard for results. Battling tropical downpours and shifty wind – when it eventually showed up, some three hours after the scheduled 0900 daily start – the two divisions went separate ways.

Division A was sent six miles offshore for windward/leeward racing that was eventually cancelled for lack of sufficient wind and Division B for a 21-mile point-to-point tour along the coast.

A long wait turned into a quick decision by the Race Committee who sent Division A boats back to Jolly Harbour, the waterfront resort hosting the entire fleet overnight with dockside hospitality. Tonight’s activities include the English Harbour Rum Captain’s Cocktail Party for owners and skippers, hosted by the Jolly Harbour Golf Club.

Today was all about Division B and the conditions kept the fleet, a mix of cruising racers, pure cruisers and bareboat charterers, entertained and challenged.

In the Performance Cruising II class, Avocation, the Swan 48 owned by Hank Schmitt is first among the entries, but for Northern Child, another lively Swan competitor, its crewmember David Lavelle of London explained that today was as good as it gets. “There was reasonable wind at the start and it stayed lovely for us for two hours,” explained the Londoner, who is one of 12 crewmembers who chartered the 2005 overall winner of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). “The sea was fantastic, but everyone fell into a hole and suddenly 100 million worth of boats sat doing nothing. The wind then picked up to 22 knots, suddenly died – again! – but then returned in time for us to have some close duels with a few boats that are typically faster than us.” Northern Child sits in 6th overall.

Performance Cruiser I continues to be led by the same top three boats. Richard Matthew’s Oystercatcher XXV, won both of its races today followed by Sojana, Peter Harrison’s Farr 115 from the UK that finished the race 14 minutes ahead, before the handicap correction of time. Third place is held by Selene, the Swan 80 owned by Duke Steinemann of the U.S.

The Bareboats are reveling in the exceptional surroundings of Antigua. Chess, the Moorings 445 skippered by frequent Antigua Sailing Week competitor Jan Soderberg picked up two first-place finishes in as many days and leads Bareboat IV class ahead of Sea Breeze, the Cyclades 43 skippered by Herschel Ross of the U.S. and KH P Coriander, the Gibsea 43 skippered by Fredy Geisser of Switzerland.

Tomorrow, racing for the fleet starts off Jolly Harbour, on the west side of the island, back to Falmouth Harbour and an evening in the Regatta Village at Nelson’s Dockyard. Racing continues through Friday, May 6.