Jonny Malbon and Gringo finally leave Antigua for Transat Jacques Vabre-qualifying passage back to Europe 8/5/07

Jonny Malbon and Gringo left Antigua on Sunday on their qualifying passage from Antigua back to Europe for the Transat Jacques Vabre qualifier aboard the Open 60 Artemis Ocean.

In contrast to the big winds experienced at Antigua Sailing Week last week, the pair are currently struggling in extremely light airs making little headway. The pair spent the first half of last week competing at Stanford Antigua Sailing Week see previous news story from Antigua Sailing Week here . Here’s an overview of the week’s racing – Jonny Malbon reports. Watch out for further reports as Team Artemis make progress across the Atlantic?

“We knew Artemis and the team would only be taking part in the first three days of this year’s Stanford Sailing Week in Antigua. The reason behind this is that Gringo are sailing from Antigua back to the UK double handed as a training sail and qualification passage for the Transat Jacques Vabre in November. It’s a shame in a way that we could only do three days, as it has been so good racing against other boats outside the Imoca 60 Class.

“The first race, which took the fleet east about around Antigua to Dickinson Bay, [The Yachting World Trophy] was fantastic. A long upwind leg to start with followed by a little reach and then some beautiful downwind blasting with big spinnaker and full main – awesome. Artemis did herself justice especially in the upwind conditions which we thought we would suffer in. We were matching the Swan 601s in speed and height which was incredible. A great 3rd on the water behind Titan, and ABN AMRO 1, and incredibly a 4th on handicap.

“Day 2 was a little more difficult with a lot more upwind than we had expected – the wind had changed direction massively as we sailed back round the south side of the island from Dickinson Bay to Falmouth Harbour. Still we were very happy to finish two minutes behind Pindar, a Volvo 60 and moded much more favourably for the conditions.

“Day 3 was always going to be tricky for us as the windward/leeward course is very hard work for an Open 60. 20 knots of wind and a horrible sea state made the hour-long passage to the start very uncomfortable. By the time we had made it to the top mark we had again overhauled a lot of the boats we would have expected to be ahead of us – fantastic. Next came the highlight of my week, big spinnaker hoist at the mark, and then we were off, smoking! Action everywhere, lots of boats, lots of shouting, a dismasting, a man overboard, and 20 knots of boat speed – bloody magic….

“By the time we got to the bottom mark, we were up to third place again having screamed downhill and overtaken both Chieftain and Pindar – happy days. This was until we tried to get the chute down and found the halyard had got itself stuck in the jammer? and was not coming down. We had no choice but to run downhill and try and get it down without cutting it, as we needed it for the trip home. Very demoralising losing all the hard miles we had gained and this forced us to retire as by the time we had the spinnaker on the deck we were nearly at Montserrat.

“Anyway, that was the end of our Sailing Week, and on the whole I was very happy with the way both the boat and the team performed. It was a shame that we couldn’t have made more of the windward/leeward, but still very positive. Considering that we had only sailed for a couple of hours the crew work was fantastic – testament to the bodies on board.

“Let’s hope that we can take part in another Antigua Sailing Week some time, it’s a great event, and very competitive…

Now Gringo and I have the trip back to Europe to look forward to.”