Cuyler Morris and crew of six adults and six children enjoy a fun day at Antigua Sailing Week 1/5/07

Cuyler Morris, of Maine-based Morris Yachts, is here at Antigua to round off a six-month sabbatical in his Morris 45Firefly. Today’s crew comprised six adults and six children, while the boat was stacked high with cruising gear, even down to the barbecue on the pushpit rail. It hardly seems the set-up to win races, but Cuyler has recorded two victories on the first two days’ racing, and looks to have secured a place near the top of the list today.

Fireflyis one of the smallest boats in the upper bracket of the cruising division, but thanks to light construction, deep draught and a generous rig she is capable of giving some much larger yachts a tough time. Owing to crew constraints Cuyler has opted to limit his downwind sails at Antigua to a poled-out headsail, but with a peak wind velocity of 26 knots in today’s race, the number of disastrous spinnaker hoists and drops on nearby boats suggested that the more conservative approach may have saved some time as well as attracting a rating benefit.

I joined Cuyler and his family for a 19-mile figure-of-eight race along the south coast of the island. With four extra adults on board the crew was slightly different from his cruising set-up, but those extra adults had brought three extra children, so it was with an impressive crew of 12 that we started the race. Competition was close on the start, andFireflyshowed several boats her heels upwind before bearing away for a long run west. She kept up well, sailing at between 80 and 90 per cent of her downwind potential according to Cuyler, before a brief reach-run chicane took us to the leeward mark and we began a long beat back towards the start. An offshore route kept us clear of the bulk of the fleets and allowed us to fetch the windward mark with only a few tacks before a short run home.

It was a well-sailed race on a well-performing boat, but what really impressed me was the professionalism of the entire crew. They weren’t kitted out in matching T-shirts and we didn’t have triangular men on the grinders, but the will to win was every bit as evident as on a race boat, from the youngest crewmember upwards. Everyone had their job to do, and did it with the minimum of fuss – with opportunities like this I’ll be surprised if some of those kids aren’t hotting up the competition at future Antigua Sailing Weeks.

Click here for Stanford Antigua Sailing Week results.