Stuart Quarrie chats to Sue Pelling about the reasons why he turned down an offer to navigate the last three legs of the VOR in favour of Antigua Race Week

Turning down an offer to navigate the last three legs of the Volvo Ocean Race was not an easy decision for ace navigator Stuart Quarrie. But having committed himself to sail Antigua Race Week aboard the Swan 56 Noonmark, Quarrie felt there was no choice.

How difficult was it for you to turn down the offer you had from Knut Frostad to navigate the last three legs of the Volvo Ocean Race aboard djuice dragons?

It was a very hard decision to make. He rang me just a few days before I was due to fly out here to Antigua and I had to make a snap decision. Although it was very tempting, I had to say no because I knew it would muck up a few things including navigating Noonmark and other commitments such as my involvement with Cowes Week.

Was this the first time Knut Frostad had approached you about the possibility of navigating djuice dragons?No, it is something we had talked about before but I was not prepared to do the entire race. Six weeks for the last three legs would have been ideal.

Having turned down the VOR offer, you’re obviously even more determined to make this week in Antigua a success. How confident do you feel on the eve of the first race?

We have a mission, to beat Lolita, another Swan 56, and win Racing Class 2. You could say it’s a bit of a grudge match. Last year at this regatta we came a close second to her and two weeks ago, at the BVI Regatta, we did exactly the same thing.

Are the two boats identical?

Yes, except for Lolita’s carbonfibre rig, which means she rates a few points higher than us and goes better upwind.

What are your views on Antigua Race Week?It’s a great place to sail, lots of good boats, close competition and everyone is so friendly. And, if the winds remain as they were today, 18-22 knots, it will be perfect.

What’s your advice to anyone considering attending Antigua Race Week next year?To get a yacht out to the Caribbean, I highly recommend taking part in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) to ensure the boat is across the Atlantic before Christmas. Once the she’s there, it’s just a matter of fixing up crew accommodation and flights. Newcomers should be aware, however, that although the race week is based at English Harbour and Nelson Harbour, some of the races finish and start the following morning at the other side of the island which causes more than a few logistical problems.

How important is the navigational role at Antigua Race Week?Depends on how hard you push the corners. There are lots of coral reefs to be aware of. Although they are reasonably well marked on the charts, the navigator has to know what he/she is doing. On Noonmark we’ve got all the go-faster goodies including electronic charting which makes life a lot easier.