Breezes in the mid-teens give Swan sailors a great days racing at the Stanford Antigua Sailing Week 29/4/07

Look at the top three fleets in both the racing and performance cruising fleets and you’ll find at least one Swan. There are 20 boats participating in this year’s Stanford Antigua Sailing Week, and judging by the smiles on the faces of the crews as they descended on the bars and grills of the Dickenson Bay beach party, it has been a great day to be a Swan sailor.

“It’s been a good day for us,” said Clay Deutsch, skipper of Swan 68Chippewa, racing in fleet one of the division A, the fleet which embraces the fastest boats in Antigua this year. “The breeze has been pretty constant in velocity, and not shifty at all. We’re a heavy boat, so we like the breeze in the low 20s.”

In the same fleet, British Swan 601Spirit of Jethoualso responded well to the conditions, especially in the flat water on the lee side of the island, although grinder Phil admitted that the race start was less successful than they had hoped for. “We had a collision before the start with a support boat who shouldn’t have been there, then lost some time after we crossed the line two seconds early. We did very well as soon as we started cracking off, but for us our main competition’s with the [two] other Swan 601s in the fleet. We stayed within 100m of them all the way round, but never managed to pass them. But tomorrow’s a different day.”

The cruising fleets see equal dedication. Duke Steinemann, owner of Swan 80Selene, brought her over from Newport, RI for the racing, only to be faced by a catalogue of breakages on the first race. Steinemann, an Antigua veteran, said: “It’s different for us this year – a lot of the boats we normally sail against aren’t here, such asOystercatcher. I think they’re probably in Valencia.

Steinemann has been developing his crew over several years, as have most of the racing Swans, but for others it’s just the fun of participating that brings them here. Chris Mays is racing his Swan 46Cisnecitoat Antigua as the last port of call in a round the world cruise that left New York three years ago. “I met a boat from the UK in Chagos,” explained Mays. “They suggested we should do Antigua Sailing Week in my boat and that she could be competitive. The timeslot was perfect for us, and other boats we had met would also be there, which provided us with a half a crew.”

The other half of Chris’s crew were found via the internet, so after a single training sail they’re unlikely to be a polished team. Chris himself makes no pretence to his race prowess: “I’ve never raced this boat before, and never skippered a race from start to finish. We’re not light either – we’ve still got full cruising kit on board.” Nevertheless, it sounds likeCisnecitois having a great time. “It’s a good cap to a three year cruise,” said Mays, before admitting: “We’ve been bitten by the racing bug – my wife and I really want to get a full racing boat set-up.”

Some Swans may be faster than other Swans, but just to show that all speed is relative, the highlight of many people’s day was watching ABN Amro shoot past in a welter of spray. “She passed us like a train,” remembered Clay Deutsch. “We’ve sailed with [Ilc Maxi]Titana lot and she’s always beaten us – it was great to see ABN pass her like that. It showed some serious speed.”