No wins on Pindar today but 'onehellava' lot of fun during day three of Stanford Antigua Sailing Week 1/5/07

The third day’s racing at Stanford Antigua Sailing Week turned out to be one be one of the best yet with winds up in the 20kt plus range, temperatures in the 30s, and big seas rolling in off the Atlantic.

It was also one of the best days to join Team Pindar Alphagraphics aboard the water-ballasted VO60 to find out how she performed against the likes of ABN AMRO One, Chieftain – Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50, Titan 12 – 75ft maxi, the Swan 60 Chippewa from the US, and a trio of Swan 601s including Leonardo Ferragamo’s Pioneer Investment, Moneypenny, and the British boat Spirit of Jethou owned by Sir Peter Ogden.

Following yesterday’s long-distance race – the second half of the Yachting World Round the Island Race – today’s racing comprised windward/leeward races off Willoughby Bay just to the east of Falmouth Harbour.

So with the likes of Ian Williams on the helm, and Brian Thompson on tactics, and super-hot crew the stage was set for some exciting racing on the relatively short, sharp courses.

A good start, fully powered up at the committee boat end gave us a clean track out to the left before being forced out to the right, which interestingly proved beneficial.
On a yacht designed for long offshore work such as the VOR, the swift manoeuvres necessary on a short course such as today’s windward/leeward means keeping the tacks to a minimum. According to Williams, tacking this boat takes a lot of forward planning and is a slow process, commenting: “Moving the water ballast is a big issue, it means you have to plan a tack at least 40 seconds in advance.”

At the top mark we enjoyed an exciting battle with Chieftain and the Swan 601s and with the wind still up in the 20s, and the Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing still some way behind the pressure was on to make the most of the big rolling waves and enjoy some exciting surfing on the downwind sleighride. With the A2 running asymmetric spinnaker up we hit 18kts at one point but as the leg progressed we were unable to hold off the Open 60 – designed for this sort of downwind work – and continued the race-long battle with the Swans.

Chatting about the conditions as he steered the boat downwind Williams commented: “Today is the toughest we’ve had so far, and you really have to press the boat hard to keep her going fast in these waves, and to keep the fine foils we have, working.”

After the long, rolling run we lost sight of ABN AMRO and Titan, and at this stage Artemis was forced to retire with spinnaker halyard problems. We were unable to catch Chieftain in the final stages of the race and she finished just 70 metres ahead but we won the on-the-water battle with the Swan 601s finishing just ahead of Moneypenny and took fourth place on the water.

Thompson commenting on the competition said: “I find it interesting racing against the Swans because upwind they go faster and higher but downwind they sail more like an America’s Cup boat – almost dead downwind.

“We have a slight problem with rating here in Antigua. We certainly need a better rating. It’s quite an unusual boat but we are only really a touch faster than the 601s, so that’s kind of where we should be in the natural order of things. We really need to discuss the matter with the committee once this regatta is over.”

Click here for Stanford Antigua Sailing Week results.