Persistent heavy rain and virtually no wind in Antigua greeted the second wave of finishers in the Rubicon Antigua Challenge today

Persistent heavy rain and virtually no wind in Antigua greeted the second wave of finishers in the Rubicon Antigua Challenge 2003, slowing them down badly in the last 300 miles of their 2,700nm crossing from Lanzarote. Potentially fast boats in the 50ft to 60ft size bracket would have expected better crossing times than 17 days and veteran long distance racer Steve Pettengill (pictured left) aboard the Hunter Marine 50 Hunter’s Child 11 reported that they only managed a couple of 230 day runs. “We were expecting a whole bunch of those but it wasn’t to be,” said Steve who with his crew of Warren Luhrs and Warren’s 17-year-old daughter Alexandra finished in just over 16 days. She was the fourth arrival after the Farr Nauta 80 Acaia Cube, which finished in around 12 days but motored for 82 hours, the Swan 82RS Paradis and James Flynn’s Oyster 62 Oystercatcher XX1V.

Oystercatcher should have done better but about halfway across she broke her hydraulic boom vang in a gybe and the crew then discovered a crack in her carbon mast, something they suspected had been there for some time. There also appeared to be corrosion in the vang’s fixing screws at the mast. They eased back with a single reef in the main thus posting a considerably slower time than expected in this tall rigged version of the popular 62.

Now in its second year the RAC is an alternative to the ARC and acts as an overspill to that regularly over-subscribed event, but it is now developing into an event in its own right. World Cruising organiser James Hall said that people are attracted to it because it is smaller and more intimate (there were just 16 starters this year) and by finishing in Antigua at the same time as the Nicholson Antigua Charter Show competitors have an excellent chance to offer their boats for charter.

RAC got off to a particularly bad start this year when two boats pulled out shortly after the start. When Ezra Harel suffered a heart attack aboard his X-562 Lalena V, the yacht had to turn round to close the gap between her and the nearest rescue helicopter flying out of MRCC Las Palmas. By the time Harel was airlifted to hospital he was dead and the race was over for Lalena.

Denes Gyevi’s Bavaria 49 lost her mast a day or two out, returned and retired which left just 16 yachts heading for Jolly Harbour on Antigua’s sheltered Caribbean Sea side of the island. This is an excellent harbour in which to arrive with plenty of water, electricity, comms services, restaurants and bars. But it lacks the West Indian buzz you find in places like English Harbour and Falmouth, which at this time of year are really humming with charter activity and start of season reunions.

There is also a draught issue in Jolly with about a 4m limit in the channel leading to the marina. Acaia Cube crossed the line and headed straight for Falmouth as did Paradis. Oystercatcher didn’t hang around for long either.

World Cruising admit that it took time to firm up the deal with Antigua and Barbuda this year which meant they could not market the event as strongly as they would have liked. The contract for the next two events is now firmly in place so there are greater hopes of a bigger fleet this year (2004). James Hall said that by being able to sell it from now there would be every chance of attracting 40 yachts by November.