Tenacious conditions and terrific sailing dominate day three of the 42nd Sailing Week
For the third consecutive day of competition, racers were greeted by staunch easterly trades packing a serious wallop with consistent breeze in the high teens and more than an occasional gust into the 20-knot range. For the Division B fleets of racers?the Performance Cruisers, Cruisers, Bareboats, Dragons and Multihulls?the 17-nautical mile contest from Fort James to Falmouth Harbour was a proverbial walk in the park compared to what awaited the Division A fleets. Yes, there was a longish upwind beat to the finish in the race’s latter stages, but the first half of the race was primarily a two-sail reach along the island’s protected, leeward flank.
The Division A fleet, on the other hand, faced a long and difficult thrash to windward, negotiating marks off Shirley Heights and Willoughby Bay, followed by yet another tough beat to a seaward mark off Hudson Bay. After three days of strong easterlies, the waters off the south coast were flecked with white caps and punctuated by gnarly, square waves. A walk in the park it was not.
From the get-go, the top boats in Racing 4 handled the conditions with strong tactics and solid seamanship. There was also a pair of “races within the race,” with the two Club Swan 42s?Austin Fragomen’s Interlodge and Barry Sampson’s Long Echo?and the two J/Boats?Jamie Dobbs’s J/122, Lost Horizons and Rick Wesslund and Mike Caldwell’s J/120, El Ocaso?essentially locked into a tack-by-tack match race over much of the 25 nautical-mile course.
Both Interlodge and Long Echo executed near-perfect starts to lead the fleet upwind, with Lost Horizons and El Ocaso in close arrears. The two Swans enjoyed a starboard-tack, neck-and-neck drag race to the sheer cliffs near English Harbour before Long Echo blinked first and tacked, allowing Interlodge to take the early lead. For the large part, the seaway was a tossed, miserable mess right up to and past the iconic peak of Shirley Heights, though the race track smoothed out somewhat to the next mark off Willoughby Bay. It was proving to be a windward test not for the feint of heart.
Once around the Willoughby buoy, a long offshore board took the fleet out to what essentially was the top mark, where the Racing 4 fleet was finally rewarded with some very welcome downwind work. The two Swans, Interlodge and Long Echo, rounded first and second and immediately hoisted big asymmetric kites.
They were followed in short order by two Racing 1 competitors, Charles Dunstone’s TP 52, Rio, and David Aisher’s Rogers 46, Yeoman XXXII. Rio, whose very able crew includes a platoon of sailors from Team Origin, the currently sidelined British America’s Cup squad, as well as Duran Duran front-man Simon LeBon, was especially impressive, hoisting their big chute in no-time-flat and instantly shooting down the racecourse at double-digit boat speeds.
The J/Boats, led by Lost Horizons with El Ocaso a mere five boatlengths astern, rounded next, and soon, they too were launched under spinnaker for another lap of the course.
When all was said and done, however, it was Jamie Dobbs’s extremely well sailed Lost Horizons atop the Racing 4 leader board for the third straight day. Dunstone’s Rio also recorded its third consecutive victory to take strong command of Racing 1.
In Division B, there was a long list of repeat winners across the board. In Performance Cruising 1, Clive Llewellyn’s Grand Soleil 50, Mad IV, took its second bullet in three races. In Performance Cruiser 1 and 2, respectively, a pair of Swans?Martin Jacobson and Nick Burns’s Swan 44, Crescendo, in PC 1 and Richard Burbidge’s Swan 43, Pavlova 2, in PC 2?both retained their solid leads after winning their classes for the third straight day.
The Cruising 1 class was won by David Yeolly’s Oyster 72, Spirit of Montpelier, and in Cruising 2, order was restored to the universe when Hugh Bailey’s First 456, Hugo B, earned the victory for the second time in three starts. The top Cruising Multihull was Ron Webb’s Seawind 1000XL, Cover Shot, pushing aside the big trimaran, Running Cloud, that had won the first two races. For the third day in a row, the top Dragon was Compass Point.
The Bareboat winners on Monday were the Dufour 455, KLH P Sea You Later in Bareboat 1; the Moorings 515, Nifty, in Bareboat 2; the Sunsail 473, Rossi, in Bareboat 3; and the Dufour 40, Fantasque, in Bareboat 4.
With both Division A and Division B slated to sail a pair of races on Tuesday, Day 4 of Antigua Sailing Week will offer the top boats an opportunity to solidify their leads and would-be contenders a grand chance to climb up the standings