Leo Goolden on the sights and sounds of a weekend racing aboard Adela in the Caribbean
Buccaneers race the Corsairs
Gybing around the pin on Adela, our huge red asymmetric kite (with its characteristic white “A”) split perfectly out of its zip behind the jib, which was then dropped into the waiting arms of the men on the bowsprit.
Running down the south coast of Antigua, we were at the head of the fleet, and behind us a crowd of different coloured spinnakers, most adorned with a unique design. The beautiful W Class sloop Wild Horses was making good progress, but when the enormous, elegant Royal Huisman ketch Elfje passed by at 15 knots, surging along under the sprite emblazoned on her blue kite, the smaller yachts were left bobbing in her wake.
The race ended with a long beat back up to the finish line outside English Harbour. This provided an excellent opportunity to eat sandwiches on Adela, as there were no sail changes coming up and little for the deck crew to do except trim and control the running backstays. Lunch was distributed underhand with a backspin (as per the crew’s rugby training back in Cornwall), and then tacked (half-eaten) to the windward side every time we went about.
The 112ft/34m Baltic Nilaya took the lead, short tacking in the flat water inshore, using every lift to her advantage to take line honours and 1st on corrected time.
Adela was neck and neck with Danneskjold – the 105ft/32m Southern Ocean sloop with the bold pirate flag design on her sails – and Spiip, the impressive 112ft/32m Royal Huisman sloop (previously named Unfurled) for the whole leg, but Spiip managed to be the first of the three to finish, placing 2nd on corrected time. Danneskjold was not far behind her, winning 3rd place.
In the Buccaneers class, Kawil (112ft Sparkman & Stevens sloop) placed 1st on corrected time, followed by Zig Zag (Oyster 82) and Acadia.
Back in English Harbour, having repacked spinnakers and returned their yachts to perfect order, owners and crews headed over to the beach in front of the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel.
The inflatable elephant on the sand signified the fact that an African-themed party was under way and although we had dozens of bar tokens, they all expired at 1930 – hence one deckhand was heard ordering 28 rum and gingers and 15 gin and tonics at 1929!
The highlight of the night was a cook-off between the crews, where you could get your hands on all sorts of delicious dishes, and the boys from Adela raised the bar with their African dresses, wigs and lipstick.
The second day of racing consisted of two separate, shorter races. The first featured a downwind start and a run down to the bottom mark before a tactical beat and a short broad reach to the finish.
On leg 1, most yachts took a long broad reach out to the south before gybing once to lay the pin, but Nilaya and Danneskjold gybed multiple times and stayed inshore in the flat water. It paid off for Danneskjold with a 2nd place on corrected time, finishing just behind Spiip.
In the Corsair class Acadia came in 1st, followed by Kawil and Wild Horses.
As the wind was slightly lighter than the previous day, we used the largest jib and a huge 960sq m asymmetric for race two on Adela.
Hoisting and dousing such a colossal mass of canvas is always slightly nerve-racking – if anything goes wrong and the sail goes into the water, it is rarely possible to get it back on board without breaking something.
We were using a bucket and sleeve to douse the sail from the head before bringing it down onto deck, which made it slightly easier, but a whole lot of hands are still needed on the foredeck to grab it and pass it in as quickly as possible when it drops.
The course for the third day began with a long beat, taking the yachts up past scenic cliffs to Willoughby Bay. On Adela we had a dramatic duel with Spiip as we met on opposing tacks close inshore.
The modern sloop tacked onto starboard to give way to us, but then we found ourselves being luffed. Spiip was pinching to avoid the big cliffs that were looming ominously close, and so we had no choice but to tack away.
The real rivalry, however, was again between the three big sloops as they vied for 1st place. Nilaya eventually passed the other two on the downwind legs, surfing past in splendour at a mighty 15 knots.
In the smaller yacht class there was also some fierce competition, with Acadia and Kawil neck-and-neck right up until the finish line. Kawil finished less than a minute before Acadia, and took 1st place in their class overall.
Wild Horses, Zig Zag and Marama were also in tight formation right up until the end – an impressive feat for Marama, the 124ft/38m aluminium ketch, as she was the only yacht not flying a spinnaker all weekend, and has no dedicated race crew, although she took on a crew of skilled sailors from other yachts.
The party on the Sunday night was held in the grounds of the historic Admirals Inn, within Nelson’s dockyard. The prizegiving ceremony was a relaxed affair, and saw the winners awarded with kegs of rum that were promptly passed around the crowd to be held aloft and swigged.
Overall, Kawil won the Buccaneers class, followed by Acadia, Wild horses, Zig Zag and Marama. Spiip won the Corsairs class, followed by Nilaya, Danneskjold, Elfje and Adela.
Adela was also awarded the Gosnell Trophy – the bell from the bow of the superyacht Timoneer – donated and first awarded last year, to honour the yacht with the most enthusiastic, dedicated crew on land and on the water.
Needless to say, the Adela boys were over the moon with both the bell and the barrel of rum.
The frigates and barques of the 18th century may be long gone from English Harbour, but a fighting spirit and a zeal for adventure lives on in the yachts and crews that race here. Long may it continue!