Antigua wrap

Alastair Abrehart signs off from the Caribbean

Tuesday May 27th 2003, Author: Alaistair Abrehart, Location: Caribbean
Just under 200 boats went galloping around the coast of Antigua the week of April 27 to May 2 in the 36th annual Antigua Sailing Week (ASW). Total entries at the close of the skippers' briefing was 195 yachts while 186 made it to the start line including a record 23 yachts over 60 feet. Yachts competed from 29 countries in Caribbean-perfect 15-20 knot conditions all week. The 2002 event saw 215 yachts frolicking around the Antiguan coastline.

The fifth and final day of racing produced a knee-knocking, nail biting finale. The last day of racing action for division A took place under the imposing cliffs of Shirley Heights and out to 'Africa' - a mark so named for its proximity to the land mass nearest Antigua in a south-easterly direction - while division B was racing between English Harbour and 'Curtains' off Cades Reef.

Frank Savage's Swan 56 Lolita went into the last day as the winner of racing II and with another win resoundingly stamped its mark on the class with an 11-point margin over second-placer Vellamo 2, another Swan 56. Solid sailing and teamwork notched up a fleet win by a slimmer margin of nine points to the Antiguan/Italian second-placer Caccia Alla Volpe and earned Savage the impressive Lord Nelson's Cup. Savage also returned home to the USA with the Guinness Cup for the best Swan, the Ricochet Cup for the best American yacht and a more relaxed vacation in Antigua courtesy of the Antigua Hotel & Tourism Authority.

Having placed first or second in many of the regattas in which it has competed since Savage launched the boat in 2000, Lolita had not won at ASW - until now. "This race is made for Swans," said Savage. "You've got nice long beats and winds between 14 and 20 knots and sometimes more. And I've got my crew right. I've got eight guys that have been with me since 1994 and I bring in more people who fit in to the Lolita culture and it all came together here.

"The Lolita culture is one of self-respect and working together as a team. The thing about Lolita is that we have a depth in our crew and we all pull together."

The nail-biter was between Sotto Voce and Chippewa. They entered the last day tied for second place in fleet with Chippewa leading the big boat class by two points. Although it looked good for Chippewa to triumph, the day went to Sotto Voce - on a tiebreak. The wind started off light at about 14-15 knots and almost imperceptibly built to 19-20 knots by the time Chippewa finished. And while the increased wind speed played into the hands of Chippewa, it wasn't enough for the heavier Swan 68 to close the gap. However, neither boat sailed a totally clean last race with Sotto Voce picking up a fish pot and Chippewa losing its headsail on the first beat.

Sotto Voce also clinched the racing division of the three-leg Caribbean Big Boat Series (CBBS) which comprises of ASW, St Maarten's Heineken Regatta and the BVI Spring Regatta.

While French IMX 40 Near Miss followed by Irish Intuition, a Reflex 38, relegated Caccia Alla Volpe to third place on the last day it wasn't enough to deny Caccia victory in the racing III. Near Miss was second overall and Irish Intuition was third.

Antiguan Melges 24 Huey skippered by Bernie Wong topped the three-boat racing sport boat class after a visit to the protest room on the final day. Non-plussed by a competitor's ability to hike, he attended the meeting with photographic evidence to show that Beneteau 28 Credit Moderne was sailing with lifelines made from bungee cord; a DSQ followed for Credit Moderne and Huey won the day - and the regatta.

Bermudian Farr 72, Starr Trail, despite a last day fourth place won racer/cruiser with Adams 65 Helsal 2, a 15-times Sydney to Hobart veteran, second; a first place for Helsal wasn't enough to close the gap. Starr Trail managed to hold off the Formula 1 Sailing posse to win the racer/cruiser division of the CBBS

David McLean's Tazani comfortably won racer/cruiser II with Eddie Warden-Owen driving and Mascalzone Latino veteran Tom Weaver also at the back of the boat. J/46 Jacana was second overall and Swan 48 Celerity, which has been campaigning the Caribbean race season, was third. Tazani also won racer/cruiser overall and the Sanhall Trademarks Trophy.

Although the points changed on the last day in racer/cruiser III, the positions didn't with Grain De Soleil winning, Tarok VI second and 1st Away third.

On the division B course igoodia almost topped fleet but did win performance cruising I class. Hansa, the sistership to World of Tui which was dismasted after a collision on the second day, was second. Swan 65 Kenta was third.

Hugh Bailey's HuGo won the battle of the marinas as well as performance cruising II and fleet prize. Sailing their Beneteau 43 Hugh Bailey and crew only dropped one race. Bobby Velasquez's L'Esperance from St Maarten was second and Scaramouche was third.

The Brill Nautical Society onboard chartered Frers 76 Kalikobass with Kevin Paul on the helm and Whitbread veteran Tony Brooks calling the shots won cruising I. Excalibur, a CNB 70, was second. Hark, a Beneteau 53, was third and surprised its crew as much as everybody else with its performance; she was rigged for a crossing to the Azores and, enjoying the racing, decided to delay the provisioning planned for Lay Day until after the regatta.

Last day win and class honours in cruising II went to Hylas 46 Lochay Maiden.
Class leader up until the last day Columbia 50 Arawa from the US Virgin Islands, did not start after a collision before the start which resulted in the skipper being taken to hospital with head injuries.

True to form after a week of dominating their classes Fabi, Rosco and Lofoten I won their last races in bareboat I, II and III cleaning up in their classes with five bullets each. Taz only dropped one race to win bareboat V while Casanova won bareboat IV. Jan Soderberg skippering Lofoten I racked up his sixth overall win at ASW in the 77-boat bareboat fleet.

In the inaugural Bareboat Challenge held on Saturday morning, the top three from each class battled it out for top honours amongst the bareboats and this win went to Rosco with a Spanish crew led by Joaquin Vazquez.

With sand between their toes and rum drinks in their hands over 1000 people kicked off ASW 2003 as they reveled on Pigeon Beach at the Cavalier Rum Beach Party on Thursday night. The curtain rose on the granddaddy of the Caribbean racing circuit on Sunday morning with a clichéd but most definitely perfect 15-18 knot breeze occasionally reaching 22 knots, Caribbean sun and moderately bumpy seas.

On a circuitous route to first night stop Dickenson Bay, Division A headed upwind past Shirley Heights, downwind to a buoy off Curtain Bluff, dog-legged out to a buoy leading the fleet out past Cades Reef and then west of a number buoys to a close-reaching finish off Dickenson Bay. Flying in the face of local knowledge it paid to "head out" on the first beat as the wind clocked south - rather than hug the coast under Shirley Heights.

The note in the sailing instructions that "All boats shall pass to the west of Warrington Bank Buoys, all oil mooring buoys and the Sister Rocks" was not read by a number of competitors and generated a flurry of calls lodging protests to the race committee. Seven of the nine protests on the first day of racing were related to this and boats were either disqualified or managed to save themselves a point by retiring gracefully before the protest was heard.

Racers were met by the second annual Great Dickenson Bay Beach Bash on their arrival. As they dropped their anchors Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson were already taking on all comers in the celebrity cricket, a fundraiser for the Antiguan sickle cell fund. Sound systems were warming up, chicken and ribs were cooking, drinks were cooling and five bands were limbering up for action. Fireworks ushered in Atlantic, the last band for the Bash.

Day two dawned with more glorious Caribbean sailing conditions. Periodic overcast skies accompanied 15-18 knot winds in the morning but the clouds gave way to sunshine in the afternoon and the winds held. Racers from division A came ashore late afternoon looking a little wrung out after the two races of 15 miles each - as the crow flies.

Division A tackled a three-loop windward/leeward course in the morning followed by an Olympic course in the afternoon. Division B's course had the fleet wending its way to Jolly Harbour, party central and overnight stop for day two.

Day three of Antigua Sailing Week saw lighter winds - 18 knots dropping to 14 as division A completed their last downwind leg -as the fleet headed back to the south coast of Antigua and Nelson's Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour.

After the start gun, division A had a fetch to buoys off of the north east coast of Antigua, followed by a reaching leg back out to sea, a beat down the west coast and Cades Reef, a dog leg into Curtain Bluff followed by a beat out to a mark called Shirley off the south east of Antigua and Shirley Heights with a downwind leg to the finish off English Harbour. Division B followed a very similar course without the dogleg and final beat out to Shirley.

As the fleet headed south it was met by shifty and gusty conditions as the offshore wind funneled down valleys and round hills with 30-degree oscillations. The only thing to be done was be prepared for the radical shifts and adapt where possible. Many a boat carrying a spinnaker lost control but no knockdown broaches were witnessed. Kites went up, kites came down and numerous boats including Equation and Favonius didn't attempt to fly their kites - and may have paid the price.

Clay Deutsch's Swan 68 Chippewa - and one of the kite flyers - had a great day winning the big boat class and put itself at the top of this class after three days of racing and two points ahead of second-placer Sotto Voce, the favourite to win coming in to this regatta.

After three days of intense and varied racing a little R&R was supplied in the form of Lay Day. Baying hounds enjoyed the Lay Day festivities at Antigua Yacht Club Marina with the crew of Andrews 70 Equation emerging as top dogs after acing at least two events including the tug-of-war. Accompanied by a variety of musical treats ranging from Shaggy to Village People, Lay Day culminated in the perennial wet t-shirt contest.

Day four of racing dawned a little hungover but with another day of perfect sailing conditions off the south coast of Antigua. By popular demand, an extra race was added and division A had two short-ish variants of windward/leeward courses between English Harbour and Curtain Bluff. Division B was sent out into the Atlantic on what was a hard beat upwind and a long and rolly downwind sail to the finish.

Definitely a short straw job for one crewmember on the 80 or so bareboats was that of 'human whisker pole' - bareboats don't carry poles and they are not allowed to be added. They clung on to the boat with one hand and the uncooperative jib with the other while the Atlantic rollers tossed them from one tack to the other.

The 36th ASW ended with an afternoon and evening of prizegiving in historic Nelson's Dockyard culminating in the Lord Nelson's Ball in the Admiral's Inn with just under 70 cups handed out to deserving winners.

There were 11 ISAF Judges from six different countries at the event. The chairman, Arthur Wullschleger, has over 30 years experience internationally and has been awarded the ISAF Gold Medal and the USSA Herreshoff award for services to Judging. Four of the Judges have America's Cup experience. Three of the judges have Olympic Games experience, five of the judges are past sailing champions and five of the judges are lawyers. Between them they have 113 years of ISAF Certification and handled 58 protests at ASW.

Countries represented at the 36th annual Antigua Sailing Week were: USA, Puerto Rico, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Antigua, Trinidad & Tobago, Poland, Sweden, Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, France, Martinique, St Maarten/St Martin, Germany, Bermuda, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Portugal, Ireland, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Denmark.

ASW could never happen year after year without the Antigua Hotel and Tourism Association, sponsors and army of volunteers. The untiring effort of over 150 volunteers, who each year give of their time and energy, is the only way that the complex elements, both on the water and on land, come together into a smooth running event. Their continued support is essential to the success of ASW in the years ahead. The support of the Ministry of Tourism, National Parks Authority and Antigua Yacht Club has been consistent and invaluable to make ASW the event it is today.

For the 2003 event, Antigua Sailing Week created a completely new sponsorship platform going in to the next three years designed specifically to enhance the growth and marketing potential of the event. A new level of sponsorship, diamond level, was created and the first ever diamond level sponsor is Stanford International Bank Limited which is very involved on an international level. New platinum sponsors Air Jamaica and Heineken join Cable & Wireless, English Harbour Rum, Rolex and American Express. LIAT is a new silver sponsor while Sticky Wicket Restaurant and Going Places Travel are copper sponsors. All these sponsors are involved in a three-year strategic marketing plan.

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