Rock up and race
There’ll be no shortage of superstars on the race course at the 43rd Antigua Sailing Week running over 24-30 April.
Round the world yachtsman Brian Thompson has teamed up with Safe Passage Sailing (SPS) as one of the key, coaching members aboard two of Ondeck’s Farr 65s and 40.7. Thompson is one of the world’s most successful offshore racers having notched up 25 sailing records to date as either skipper or watch captain, including breaking the record non-stop round the world aboard Steve Fossett's Cheyenne in 2004, winning the Oryx Quest and competing most recently in the Vendee Globe.
Joining Thompson at SPS on the eight-day training/racing initiative are fellow professional sailors Sally Barkow and Doogie Couvreux. Barkow is one of the world’s leading match racing skippers with accomplishments including three wins in the US Sailing Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championships (2003, 2004, 2007). She was also the USA representative in the Yngling class at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and has twice won the USA Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year (2005, 2007).
Doogie Couvreux brings a wealth of experience to the SPS sailing team and those fortunate enough to be racing with him on one of the Farr 65s will be able to share his vast professional racing knowledge. Couvreux’s expertise ranges from high performance Olympic 49er dinghy racing to the America’s Cup where he was primary bowman for the French Areva Challenge during the 32nd ACC in 2007 in Valencia. Commenting on his forthcoming role at Antigua Sailing Week, Couvreux said: “I really enjoy creating a team environment and sharing my knowledge. It's very rewarding to see individuals increase their potential and sailing skills and become a team; working as a team on big boats is key to success. At SPS our goal is to offer each participant a fantastic experience on the water.”
Randee Fowler, Executive Director of Safe Passage Sailing says the idea was created to provide a turn-key holiday and opportunity for the intermediate to advanced sailor to participate in world class regattas, on high performance yachts with world class racing pros serving as skippers and mentors. “Basically,” says Fowler, “SPS has taken all the hassle and headaches out of coordinating this type of sailing holiday – no boat responsibilities. The objective: to show up and have fun!”
Rock-up-and-race’ opportunities at Antigua Sailing Week are a highly popular option, with silver sponsor – Ondeck – gearing up for their biggest Antigua Sailing Week ever with 15 yachts entered so far.
Business Development Manager, Simon Hedley commented: “We are over the moon with the take up this year and have been sourcing additional quality yachts outside our own large fleet to keep up with demand. Our ethos is that we can involve virtually anyone in this fantastic regatta regardless of ability or experience in a safe and controlled manner. We are even taking orders for 2011 at this point which is a great position to be in.”
Regulars at Antigua Sailing Week, KH+P yachtcharter from Stuttgart, Germany, have also reported good business with 18 boats being chartered for the event. This German charter company has been participating at Antigua Sailing Week for 19 years offering high performance racing for international teams from as far afield as Russia. The company has a reputation for notching up respectable results including last year success when the 19 yachts competing went home with 18 cups. Company Director, Hartmut Holtmann, commenting said: “Over the years our yachts have taken 124 podium positions and this year we are fortunate to have our very successful skipper Alexander Pfeiffer taking the helm of one of our yachts again which bodes well for some more top results.”
Other entries indicating an interest at the event once again are the fleet of nine Petticrow-built International Dragons on charter from Harmony Hall Yacht Club. The club, which runs regular racing for Dragons throughout the year, was set up two year’s ago and masterminded by Carlo Falcone and double Olympic Gold medallist – Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen.
One of the biggest head-turners at the regatta will undoubtedly be the 90ft maxi-catamaran Gemini 3 skippered by round the world yachtsman Roman Paszke, a competitor in The Race. This carbon-fibre flyer built in 2007 and broke the 198 nm Polish coast record with a time of 8h 55mins, [read more about the boat here] and after a week of intense round-the-cans style racing in Antigua, Paszke will complete preparations for her forthcoming westabout singlehanded circumnavigation.
Antigua Sailing Week regular Barry Sampson from the UK has been attending the regatta since the early 1980s and says it’s been interesting to see how the regatta has evolved without losing its special friendly appeal. Sailing his Swan 42 – Long Echo – Sampson stressed the reasons he returns to the regatta every year: “I love Antigua because I always have fun racing with my friends and family on good courses. It’s a friendly island and we feel very at home there, and I’m also pleased to hear that the organisers have listened to the competitors’ views and reintroduced the lay-day this year. It’s also a great way of doubling the number of summers. My close friends and I have come to the conclusion that we have about 15 summers of racing left in us, so by coming to Antigua it doubles the number of summers we have left. It’s as simple as that really.”
The schedule for Antigua Sailing Week starts with Race 1 of the Ocean Series – the Guadeloupe to Antigua Race – on Friday April 23, with racing for ASW series kicking off on Saturday afternoon following an early morning breakfast briefing at Antigua Yacht Club. The Yachting World Around the Island Race (Race 2 of the Ocean Series) is on Sunday 25 April, and the Round Redonda Race (Race 3 of the Ocean Series) takes place on Wednesday 28 April (lay day).