The 49th edition of Antigua Sailing Week was a very memorable one with superb conditions throughout the week and a fairy tale ending that showcased the secret to the success of this celebrated regatta. Over 1,000 sailors from more than 20 different countries raced and it became obvious from the outset that they were hell-bent on world class racing and spectacular partying afterwards. The weather played its part, building from a gentle breeze on the first day to full-on trade winds on the penultimate day, and a tricky shifting breeze for the last race which had plenty of nerves jangling. Antigua Sailing Week may be steeped in Caribbean yacht racing history, but the professionalism of the organisers and the commitment to engaging the youth of Antigua were some of the main reasons for a memorable event.
Sir Hugh Bailey, knighted for his services to yachting is the ‘grandfather’ of sailing in Antigua. His CS40, Gypsy-UGo scored straight bullets until the final race to win CSA 7, but a 2nd in the last race nearly dashed Sir Hugh’s hopes of lifting the Lord Nelson Trophy. However the fairy tale victory was confirmed at the Final Awards Ceremony and it was a very popular win for Sir Hugh Bailey’s Gypsy-UGo as they were awarded the Lord Nelson Trophy for best performance at Antigua Sailing Week 2016.
“I made the mistake that cost us the last race as I went around a mark the wrong way and we had to turn back. So I am relieved that it didn’t cost us in the end. I am the only skipper left that took part in the first Antigua Sailing Week and I have to say that today is a very good day for Antigua. I have never won the Lord Nelson Trophy before but this win is all about Antiguan youth. There are many young Antiguans taking part these days, like Shannoy Malone, who has sailed with us this week. He is only eight and he rigs his own Optimist, looks after it and sails it whenever he can and this is his second Antigua Sailing Week. Youth is our future, they will keep the fires burning.”
Special trophy winners, class winners, runners up and third place teams in all classes were also presented with their awards at the Final Awards Ceremony in historic Nelson’s Dockyard in the presence of the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency, Sir Rodney Williams, with The Hon. Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy and The Hon. E. P. Chet Greene, Minister of Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Sports, Culture and National Festivals in attendance.
CSA 1 Racing Ocean Class
Linas Ivanauskas’ Volvo 60, Ambersail was the winner of the new CSA 1 Ocean Class which was created to place older generation round the world racing boats in their own class. Ambersail’s regatta started with a disqualification for not sailing the correct course, but the team from Lithuania put together a string of six wins to take the class title.
“After the first race we didn’t think we would win, we had to work very hard. We will tell everyone in Lithuania about this fantastic regatta and we know how to celebrate, so we will be back next year for the golden regatta!” said Linas Ivanauskas
Renato Faria’s Brazilian Dufour 500, Ventaneiro 3 was the winner after a pulsating battle with Kialoa III and Swan 46, Milanto. The camaraderie in the class was evident at the prize giving where all three teams got together for a group photograph with all their trophies – Brazilians, Dutch, Spanish and British sailors, all sharing a memorable occasion.
“It is a dream come true and we are going back to Rio very, very happy,” exclaimed Faria. “There are so many great regattas in the Caribbean, but Antigua Sailing Week is the best. The spirit of this regatta is fantastic and we have raced against some really good sailors who are also wonderful people.”
Tony Langley’s British TP52, Gladiator was unbeaten in every race. The professional team included 2015 winning Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Ian Walker and 2009 winning Volvo Ocean Race navigator, Jules Salter. Eighteen-year old Antiguan Rhone Kirby was invited to sail with the team all week which was an incredible opportunity for him.
“It’s been fantastic. Antigua is the first place that I ever sailed competitively, the place I got engaged and the place I was married. This is where it all started for me and today it is just the beating heart of Caribbean sailing,” commented Gladiator’s owner, Tony Langley.
Jim Hightower’s American King 40, Hot Ticket won the class on the final race. The team come from Temple, Texas and proudly flew the Texan flag at the Awards Ceremony.
“It has been a really good week. It went right to the wire where the penultimate race had four boats within a minute of each other and it has been like that all week. We have had a marvellous time and not just from the racing. The whole atmosphere of Antigua has been a delight. We arrived with a steel band playing and we went up to Shirley Heights with its spectacular views. Everybody has been so friendly and this is a professionally run regatta,” commented Hightower.
J/122 El Ocaso, a former Lord Nelson Trophy winner at Antigua Sailing Week was chartered to Chris Body who raced with his wife Caroline and their two daughters, plus friends from the UK.
“It has been fantastic. Caroline and I came to Antigua 25 years ago and we decided it was time to come back with our daughters and experience Antigua Sailing Week for the first time, and it has been absolutely marvellous. The morale of the crew has been a big part of that. We thought towards the end of the week that we might have a chance of the overall win, but to win our class is what we came here to do. All credit to Sir Richard Matthews and his crew on Team Oystercatcher – Quokka as we had to sail really hard to get the class win and the results don’t show how hard that was,” said Chris Body.
British Oyster Lightwave 48, Scarlet Oyster skippered by Ross Applebey, won class for the second year in a row. Scarlet Oyster scored seven wins out of the nine race series.
“This doesn’t get any easier,” commented Applebey. “We have been challenged all week by numerous boats in our class, but especially Best Buddies who became our ‘best buddies’! There has been a really good friendship between the two boats all week and that stemmed from an incident early on when they helped us free a rope from our prop. We have had very competitive but also very honest racing all round. The team we have on board is not the youngest team but they have worked really hard. I have sailed with a team half their age but their input and strength have been totally admirable.”
Scarlet Oyster was the winner of the Royal Southern Yacht Club Inter-Yacht Club Challenge for the second year. Crewed by members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club, including past Commodore Colin Hall and present Rear Commodore Sailing, Graham Nixon. Nineteen teams from all over the world entered the second edition which was close to double last year’s entry.
“It has been a great week. The Royal Southern Yacht Club provides the challenge because we believe in supporting yacht racing. So many members of our club come to Antigua Sailing Week that we thought it would be fitting to create an event within it that would encourage other clubs to come and race and generate a camaraderie going between the clubs. We hope we can get over 20 teams next year and let me say, any of the teams that take up the challenge are welcome to come and have a drink at our clubhouse in Hamble, UK,” said Nixon.
Hatse Flatse, skippered by Mario Bakker, was the winner of the Bareboat classes overall. The team all come from Almere in Holland and won seven out of nine races, making the podium for every race.
“The crew is the spirit. You don’t win as a captain alone; we are a bunch of people who love to sail and we have great respect for each other. The size or the speed of the boat doesn’t matter. We are a team that has really enjoyed Antigua Sailing Week and to win the overall bareboat prize is great, really lovely. It is a really good incentive to come back next year,” commented Bakker.
Antigua Sailing Week is without doubt a professionally run regatta and huge appreciation should be given to the Chair of the Regatta Organising Committee, Kathy Lammers, and Commercial Director, Alison Sly Adams.
“The key to a well-run and professionally managed regatta is advance preparation. Everything must be in place before the racing begins because once we’re in the event itself, there’s no time to plan the small details,” commented Lammers. “We have a huge number of volunteers both on and off the water who are very key parts of the team. We are very grateful to them for giving their time because without them we couldn’t put on the regatta.”
From Sly-Adams: “We’re also exceptionally grateful to our sponsors for their support and we’re focussed on delivering on their expectations. A well-run regatta helps deliver to the sponsors and the sailors by providing great racing and fun shoreside activities. We are already planning for the 50th edition next year and the team will be doing everything possible to ensure it is a fantastic and memorable event.”
With the Final Awards Presentation over, the festival atmosphere continued as crews danced to Asher Otto and Itchy Feet and celebrated their victories and unforgettable time in Antigua. Many of them will be back for the 50th Antigua Sailing Week which will take place between April 29th to May 5th 2017. Online entries are already open with the yacht Let’s Go of Australia being the first entry for 2017. Enter now at: http://www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=2730
For full results, stories pictures and videos about this year’s regatta and to enter the 50th edition go to: www.sailingweek.com.
Image © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com