by Louay Habib
The 47th edition of Antigua Sailing Week featured five days of racing with an amazing party atmosphere ashore. Yachts flying the flags of 23 different nations were drawn to the Caribbean's most prestigious regatta. Sailors came from all over the world for the fantastic weather, extremely competitive racing and fun filled entertainment. The racing was incredibly close, with a number of classes only decided by seconds on the last race and the weather was absolutely glorious. The trade winds were pumping at 15-25 knots all week. Enough to get the thrill of fast action, but still tactically challenging with wind shifts emanating from land effects and cloud bursts.
Tonnerre de Breskens 3, Ker 46, Piet Vroon’s team from the Netherlands win overall at Antigua Sailing Week
Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3 was the overall champion of Antigua Sailing Week. Piet is in his 80s and has raced just about every major regatta in the world, including Antigua Sailing Week in the past. Tonnerre scored eight straight wins, the only yacht racing in any CSA Class to do so, and was rightly awarded The Lord Nelson Trophy.
'The team have been racing in Key West, RORC 600, St. Thomas, BVI and Antigua and our worst result in any race has been second. The Tonnerre crew has been together for many years and we have been racing her for six years now, so she is extremely well sailed and highly optimised. Many of the races we had at Antigua Sailing Week were close, which shows it is never easy to come here and win, but I am obviously delighted with the result,' exclaimed Piet.
Irishman David Cullen racing his J/109, Pocket Rocket came so close to a perfect score, but lost out to Norwegian entry, Aage Kristensen's Frileans in the last race of the regatta. David has lived in the Caribbean for years and is based in St. Barths. Pocket Rocket won CSA 7, Best Caribbean Yacht Start Boat B: 'I have been to Antigua Sailing Week for many years and I have to say that this edition has been exceptionally well run on the water, with a very friendly atmosphere ashore. I am sure Pocket Rocket will be back.'
Bernie Evan-Wong's Mumm 36, High Tension had a champagne regatta winning so many trophies that they needed all of the crew to lift them; Best Caribbean Yacht Start Boat A, Best Antiguan Yacht Start Boat A, Winner of CSA 4 and The Black and White Trophy for the Best Yacht in the Most Competitive Class. Bernie runs a dental practice in St. John and all of the crew are from Antigua. High Tension won the race and the class by just 14 seconds.
'It is an unbelievable end to a fantastic season!' shouted a totally ecstatic Bernie. 'High Tension has competed at six Caribbean regattas this season, all of the big ones and to finish off on home soil, winning so many of the trophies that I have wanted to win all my life. It's like a dream come true! The crew have been just grand all season but to win at Antigua Sailing Week, against very well sailed boats, it is just the icing on the cake.'
Another notable performance by an Antigua yacht was Geoffrey Pidduck's Six Meter, Biwi Magic, which won six out of eight races to win CSA8 and Best Antigua Yacht Start Boat B. Geoffrey is well into his 70s but races every weekend and this year completed a hat trick of wins at Antigua Sailing Week, having also won class 2013 and 2012: 'It is getting harder every year. Hightide was very well sailed and so are other boats in the class. It might seem that this was an easy win, but just about every race was won by seconds rather than minutes,' said Geoffrey.
The Best American Yacht and CSA 6 class winner was John Cook's Tatonka. John joined the crew on stage wearing an Indian Headdress, as a symbol of his roots in South Dakota. 'We have had a ball!' exclaimed John. 'I haven't been racing for many years and Antigua Sailing Week has been on my bucket list for ages. Friends have told me what a great regatta this is and they were not joking. The weather conditions have been sublime and everybody here is so friendly. It is just the best!'
Jonty Layfield's Sleeper won CSA 2. The final race decided by just 12 seconds from Ross Applebey's Scarlet Oyster. Sleeper's crew contained three Antiguans: Sean Malone, Ashley Rhodes and Robert Green and there were plenty of Antiguans racing on other yachts, including 21 year-old Stephon Dundas on Selene, which won Best Swan and was second Best British Yacht to Sleeper.
Adrian Lower, owner of Selene spoke about Stephon's contribution. 'This is the second year that Stephon has been on the bow of Selene and his attitude and work ethic is exemplary. Stephon plans to come to England to hone his sailing skills and I have no doubt that he will be successful. It has been a pleasure to race with such a mature young man.'
Twenty eight yachts competed in the Bareboat classes, split into two divisions. Coleman Garvey's all-Irish was the victor in Bareboat 1 with KH+P Bageal, Sun Odyssey 44i. 'Last year we were second, so this was unfinished business,' commented Coleman. 'The racing is incredibly close, one mistake and you are out of it. We were pushed very hard by the Ukrainian team led by Rodion Luka who is an Olympic silver medallist. The atmosphere ashore has been grand, the team have made a lot of friends from all over the world during the regatta and with all the bareboats moored together in Nelson's Dockyard, there has been a great buzz right through the fleet.'
Bareboat 2 and the overall Bareboat title was won by Cayenne, Dufour 44, skippered by Max Katinov. The Russian Team won all seven races and also won the coveted prize of a US$2,500 voucher to use with Antigua Sailing Week sponsor, Sunsail.
Sailing comes first at Antigua Sailing Week, but that doesn't mean an early night, every night! Tuesday saw the biggest act on stage at Shirley Heights. In front of more than 3000 revellers, Orville Richard Burrell, better known by his stage name Shaggy, belted out his best known hits, including Boombastic, It Wasn't Me and Angel. Mr. Lover Lover man sent the crowd in the audience crazy with his smooth lyrics and outrageous stage act.
Lay Day was held the next day on Pigeon Beach, where hundreds of sailors at Antigua Sailing Week chilled out in the crystal blue waters and enjoyed a first class BBQ served by 2011 Caribbean Chef of the Year, Mitchell Husbands from the luxurious Nonsuch Bay Resort. However, even on Lay Day there was fantastic racing action. Right off Pigeon Beach, eight world-class teams battled it out, fleet racing in the Nonsuch Bay RS Elite Challenge. America's Cup winner and World Match Racing Champion, Peter Holmberg won the three-race final beating world champions and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. After racing, the Sunset Beach Party included Tug-o-War and other beach games with DJ Sporty, fire dancers and BBQ grills burning long into the night.
Every afternoon after racing, the sailors returned to the hospitality of Antigua Yacht Club, Cloggy's and Club Sushi, enjoying post race analysis in the perfect setting, as well as being awarded daily prizes sponsored by Johnnie Walker, AUA College of Medicine, English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum and Colombian Emeralds.
The spirit of Antigua Sailing Week was evident at the Final Awards Ceremony at Nelson's Dockyard. The huge crowd were standing as the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, Her Excellency Dame Louise Lake-Tack arrived and the National Anthem of Antigua and Barbuda was skilfully played by pannist, Lacu Samuel. The Hon. Eleston Adams, Minister for Culture also presided over the awards ceremony and every competitor was roundly applauded as they took to the stage. Asher Otto and Itchyfeet played out the night with DJ Purist and the dance floor was alive with revellers into the night.
The 48th Edition of Antigua Sailing Week will take place from the 25th April to 1st May 2015.