by Louay Habib
Antigua Sailing Week is famous for spectacular racing conditions and for the third day in succession, the southern coastline delivered gobsmacking racing for the international fleet. The wind built during the day to whip up white horses on deep blue Caribbean swell to produce surfing conditions for the light displacement boats. The bigger boats enjoyed two races today, whilst the smaller boats and the bareboat fleet enjoyed one long race with numerous mark roundings.
Salona Racing Team, Alex Sastre, Salona in CSA3
Geoffrey Pidduck's Biwi Magic lost its unbeaten run, losing out to Steve Carson's Hightide by just seven seconds on corrected time in the last race of the day. Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3, Dave Cullen's J/109, Pocket Rocket and Gunboat 62, Zenyatta, skippered by Nils Erickson, still have a perfect score lines.
Tonnerre de Breskens 3 continues to dominate in CSA 0, winning its fifth race on the trot, but a superb battle rages on in every race between the three yachts vying for line honours. Team Varg's TP52, Balearia, Robert Date's RP52, Scarlet Runner and Leo van den Thillart's Kernan 47, True.
Volvo Ocean Race veteran and True tactician, Jono Swain explained the last battle of the day:'All three yachts are often swapping places on the beat. In today's upwind leg to Half Moon buoy, we got a good start but the longer waterline length of the competition paid and they caught us up. However, the lead is often decided by the smallest of margins and Balearia needed to put in an extra tack approaching the top mark and we got through them. Balearia was faster than us on the downwind leg and crossed the line first, but we had another great battle with Scarlet Runner. We must have put in five or six gybes approaching the finish. We went further inshore and got a good puff of breeze off the entrance to English Harbour and the final gybe just before the line, allowed us to control the approach. We got the psychological advantage of beating them to the line. Antigua has always been a great place to race and the standard of the competition in our class is very good.'
Before racing today, three yachts were tied at the top of CSA 3. However Alex Sastre's Argentinean team, Salona Racing had a perfect day winning both races to lead the class by two points from Quokka 8 sailed by Philippe Falle's Deep Blue Racing Team. Richard Wesslund's Florida based team on El Ocaso had a consistent day to move up to third overall. Whilst Richard Matthews' First 40, Lancelot could not break into the top three in either of today's races and slipped to fourth.
'The racing is extremely close but the team performed well today,' commented Quokka 8's Philippe Falle who was the class winner last year. 'We lost Race four by just eight seconds and I am pleased with our two second place finishes today. This time last year we were four points off the lead and won the class, so there is everything to play for. Taking into account the discard with three races to go, Lancelot is going to struggle to win the class. I think it is going to be between Salona, Quokka 8 and El Ocaso. It is very easy to have a bad result in this fleet, but there's plenty of racing left in the regatta.'
In CSA 4, Bernie Evan-Wong's High Tension won the last race of the day by 21 seconds to take the class lead from Ian Hope Ross' Melges 32, Kick 'em Jenny. There was a great cheer on the finish line for the first race of the day. The Antiguan National Sailing Academy won Race four. The young team includes Lewis Fitzgerald, who enjoyed beating his father Marc Fitzgerald at the helm of Team Sojana! 'I was devastated and proud all at the same time,' smiled Marc Fitzgerald. 'Racing 1720s here is just fantastic, the boats just love the conditions. Well done to the Sailing Academy. We made a big error on a spinnaker hoist and they took advantage of that and deserved their win.'
Marc's son Lewis was wary about talking about the win before the team went on the stage to accept its prize. 'It doesn't matter if it is my Dad or anybody else. We are racing to win against anybody and that doesn't change, but I better be careful what I say or I might not be getting dinner tonight!'
After racing, the English Harbour Five Year Old Rum daily prize giving was well attended and tonight Antigua's favourite rum, English Harbour Five Year Old Rum, presents Shaggy live in concert at Shirley Heights. Tickets have been selling like hot cakes and thousands of revellers are expected to attend the concert with Antiguan Soca singer Tian Winter also on the bill. Tonight will be the biggest party night at Antigua Sailing Week, especially as tomorrow is Lay Day.
Nonsuch Bay Resort will host the RS Elite Challenge, a fantastic invitational regatta as part of Lay Day celebrations on Pigeon Beach with barbecues, cold beers and fantastic action on the water with fleet racing in RS Elites immediately off the beach. Comperes Jaime Torres and Louay Habib will break down the action. Hot skippers will compete for the ultimate prize - one week's bed and breakfast accommodation for two at Nonsuch Bay Resort, and of course major bragging rights! Spectators can also join in the fun and get a chance to win three nights stay at Nonsuch Bay Resort as they party on the beach until sunset.