ANTIGUA CLASSIC YACHT REGATTA 25TH ANNIVERSARYSaturday 16th June 2012
Photo compliments of Clare Sudlow.
Twenty-five years later the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta is still attracting some of the most renown classic yachts in the world. This year was no exception, with the return of the Panerai flagship EILEAN, a 72-foot William Fife ketch, as promised by Panerai’s CEO Angelo Bonati when he bought her in disrepair several years ago after she had been deteriorating in the mangroves of English Harbour. Also in Caribbean waters for the first time was TUIGA, another Fife design built originally in 1902 as a gaff cutter and one of few surviving 15 meter class yachts still afloat. Owned by the Yacht Club de Monaco, she was shipped out to participate in the 25th anniversary of Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta along with her normal crew from Monaco. DORADE, the legendary 52-foot Sparkman and Stephens yawl was also in the regatta for the first time. She has won many Newport to Bermuda races as well as the Fastnet race. DORADE was meticulously refitted in New England, won the Concourse d’Elegance in the Vintage class, and almost won the regatta outright as well, but finished just behind the veteran classic sailor Carlo Falcone on his 80-foot Mylne yawl, MARIELLA, assisted by Dennis Connor.
The Regatta was born in the cockpit of Aschanti of Saba in 1987 after a crazy Antigua Sailing Week when it was decided that a separate Classic Regatta would be created to make it safer for the classic yachts by getting away from the all-out racers and the bareboats, which nearly caused collisions in every race. Around Christmas-time in 2011 Aschanti was in Tahiti in the Pacific waiting to finish her Pacific voyage when the owner decided that Aschanti IV (as she is now named) needed to be in Antigua for the anniversary, so they sailed back just to be in Antigua.
So the stage was set and the winds blew a good 15 knots plus every day on a slight sea with sunny skies that moved in after some of the heaviest rain Antigua had seen in months washed the dust off and turned everything green again. The 59-yacht fleet enjoyed those perfect conditions and everyone from the 24-foot SPRINGTIDE to the 193-foot ATHOS had a great time with the magnificent Herreshoff gaff schooner ELENA OF LONDON leading the way.
The sailing is not the only good thing about Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Parties and camaraderie among classic-minded sailors abound. The regatta is the first event on the PANERAI Classic Yacht Challenge, which ends in Cannes, France in September, with 10 races in various locations including Antigua, USA, Italy and France. Panerai’s famous hospitality room was always busy and they put on the best exhibition that Nelson’s Dockyard has ever seen, about the restoration of Eilean. The finale was the appearance of Simon le Bon and Duran Duran on stage while playing the music video “Rio”, made onboard Eilean in the early 80’s in Antigua. Mount Gay Rum, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta’s longest running sponsor, made sure that rum was flowing at every event. The Sail Maine Party was fantastic with a good band and delicious fare from Maine. Music night was also a great night with great talent from the yachts getting up on stage and jamming together. Not to be left out are the Cream Teas on the lawn at the Admiral’s Inn during the gig racing and of course the famous “Classic Parade” on Sunday afternoon, during which the yachts parade past Antigua Slipway adjacent to Nelson’s Dockyard.
Next year, in 2013, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta should see the return of the J class, and a few more big schooners. Columbia, Bluenose, Adventuress and Germania are reported to be making their way to Antigua to sail alongside the already strong schooner fleet. Mark your calendar - April 18th - 23rd 2013 - Antigua will be the place to be.
For more information about Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta go to www.antiguaclassics.com and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta Facebook page.
By Kenny Coombs
Chairman, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
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