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LONE FOX AND THE MISSING WATCH
Wednesday 30th May 2012

Don Ward on the helm of Lone Fox during Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2012

Don Ward loves Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.  Until a few years ago, he owned Winsome, a Cherubini ketch with which he had varying degrees of success in the Regatta over the years, including winning Classic GRP Class and finishing third in the single-handed race.  However, Winsome’s time came and went and Don eventually sold her.

One day in early 2011 Don walked down the dock in front of Antigua Yacht Club and discovered a beautiful-looking yacht parked among the usual yacht club boats.  Later that day he received a phone call from his friend, Hans Lammers, who had recently delivered a Spirit 46 named Libertine to Antigua to be restored, chartered for Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and then sold.  Hans suggested to Don that it would be a perfect boat for him to charter for the Regatta.  Don couldn’t believe the coincidence – as it turned out it was the very boat that he had spotted on the dock earlier that day.  He immediately said yes and, indeed, he chartered Libertine for Classic Yacht Regatta 2011.

After a brief practice run prior to the Regatta, Don entered the single-handed race and took the win in the big boat class with relative ease.  He had been trying to win this race for some time and it was an excellent start to the week.  He was as excited as a little child on his way to the fair when the Regatta finally got underway!

Don had gathered his usual excellent crew together which consisted mainly of his old buddies but it also included some new young blood that managed to hop around the foredeck of the boat at lightning speed, hoisting the spinnaker faster than the rest of them could blink!  At the end of a fantastic week, Don and the crew on Libertine had scored three straight bullets (the fourth race had been abandoned) and finished first in Spirit of Tradition Class C.  He was on top of the world!  The crew tried to convince Don that Libertine was the boat for him and he should buy it, but the large amount of brightwork terrified him and in the end, he decided against it.

Early in 2012 it was again time to start thinking about Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and this time Don came to the conclusion that Lone Fox was the boat that he would charter.  Lone Fox had registered great success in the past and, as is always the case, the potential to win is a very important consideration when entering a regatta.  So Don got in touch with owner Ira Epstein, made arrangements to charter the boat, and then gathered his crew together.  Lone Fox being a true classic is a little bigger and a little more boat to handle than either Winsome or Libertine, so it was decided that in addition to having the owner on board, they would also require a couple of Ira’s crew to supplement Don’s usual group of sailors.

Once again Don entered the single-handed race, this time a little nervous at the amount of work that would be needed to get him around the course, but he managed a very respectable third place finish with which he was delighted.

When the Regatta got underway on Friday, the competition was tough but Lone Fox managed a second-place finish only 38 seconds behind Saphaedra.  Encouraged by the first day’s results, Don and crew were a little disappointed when the day 2 results were tallied.  They only managed to secure a third-place finish but it was again very close with only 46 seconds between first and third place in class, and Lone Fox finished only three seconds behind second-place Stormvogel.  After receiving the day's results, the owner of Lone Fox, Ira Epstein, decided that if he were to clean the bottom of the boat (which hadn’t been done prior to the start of the Regatta), they might be able to pick up those few extra critical seconds.  That proved to be an excellent idea as Lone Fox went on to take first place in each of the two remaining races, this time by significant margins of between 3 ½ and 5 minutes.  When the final results were tallied, the third-place finish on day 2 meant that the two wins on days 3 and 4 were only enough to secure a second place overall in the class.

Although a little disappointed with the second-place finish, the entire crew attended the prize giving ceremony on Tuesday night to proudly pick up their awards.  In the circumstances, they were quite surprised that Ira had changed his plans to leave Antigua on Tuesday in order to attend the prize giving that evening.  When Lone Fox was called to accept their second-place prizes, Ira was first on stage and collected the prizes including a large plate and a crystal decanter.  After the photos were taken, Don and his crew made their way towards the back of the crowd for the rest of the ceremony.  Ira, who still had the trophies in his possession, was nowhere to be seen.

When the prize giving ceremony was almost at its end, the time came to give out the final award - the Panerai Trophy - to be awarded to the boat with the best accumulated corrected time overall.  It is a much-coveted award as it comes with a beautiful and very valuable Panerai watch.  When the announcement was made, Don and crew were shocked – Lone Fox was named the winner of the Panerai Trophy and therefore the beautiful watch, something they had definitely not been expecting.  While they made their way from the back of the crowd onto the stage, Ira jumped on stage within seconds of the announcement where he was handed the Panerai watch.  Don and crew arrived on stage and were clearly delighted with winning the Panerai Trophy.  In the meantime, Ira disappeared off the other side of the stage with the watch and other prizes in hand.

When it became apparent what was happening, the crew confronted Ira and requested that he return the prizes to the rightful owner – Don Ward, who had chartered Lone Fox at considerable expense and who was therefore entitled to all prizes won during the Regatta.  Ira eventually handed over the decanter but kept the plate and, indeed, the watch.  By this time it was clear why Ira had changed his plans to leave Antigua on Tuesday – he had become aware of the fact that Lone Fox was going to be awarded the Panerai Trophy and he was determined to be there to collect the watch.

Shock and disappointment consumed Don and crew, not only for the remainder of the evening, but for weeks afterwards.  Don made every effort to try to secure return of the watch but initially Ira, who had now returned home to St. Barths, would not even respond to Don’s attempts at communication.  In the meantime, Don reviewed his charter contract and confirmed that there was nothing in the contract that entitled the owner of the boat to keep any prizes won by the charterer and he went on to seek legal advice on the matter.  However, it was still his preference to settle the matter in an amicable way.

Several weeks after Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2011 was over, Don was finally successful in making an arrangement with Ira whereby Don could purchase the watch from him for an amount that was at least the fair market value of the watch and upon receipt of a release signed by Don, Ira would hand it over to him.  The Panerai watch was picked up in St. Barths on May 19 and the matter is now closed.  Don was delighted to receive what was rightfully his and to be able to put the incident behind him.

Needless to say, the entire series of events left a very sour taste in the mouths of Don and crew and it will no doubt be remembered if any of them decide to charter in the future.

Congratulations to Don Ward and crew for a great Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2012 and for winning the Panerai Trophy!

Photo by Tim Wright/www.photoaction.com


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