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Monday 9th January 2012

In very blustery Christmas wind conditions, a total of 32 boats crossed the start line for the 9th annual Nelson’s Pursuit Race on Saturday, December 31.  Considering the rough and windy conditions, an entry list only two boats shy of the number of starters in the previous few years can be considered an excellent turnout!

Colin Jones’ Columbia 34, Cydia, was the first and smallest boat to start which comes with the honour of flying the French flag.  Crossing the start line at only three seconds after her assigned time of 11 am, Cydia won the prize for the best small boat start.  The remainder of the boats in the race made up the British fleet, chasing Cydia around the course in an attempt to catch her before the finish line.  Cydia did an excellent job of keeping the fleet at bay until close to the end of the race when Virago steamed past on her way to the finish.  After that several other boats also tromped past, with the British fleet winning once again!  When all was said and done, Cydia finished in 17th place overall but 2nd in the Cruising Class!

The windy conditions presented challenges for the event organisers who finally managed to set the start mark within five minutes of the first start, and were still setting other marks on the course while boats were already half way to the mark’s location!  There was no grumbling by participants about ratings and start times because after running this race for so many years, the organisers do a remarkable job of getting boats to finish very close together which is, of course, the objective of the event.  Start times are staggered based on the size and speed of each boat, with the goal of having all boats finish at the same time.  Of course, performance and tactics are always a factor so it’s virtually impossible to achieve the goal of having all boats finish at the same time.  However, the top 20 boats all finished within 15 minutes of each other which is quite remarkable!

The windy conditions did create some havoc on the race course, however, with Carriacou sloop Summer Wind capsizing resulting in her entire crew standing on the keel in an effort to right the boat again.  Fortunately they were successful and no one was hurt, but needless to say they did not complete the race.  Three other boats also retired with various problems, none of which were serious.  And then there were three boats - Mariella, Hugo B and Spirit of Isis - that were ultimately disqualified after completing the race for not rounding the first mark of the course.  All three boats have participated in the event many times before and the course has not been changed since the inaugural race so they were slightly embarrassed.

It was a day for the big boats which always perform well in windy conditions and when the race was over, the Andrew 70 Safara, chartered by Pete Townsend of the rock band The Who, was first over the line, having started at 11:58 am and finished at 1:44:25 pm.  About two minutes behind was Aiyana, a Prototype 80, having started at 12:05 pm.

The prize-giving was held at the Officer’s Quarters in Nelson’s Dockyard, with Lord Nelson, aka Tommy Paterson, and his ever-loyal assistant Nicki Murphy handing out the bottles of English Harbour Rum to all participants, with the winners receiving English Harbour 5 year old!  Special prizes were awarded to Virago for the best big boat start – 7 seconds late – and for the best elapsed time with 88.44 minutes; Impulse was awarded the dreaded prize for last boat to finish; Scarlett Oyster was awarded Best British Boat; and Cydia took home an extra bottle of rum for best (and only) French boat!

The prize-giving was followed by the consumption of copious quantities of Chippy’s famous rum punch after which the Nelson’s Dockyard New Year’s Eve celebration got into full swing, highlighted by a spectacular fireworks display at midnight.  For anyone who hasn’t participated in this full day of excitement to send out the old year is missing one of Antigua’s most enjoyed events of every year!

Complete results can be viewed here.

Article by Kathy Lammers
Photos © Kevin Johnson

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