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Tuesday 27th March 2012

Year 2 of the eagerly anticipated AYC West Indies Sail found fresh to strong trade winds crackling the flags and bunting of the assembled fleet of West Indies Traditional Sail craft.

This annual fund raising event for Antigua and Barbuda's National Sailing Academy comes close on the heels of the very successful RORC Caribbean 600 race and The Anchorage Hare and Tortoise swim also raising funds this year and awareness of the National Sailing Academy, the swim now in its 6th year.

This year's fleet comprised of sloops Genesis, Summer Cloud, Ocean Nomad supported by the recently rebuilt Summer Wind looking a picture of perfection. The Nevis schooner Alexander Hamilton completed the colourful spectacle. Other well known names like Pipedream with Tradition and Good Expectation are now day chartering out of Anguilla and St Lucia respectively. Almost winner last year Sweet Heart still undergoing a comprehensive rebuild, in the capable hands of that old friend of the fleet master shipwright Alford Cochrane of Urlings village, which should guarantee her long term future but kept her from the fun this year at the AYC.

Saturday evening found the fleet assembled, crews and visitors thronged the yacht club dock as the early moon was out-shone by a big screen on the dock and a great film show thanks to the inimitable Alexis Andrews owner of Genesis. The eager crowds were delighted by the most entertaining film of the Carriacou regatta 2010. With the full length documentary Vanishing Sail in the making all gathered were teased by an unforgettable promotional trailer.  Hugely evocative for sailors and traditional enthusiasts but with undeniable appeal to a much wider audience.

Supported by a great BBQ organized by AYC commodore Elizabeth Jordan it proved a memorable evening for all.

Sunday’s race started at 14.00 but not before the strong weather took its toll. Sadly Ocean Nomad succumbed to rising sea and strong trades gusting to 25kts lost her wooden rig over board, fortunately no injuries and little damage.  Todd and his crew managed to recover the broken mast, no easy feat in those conditions.  Summer Cloud snorting like a thorough bread steed threw over her traces and would have none of it.  She had to retire, not really her conditions but Andrew and his merry crew gave it a go and all thanks to them. With Summer Wind not starting it was down to Genesis and Alexander Hamilton to keep the race alive which they did in fine style. But was it a schooner breeze for sure?

With the start boat doubling as roving mark boat and photography platform for renowned marine photographer Den Phillips, with husband Dickie driving, certain ambiguity of purpose left Alexander Hamilton charging off in the direction of Guadeloupe for tea! Leaving the mark boat in their wake. Genesis sporting a reef in the main then took the opportunity to gibe for the Rendezvous mark which gave them an unassailable lead on the water.  With Alexander Hamilton’s fore deck man, 71 years young single hander Lee Werth from the pocket schooner Renegade tacking the jib in a flashing blur of sheet and flesh, the beat back took its inevitable toll on the Nevis schooner but managed to finish just 15 minutes behind Genesis and having started more than 20 minutes late, due in part to a visit to the casualty Ocean Nomad to render assistance. Perhaps it was a schooner's breeze after all we will never know as the race was rightfully declared a draw. But the fun afloat continued back on the dock with all skippers thankfully arriving back in time for the briefing which was of course closely followed by the crew debriefing where the fleet safety officer, to everyone’s surprise and chagrin, declared the urgent need to dispose of out of date rhum.  All crews involved bent to the task despite the rigors of the day ably assisted by yacht club volunteers.

So another great little regatta over till next year but Antigua Classics around the corner and the St Barth West Indies Regatta to close the season in early May, come and have some fun and support West Indies Heritage Sail .

By Ray Linnington, owner of Alexander Hamilton  16.03.12.  Photos by Justin Sihera.

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