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Friday 8th November 2013

For many people for many years there has been one regatta synonymous with any mention of the tiny island of Antigua - Antigua Sailing Week.  And for an island just 9 miles by 12 miles it certainly punches larger than its weight when it comes to first class yacht racing.

Although Antigua Sailing Week is the oldest Caribbean regatta, started in 1968 by a group of friends, it is still one of the most prestigious regattas that finds its way onto the bucket list of most sailors, as well as being a regular for countless skippers and crews each year.  The regatta offers competitive racing for all boat types and ensures all competitors will be on the water for between three and four hours of racing a day.  Aside from that being just enough racing for sailors to be completely enthralled by the trade winds and near perfect racing conditions of Antigua’s south coast, it’s also short enough to ensure they still have energy for the legendary parties that take place each evening after racing.  From international reggae bands and DJs to the best of local entertainment and after-race prize givings, Antigua Sailing Week consists of five packed days plus a lay day for participants to pour their energy into.  And believe us they will need it.

For those who prefer a different kind of poison, however, Antigua can literally serve up whatever anyone wants. Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, for example, features a wonderful variety of yachts including traditional craft from the islands, classic ketches, sloops, schooners and yawls which make up the bulk of the fleet, combined with the stunningly beautiful Spirit of Tradition yachts, J Class yachts, and sometimes even Tall Ships.  All of these yachts make a wonderful spectacle of sail and when combined with Antiguan hospitality, plenty of rum, sunshine, and great camaraderie in a friendly relaxed atmosphere, they place Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in a class of its own.

If offshore racing is your raison-d'être then the RORC Caribbean 600 which starts and finishes in Antigua is now one of the top five offshore races in the world and continues to increase in its appeal.  Why wouldn’t you want to race 600 miles in turquoise waters and perfect breezes around 12 Caribbean islands?  And far from being a breeze (so to speak), this race offers some of the most challenging conditions and tactical decisions of any race in the world – often beating to windward in 25 knot winds, surfing down 12-foot waves with a spinnaker when reaching from Barbuda to Redonda or drifting in the lee of Guadeloupe hoping to pick up the next thermal winds that may fill in from any direction.

If however you prefer more relaxed fun on the water, there are two events on the Antiguan yachting calendar that deliver not just great racing but plenty of memories off the water . . . if you don’t over-indulge in the rum that is!

The first of the two events takes place on New Year’s Eve, or Old Year’s Night as it is called locally, and is known as the Nelson’s Pursuit Race. The race commemorates Lord Nelson’s famous pursuit of the French fleet under the command of Admiral Pierre Villeneuve across the Atlantic in 1805, culminating in the blockade of Cadiz and the subsequent battle of Trafalgar, Nelson’s greatest victory, during which he was tragically shot and mortally wounded by a French sniper. The boat with the lowest rating sets off first at approximately 11 am (carrying the French flag) and the rest of the fleet follows in hot pursuit of the French boat, at assigned times based on their estimated speed around the course.  The winner of the race is the first boat to cross the finish line and every entry wins a bottle of rum.  Fun prizes for best period costume and the coveted scrimshaw plaque for the overall winner are awarded while competitors enjoy Chippy’s famous rum punch in the historic surroundings of Nelson’s Dockyard.  For those who wish to partake, dinner is available in the Dockyard followed by New Year celebrations with the final salute of fireworks at midnight.

And if one day of racing is just not enough, there is always the weekend-long Jolly Harbour Valentine’s Regatta which takes place mid-February each year.  An inclusive, fun regatta, it provides racing to suit everyone – from CSA classes to a Laser Pico fleet.  This regatta celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and is looking forward to its 21st in 2014.  It features racing held in the turquoise waters off the west coast of Antigua, followed by social events ashore after each day’s on-the-water activities.

But . . . if you only have a week or a few days for vacation, how can you participate?  Well, that is easy. There is a plethora of yacht charter options for you to choose from - from sleek performance yachts to bareboats, there really are yachts of every type at every price point available.  Below is just a very small selection of charter options.

First, Global Yacht Racing - owner Andy Middleton offers individual crew berths and whole boat charter options on superbly maintained and race prepared yachts throughout the Caribbean season.  EH01, a Beneteau 47.7, has had podium results in Antigua, St. Maarten and the British Virgin Islands and a First 40 has also had its fair share of wins.  Global offers skippered or owner’s representative charters only and emphasizes the quality of its preparation and maintenance.  Of the Caribbean regatta circuit Andy says:  ‘The Caribbean regatta circuit just keeps getting better. The weather is awesome, the locations are awesome and the organisers care enough about their events to try really hard, that’s a great combination.’

KA Yacht Charter offers a skippered boat but is happy for its clients to helm and call the shots. The cost of chartering the boat for Antigua Sailing Week includes a few days’ training beforehand. KA Yacht Charter has been competing and chartering at Antigua Sailing Week for the last 10 years.  In 2013 its fully race-prepared First 40.7, Coyote 2, finished as the top 40.7 in a fleet of five.  KA Yacht Charter offers first class service and a competitive race boat in mint condition with quality race sails at a very competitive price.

Antigua-based Ondeck offers yachts with skipper or owner’s representative onboard or as bareboats. The yachts include a Santa Cruz 37, Jeanneau 44, Beneteau First 40 and 40.7 and two Dehler 39s. They can match the boat to your requirements and budget and you have the benefit of a full on-the-ground management team that can assist with your logistics throughout the week.

Quokka 8, a very successful Grand Soleil 43, is run by Deep Blue Racing and last year completed the ARC in 3rd place overall.  Skippered by Philippe Falle, Quokka 8 has an enviable track record which includes winning the UK IRC Nationals outright and a top 10 overall finish in the Rolex Fastnet.  Philippe has been training teams for 11 years and has won the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Boat of the Year award, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and the Rolex Fastnet Race in class.  There are spaces available aboard Quokka for individuals for quality training and racing.

Talk about charter opportunities wouldn’t be complete without mention of Lucy and Christian Reynolds’ Performance Yacht Charter.  The company offers five different skippered or owner’s representative yachts for racing charters.  The fleet includes Swan 51 Northern Child, First 40 Southern Child, J120 El Ocaso, Swan 44 Selene and a First 47.7.  Lucy and Christian are both very accomplished sailors and superb racing skippers.  Their fleet has registered much success in regattas around the Caribbean including winning the coveted Lord Nelson Trophy at Antigua Sailing Week 2012, the RORC Caribbean 600 and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and they even boast a first overall in the ARC Transatlantic in 2011.

'Charisma' provides an opportunity to feel the magic of sailing with a modern legend in ocean racing!  Charisma is a beautiful 57-foot classic racing sloop designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built by Palmer Johnson in 1970.  Charisma represented the US team in the Admiral's Cup in 1973 and throughout the coming years became well known in US waters winning countless races. Since 2003 Charisma has been completely refitted and sailed around the world competing for the podium in all top regattas such as the Fastnet, Transpac and Sydney-Hobart. It’s available for individual or group charter including prior training days.

Of course world renowned Sunsail probably has the largest number of yachts available for competing at any event in Antigua and throughout the Caribbean.  Dream Yacht Charters has recently opened a base in Jolly Harbour, Antigua and will make boats from that base as well as from other Caribbean locations available for regattas such as Antigua Sailing Week.

For something a little different, Nonsuch Bay Resort, the luxury sailing resort on the east coast of Antigua, offers a regatta charter and accommodation package for its 24-foot RS Elite sailboats in Antigua Sailing Week.  The package includes accommodation for up to four people for 8 nights in a spacious two bedroom apartment close to the Resort’s beach, an RS Elite with racing sails to be raced by three sailors, race entry fees, mooring, shore support, and daily private transfers to and from the regatta.  Skipper, crew and catering options are offered as extras.  Rates are available upon request. 

If you are looking for a mothership or spectator boat for friends then Horizon Yacht Charters based in Jolly Harbour, Antigua offers yachts as motherships and spectator boats for all regattas.  You can select bareboat or fully crewed options plus captain only.  Horizon has a fleet of 13 charter yachts ranging in size from 33 to over 50 feet and from 2 cabins to 5 cabins.  It offers both monohull and multihull yachts and is flexible on start and finish days for your charter.

So there are no excuses for not participating because you don’t have time to sail your boat to the islands - choose an event, charter a yacht, book a flight and go!

For more details on yacht charters check out

For specific charters:

Global Yacht Racing
KA Yacht Charters
Horizon Yacht Charters
Quokka 8
Performance Yacht Charters
Dream Yacht Charters

Event Dates:

December 31, 2013 – Nelson’s Pursuit Race
February 14-16, 2014 – Jolly Harbour Valentine’s Regatta
February 24, 2014 – The RORC Caribbean 600
April 17-22, 2014 – Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
April 25, 2014 – Guadeloupe to Antigua Race
April 26, 2014 – Yachting World Round Antigua Race
April 27 – May 2, 2014 – Antigua Sailing Week

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