Richard Wesslund's J/120, El Ocaso was declared the overall winner of Antigua Sailing Week 2012 after winning seven straight races but the team was pushed hard all the way. Competitive well-managed racing was the big reason for the regatta's success this year. El Ocaso means sunset but after a week of smiles all around, Antigua Sailing Week looks to be very much on the rise as the must do regatta of the Caribbean circuit. The racing was spectacular and the shore side fun was just as memorable.
Antigua Sailing Week is the Caribbean's longest running and most prestigious sailing regatta and the 46th edition was an absolute cracker. Sailors come to Antigua Sailing Week from all over the world and this year was no exception with crew from over 20 nations coming to enjoy Caribbean racing at its very best.
The week of racing kicked off with a solid 20-25 knots of trade winds providing exhilarating sailing and no shortage of drama. In CSA1 class, the Race Committee elected to send the race boats to the Half Moon mark. The long beat into big seas offshore was rewarded with a downwind sleigh ride back. However before the sleigh ride there was high drama four miles offshore. Stefan Lehnert's Tripp 56 Passion 4 C broached after rounding the mark and in the commotion, the owner's son Phillip went overboard. Within seconds he was out of sight, hidden in the three-meter swell. After Passion4 C alerted yachts in the vicinity by VHF, all of the class stopped racing to search the area. Within minutes, Richard Matthews' Oyster 82, Zig Zag successfully recovered Phillip Lehnert who was uninjured. His father was a relieved man and once ashore delivered a crate of champagne to Zig Zag and a big thank you. After racing, redress was received by several yachts including Zig Zag, which was rightly awarded the race win. The quick response and good sportsmanship shown by the entire class was a true indication of the spirit of Antigua Sailing Week.
Big breeze provided spectacular surfing conditions for the second day of Antigua Sailing Week and a fantastic victory for Sir Hugh Bailey's Beneteau 456, Hugo B in CSA 4 class. Calvin Reed's First 40.7 Elandra won the class last year with straight bullets but Hugo B came out fighting this year and on Day Two of racing, the Antiguan team pulled off a dramatic win. In a photo finish, Hugo B corrected out to beat reigning class champion Elandra, helmed by John Linton, by just ten seconds.
Doctor John has been racing on Hugo B for 20 years. He comes from Seattle but ask any of the Bailey family and they will tell you he is an adopted son of Antigua. "That was just fantastic racing today; most of the time the competition was so close you could have reached out and touched them. Hugo B is 28 years old and a lot heavier than Elandra. If the wind keeps blowing we have a chance, so fingers crossed that these wonderful conditions continue but you can be sure that Hugo B will be giving it everything we've got."
The breeze kept up above 20 knots for the third consecutive day of the regatta. However the Ocean mark laid on Day Three for the big boats was a new addition. It took over 300 feet of line to lay the mark four miles off the leeward coast of Antigua. The sizeable yachts in CSA 1 class were an awesome sight, smashing through the start line to windward through the Caribbean surf and after rounding the Ocean mark, the yachts speared off downwind, bow up, accelerating off big waves to surf at speeds of 20 knots plus.
In CSA 1A class, Geoff Hill's Santa Cruz 72, Antipodes scored its first win of the regatta. Geoff Hill has been to Antigua Sailing Week many times before but surprisingly, this is the first visit to the Caribbean's longest running regatta for a true Australian sailing legend. At 85 years of age, Syd Fischer was probably the oldest competitor at Antigua Sailing Week. Syd shares a record of five America's Cup challenges and has won just about every classic yacht race going, including the Fastnet and the Sydney Hobart Race, which Fischer has competed in on 40 occasions.
'It's a long flight to get here from Australia but I have to say it has been worth it - great conditions similar to Hawaii when I used to compete there in the Kenwood Cup. This is my first visit to Antigua but I have enjoyed the sailing so far and it was great to get a win today. We have only had the boat for a very short time and it always takes a bit to get a new yacht up to speed.'
Racing always comes first at Antigua Sailing Week but ashore there was some truly memorable entertainment and the highlight of this year's live music entertainment was "The son of Bob". Ky-Mani Marley played to over 2,000 people in the party venue of Antigua Sailing Week, Nelson's Dockyard.
Ky-Mani judged the mood of the crowd to perfection, concentrating on renditions of his father's biggest hits with the crowd fully getting into
anthems: Jamming, Could you be loved, Is this love, Three Little Birds and the thought provoking hits, No woman no cry and Redemption Song. Marley played for over two hours and the massive crowd left the Dockyard buoyed by a fantastic experience.
After three days of scintillating race action, well over a thousand people gathered at Pigeon Beach for Lay Day. The quarter-mile of white sand was brimming with local vendors barbequing chicken, lobster and fish and a fair amount of Carib Beer and English Harbour 5 year old rum was consumed during the day and into the evening. Pigeon Beach was the perfect place to unwind and go for a swim. For the more energetic, stand up paddle boarding, rowing with the Sea Cadets and dinghy racing with Antigua's National Sailing Academy were all on offer.
Beach cricket was a very popular pastime and was highlighted by the participation of famous Antiguan cricketers Sir Vivian Richards, Curtly Ambrose and Kenny Benjamin. The gorgeous Carib girls also joined in the fun. Music from DJs Purist and Stiffla played into the evening ensuring a great night was had by all.
The fourth day of racing at Antigua Sailing Week was held in slightly more moderate breeze and it was a thrilling return to action after Lay Day. All week CSA 2 was a highly competitive class and on Day Four, Ulrich Rohde's Swan 53, Dragon Fly Plus, won both races but only just. In the fifth race of the series, Chris Brand's Swan 53, Merel Four took line honours but could only watch with despair as Dragon Fly Plus came through the line 21 seconds later to take the win on corrected time. Andy Middleton's First 47.7, Global Yacht Racing was extremely fast downwind and took third place in Race 5. The last race of the day was an even closer affair with Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster just missing out on a win. Christian Reynolds' Swan 51, Northern Child got an excellent start to the last race hitting the line with full pace to take third place.
In the Bareboat Class, the titanic struggle between three German yachts from
KH+P continued throughout the regatta. For the penultimate race of the
series, the Race Committee elected to send the Bareboats on a long three-hour course. Horst Schulze's Sea You Later won the race by just 34 seconds from Alexander Pfeiffer's L'Oiseau des Iles. Andreas Kadelbach's Cayenne was third. All three of these yachts occupied the top three places in the seven-race series, often overlapped as they went through the finish line.
On the last day of racing at Antigua Sailing Week, victories in two classes went to the wire.
In CSA 1A class there was a nail-biting finale to Antigua Sailing Week.
Geoff Hill's Santa Cruz 72, Antipodes won the last race of the day to take the division. Geoff Hill spoke dockside in Falmouth Harbour. "This is the first time we have raced the yacht and to be honest we could have done with another week to get her ready for racing. We have been tuning her up as we raced and the team has done a great job. I have been to Antigua Sailing Week before but not for about seven years and I have to say we have received a very friendly welcome from the race organisers and all of the Antipodes team are looking forward to tonight's prize giving."
In CSA 5 class, Geoffrey Pidduck's Six Metre, Biwi Magic came out on top in the last race of the series to win the class, after a titanic struggle with Stephen Carson's Dehler 34, Hightide. "The decisive moment today was the start. Blue Peter was lee-bowing Hightide and I was taking the lee-bow off Blue Peter but because we can point much higher than both of them, Biwi Magic got right over the top of them and we made the top mark first. Hightide should have caught up downwind but they chose to go inshore and got caught up in traffic while we stayed in clear air pointing directly at the mark and that was that really. It has been a fantastic week of racing but I have to say I was kicking myself yesterday when I rounded a mark the wrong way and had to go back. We could have thrown away the win there and then. It is great to win and I am sure I will be enjoying an English Harbour rum very shortly at the Antigua Yacht Club."
At the Final Awards Ceremony in Nelson's Dockyard, Richard Wesslund's J/120 El Ocaso was awarded the Lord Nelson Trophy for the best overall performance of any yacht during Antigua Sailing Week 2012. El Ocaso scored seven straight wins in CSA 4 Class but it was far from easy. Most of the races were decided by less than a minute and on several occasions by just a few seconds. El Ocaso has had a fantastic Caribbean season winning regattas in St. Maarten, BVI and finally Antigua Sailing Week.
"It has been our best season ever and winning the Lord Nelson Trophy really caps it off," said El Ocaso's Richard Wesslund. "This has been the most competitive regatta by far, we have been pushed hard in every race, often winning by just a fraction of a second. Every year the crew votes on the events we will compete in and Antigua Sailing Week was top of the list. The race management and shoreside have been absolutely first class which is so important. I would like to offer my congratulations to the management team of Antigua Sailing Week - they have put on a fantastic event."
A final mention must be go to the multihull class. Peter Aschenbrenner's 63-foot trimaran Paradox reveled in the big breeze, pulling the trigger and fully launching the ballistic multihull all week. However, it would have been great to see other high performance multihulls this year. Paradox's closest competition was Robbie Ferron's Katzenellenbogen, which was half the speed of Paradox and entered into the spirit of the mismatch by trawling fishing lines all week! Hopefully next year Paradox will have some closer competition.
The 47th Antigua Sailing Week will take place from April 28th to May 3, 2013, with the optional Yachting World Round Antigua Race slated for the 27th of April.