Saturday, May 18, 2013

J/Sailors Relish Antigua Sailing

J/120 EL OCASO sailing Antigua Sailing Week (English Harbour, Antigua)- Few would doubt that the sailing waters around Antigua provide one of the best race tracks anywhere in the world and English and Falmouth Harbours offer some of the best facilities, hotels, restaurants and bars in the Caribbean.

However having the best ingredients for success is not enough. Combining those raw materials requires dedication and expertise and for a regatta, that should always start with the race management. Antigua Sailing Week's tag line is 'where sailing comes first' and above all else providing well-run, competitive racing has been the key to the regatta's success in recent years.

By Antiguan standards, weather conditions were lighter than usual with wind speeds varying from 10 to 20 knots during the week. Only one day produced fully powered Trade Wind weather but the full schedule of racing was completed and the lighter winds created some tactical conundrums for the competitors.

You could almost feel the tension on the dock as the fleet sailed out to battle for the last day of racing in Antigua's fabled race week. With many class winners yet to be decided, the pressure was heightened by tricky conditions.  The breeze was rarely more than 10 knots and there were huge wind holes appearing all over the racing area. However, the Race Committee did an excellent job getting in a fair race for all classes. Starts are always important, especially in light airs and several yachts could not control their urgency enough, resulting in several individual recalls and two general recalls. The last day of racing in the 46th Antigua Sailing Week was not for the faint hearted.

Beautiful sunshine, crystal clear blue skies and a gentle breeze produced a positive vibe for the first few days of racing, with grins all around on the sailor's faces after hours of racing in paradise-- just can't beat Caribbean-style sailing when the weather is simply so sweet!

J/120 El Ocaso- winning team from Miami, FloridaIn CSA 3 Racing, past J/105 owner, Phil Lotz, sailed his Arethusa to the class title by winning the last race.  Rick Wesslund’s J/120 EL OCASO struggled in the light airs and could only finish 6th in their last race to secure second for the series. Too bad, as after three days of racing, it seemed pretty certain that Wesslund's gang of merry-makers on EL OCASO were again ready to take silver in one of the longest running "classic Caribbean" regattas running.  In the end, Wesslund’s EL OCASO team may have lost the battle this time, but they won the sailing wars on the Caribbean, EL OCASO was named the CSA Travellers' Trophy for the most successful yacht in the most 2013 Caribbean regattas.

CSA 4 Racing produced one of the most competitive series of races at Antigua Sailing Week with four different yachts all winning races. The beautifully maintained J/39 SLEEPER VIII sailed by a crack team from the UK were keeping skipper/owner Jonty Layfield in the hunt for the top five, coming on strong in the end with a 1-3 score, good enough for 4th overall.

Finally, Tom Mullen and crew on the J/95 SHAMROCK VIII had yet another great year of sailing the 2013 Caribbean tour of regattas, placing yet again on the podium in CSA 6 Racing, taking third place overall.

In addition to the sailing, Antigua Sailing Week also offers fantastic after-race parties with some of the best bands and DJs entertaining the crowds late into the evening.

On Tuesday night or Lay Day eve, Nelson's Dockyard became a cool open-air night club for thousands of revelers with live music from Tian Winter and his Iconic band and DJ's Private Ryan of Trinidad and Woogie of the United States spinning dance tunes into the night.

Lay Day on Wednesday is more than just a day away from the race course. Pigeon Beach is walking distance from the main marinas and the Nonsuch Bay RS Elite Challenge provided a marvelous fleet racing spectacle for hundreds of spectators. Nonsuch Bay Resort also provided a fantastic beach barbecue under the watchful eye of its award winning Caribbean Chef of the Year, Mitchell Husbands.

The final awards party on Friday evening heralded the end of the week and crews gathered in Nelson's Dockyard for one final time along with dignitaries including Dame Louise Lake-Tack, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Honorable John Maginley, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, to celebrate the winners, dine on fantastic seafood and dance late into the night. Many crews commented that the grand finale was the best awards party they had ever attended, not just in Antigua but in the Caribbean.  For more Antigua Sailing Week sailing information