What a finale for the last day of the 35th annual Antigua Sailing Week.
Winds topping 24 knots and the Atlantic Ocean rolling in to the cliffs below Shirley Heights certainly gave all the crews a demanding last day which ending in disaster for some and sweet victory for others.
Excitement at the prospect of big winds may have dissipated for some as they headed up the beat along the cliffs of Shirley Heights from the start off Falmouth Harbour and encountered the full strength of the wind and the big seas. Many hugged the coastline looking for lifts and to avoid the current as they beat to "Africa" - and in fact many used the shelter of Shirley Heights to drop their spinnakers before rounding the downwind mark "Hercules". But heading too far in was rewarded with some "crashtack-esque" headers leaving hiking crew on their new leeward rail.
Some decided that discretion was the better part of valour and didn't even raise their chutes. Some that did soon wished that they hadn't. Local Antiguan boat Caccia Alla Volpe suffered a knock down broach in the "Africa" area and although nothing was damaged continued downwind under main only and straight back to the dock. Orfeo shredded its spinnaker and Aera's genoa parted from its luff in a very sedate manner as it started to unzip itself tack first.
BVI boat Pipe Dream, after a storming downwind leg, was looking very strong but dismasted on the way back upwind. Two boats sailing in the Bareboat classes lost their mast and while Celerity, Stuart Robinson's Swan 48 sailing in Racer/Cruiser II didn't lose its mast, it went a very funny shape and forced them to retire. Starr Trail, leading its class going into today's retired with an injured crew member.
Gwadloupe Challenge, a Jeanneau One Design, lost two crew members overboard but was able to recover them and retired. The finishing numbers overall were somewhat depleted as some didn't start and some didn't finish.
Pyewacket, a fast charging sled, got faster as the winds got heavier and tied up Big Boat class, first overall and the Caribbean Big Boat Series (CBBS) Racing Division, eight minutes ahead of Titan, Tom Hill's Andrews 70, that was also reveling in the conditions. Peter Ogden's Spirit Of Jethou was third today. With Pyewacket first, Spirit Of Jethou was second in class and Chippewa was third.
Pyewacket's owner Roy E. Disney felt that the competition was a little stronger in Antigua than it was in St Maarten and the BVI - the other two legs of the CBBS. "But I would loved to have had a few boats little closer to us," said Mr Disney. "It's harder to sail consistently well and fast when there's no one to compare yourself to."
"We've been spoiled by winning so consistently. That [loss on Tuesday] was our first and only," he added.
In racing II, Lolita, Frank Savage's Swan 48 Lolita beat UK Swam Noonmark VI by two minutes but it wasn't enough to regain its top slot in class from last year. Class victory went to Noonmark. Brigadoon VII, fourth today, took third in class. Spirit Of Jethou was second overall and Noonmark was third.
One of the more depleted classes today was Racing III which only saw four finishers. Antigua's Jamie Dobbs sailing his surfboard Olson 30 Lost Horizon II racked up his fifth win of the regatta and flew downwind as did his rivals J/34 Garbo, Mumm 30 Twisted Lizard and Beneteau 34 Montebello. Second place in this surfing contest went to Garbo by a slim margin of just under 45 seconds. Twisted Lizard was third but took second in class and Montebello was third in class. Red Fever, seven points adrift of a placing decided not to race "to save the boat" and some of the crew went to join fellow Puerto Rican boat Titan.
No-one started in Sport Boat
Fate saw some different names in the top three scoring for Racer/Cruiser I today. After Starr Trail's withdrawal, first place was a given barring disaster for Charles Dolan's Encore. The Formula 1 Sailing Farr 65 was the first boat to fill the vacuum and took second place and Swan 60 Fenix was third. With Starr Trail out of the running, Encore saved its class win this year but Starr Trail, despite her nine points today was second. Orfeo, who'd suffered the shredded spinnaker today, was third in class and also topped the Racer/Cruiser class in the CBBS - a new class introduced to the series for the first time this year.
Racer/Cruiser II also saw a bit of a table turning with Timbalero 2 dropping its first race of the regatta and coming fifth. British Swan 48 Hinano took its first victory, Jus' Do It, a Beneteau 47s7, was second and Sequoia, a J/46 from the USA skippered by Patrick Quigley was third. Antiguan 6 Meter Trouble was beaten over the line by close rival Flechette - in what has been a closely contested battle in Racer/Cruiser III - but Trouble came out on top on corrected time. Trouble was four points ahead of Flechette on the start line today and in what looked like a little bit of gamesmanhip, Flechette raised the red flag on Trouble soon after the start over a port/starboard crossing but the protest never left the race course. Class scores at the end of the day were Trouble first, Flechette second and British Beneteau 42 Hullabuloo sailing out of the BVI third.
In proof that consistency pays, Encore won Racer/Cruiser overall, Trouble was second and Timbalero 2 was third - a democratic finish with each class represented.
Although second today, Hugh Bailey won Racer/Cruiser in the non-spinnaker division and Carroll Garland, first today, was second sailing Bravo. Sky Hunter, a British J/42 was third in class.
Richard Matthews sailing with his dream team of Harold Cudmore and the yacht's designer Rob Humphreys on Oyster Catcher XXIV added another win to his others today in Cruising I, Samoa was second and Kimosabi was third (and third in class). King's Legend, despite a fourth today, was second in class.
British Najad 37 Galatea of Southampton notched up a win in Cruising II and a class win today; although probably always in the lead it was not until yesterday that it became clear that Gaid Pratt had probably not been starting in the right class in at least some of the races and had been receiving a 20 minute time benefit by starting two classes before its own. Alliance was second and Pumkin, sailing out of Jolly Harbour was third. And these were the final class winners too.
As of Friday evening Oyster Catcher XXIV and Galatea of Southampton were tying for the Cruising fleet award and Alliance was third.
Jan Soderberg and his crew aboard their Moorings 445 Waisters racked up their sixth consecutive win in their Bareboat class and the overall prize. In his thirteenth year of attending Antigua Sailing Week "good sailing, good fun, good weather, great wind" and a chance to be with his friends keeps bringing him back. "This is absolutely great sailing down here and the race committee is doing a fabulous job with laying the courses and getting the starts off," he said.
Having known some of his crew for 37 years (since school) and sailed together with them for 23 years he has a pretty tight crew which include the North American J/24 champion and his father and mother but they did make mistakes. "We didn't re-trim the boat when the waves started to build. That cost us the first place yesterday. We got a first in class and third overall. We should have won that too but we were just lazy," he said ruefully. "And we missed one buoy when they reset the Ocean buoy on Tuesday. We just followed the two leading boats and we beat them anyway but that was just stupid because there were a lot of buoys around the same area. We just sailed further."
Marauder III won Bareboat I followed by Enos and Mamora. Bareboat II went to Juniclara followed by Believe and Carmen who were joint second. Milos, Ann B Star and Jecy were first second and third in Bareboat III respectively while Deimos was followed Ti Goyave and Roucou in Bareboat IV. Monet and Beril rounded out Jan Soderberg's Bareboat V and Teranga Sailing Roma won Bareboat VI with Belle Isle Sailing Roma second and Magnolia third.