Lolita, the Swan 56 owned by Frank Savage, has already signed up to defend its title at the granddaddy of them all - Antigua Sailing Week 2004 (ASW04).
She topped this year's regatta winning her class and best overall in the racing division taking home the Lord Nelson's Cup. She easily won her class scoring a total of only eight points in six races. But the battle for top slot next year is going to be tough with two other winning skippers already registered and record-breaking machines expected.
The two other Antigua Sailing Week winners also registered are Roy E. DISNEY and Dr Hasso PLATTNER. Both will be sailing their respective new MaxZ86s Pyewacket and Morning Glory. Roy E. DISNEY is a recent convert to Caribbean racing. In 2002, sailing the Reichel Pugh 72 Pyewacket in the Caribbean for the first time, he won his class in Antigua Sailing Week with five firsts and one second. He also took top honors in the Caribbean Big Boat Series winning every race of the series with the exception of the one race in Antigua where he finished second behind UK Swan 60, Spirit of Jethou. Plattner, on the other hand, is an old hand having visited Antigua for many years with his succession of Morning Glorys, most recently topping the regatta in 2001.
These new MaxZ86 class boats are designed by Bill LEE. They have canting keels and a sail plan bigger than an America's Cup Class boat. The MaxZ86 class will be racing on the global circuit, which includes the 2004 Caribbean Big Boat Series. Class organizers are hoping that these boats will be the world's new record breakers.
Although not registered to date, Robert MILLER'S Mari-Cha IV and Peter HARRISON'S Sojana are expected to be part of the racing scene in Antigua. Mari-Cha IV is 139 feet of pure speed and recently smashed the transatlantic record as well as the 24-hour record. It destroyed the trans-Atlantic record by over two days and covered 525.5 nautical miles in 24 hours. Made from pre-preg carbon and Nomex construction, this five-sail schooner has a 21-foot canting keep and ten tonnes of water ballast to counteract the all-up sail areas in excess of 16,800 square feet. Rumour has it that Mari-Cha's owner Robert MILLER has his eye on the Guadeloupe to Antigua record. The Antigua to Newport record of 94 hours, 31 minutes and 58 seconds set by Tracey EDWARD's Maiden II (ex-Club Med) is also up for grabs.
Sojana is a 115-foot Bruce FARR and Russ BOWLER designed light displacement, fast cruising ketch. She carries a 144 foot carbon fibre main mast with 2982 square feet of sail area together with a huge118 foot mizzen mast carrying 2,153 square feet of sail area and a 2379 square foot jib. Like Mari-Cha IV, Sojana is constructed from pre-preg carbon and Nomex.
Perennial Caribbean racer, Bill ALCOTT will joining these leviathans on the start line with his 70-foot turbo sled Equation.
First to register for 2004 was a boat well known in the southern Caribbean racing circuit. It has been a number of years since Doug MEYER and his Soverel 43 Legacy missed a major event in Antigua. It appears that this coming year will be no exception.
"We're anticipating an unbelievable spectacle off the shores of Antigua next year,"
said Jan SANTOS vice chairman of Antigua Sailing Week. "The big boats are going to be a big, fast, impressive sight to behold beneath Shirley Heights. Big boats entries are always a bellwether for the rest of the fleet so we're expecting a good turnout of boats generally next year."
As some prepare for Christmas, the organizing committee is making plans for ASW04. The website, which is available at the address below, has been updated to provide sailors with all the information that they need to plan their Antigua Sailing Week and to register on line.
ASW04 opens it doors with on-site registration on 12 April. Thursday, 23 April is the Guadeloupe to Antigua Race followed by the Cavalier Rum Beach Party at Pigeon Beach, Falmouth Harbour. On 24 April, the winners of the Schools Art Competition will be on display at Admiral's Inn. 25 April at 1700h is the skippers' briefing and then the real fun begins.
Sunday, April 25th is the Dickenson Bay Race followed by the Great Dickenson Bay Beach Bash. Monday, Division A yachts will race Olympic courses off Dickenson Bay and Division B will race to Jolly Harbour which is also the site of the Captain's Cocktail Party. Tuesday is the Falmouth Harbour Race, which is followed by Lay-Day fun on Wednesday at Antigua Yacht Club. Thursday, the yachts are back on the ocean with Division A racing windward/leeward courses and Division B sailing the South Coast Race. Friday marks the last official day of racing with the Ocean Race. Saturday the prize giving is preceded with the Second Annual Bareboat Challenge Championship Race.
The Lord Nelson's Ball and prize giving wraps the event on Saturday evening.