The grand finale for the Caribbean regatta season raises it curtain tomorrow morning when just under 200 boats go galloping off from the southern end of Antigua to Dickenson
Total entries at the close of the skippers' briefing was approximately 195 yachts from 29 countries including the event's first ever entry from Botswana a final count will not be made until first starting gun tomorrow morning but the fleet includes a record 23 yachts over 60 feet. The 2002 event saw 215 yachts frolicking around the Antiguan coastline.
With sand between their toes and rum drinks in their hands over 1000 people kicked off ASW 2003 as they reveled on Pigeon Beach at the Cavalier Rum Beach Party on Thursday night.
The fourteen classes will be led around Antigua lead by the big boats in division A. Arien van Vemde's Judel-Vrolijk 66 Sotto Voce looks set to be leading division A round the courses and with its performances in St Maarten's Heineken Regatta and the BVI Spring Regatta is in pole position to take Antigua's silverware as well as the fourth Caribbean Big Boat Series. Vemde who competed in ASW on his Swan 60 Sotto Voce in 1999 and 2001 and was third and second to Yes! and Sagamore respectively and will have his eyes on the prize this year.
The prime candidates to give Sotto Voce a run for her money will be Clay Deutsch's Swan 68 Chippewa and the 80-foot Swan Favonius owned by technology entrepreneur Roel Pieper who made a pretty penny when Tandem computers where he was a top-level executive was sold to Compaq Computers in 1997.
According to Marnix Lippens, navigator on Sotto Voce: "On handicap Chippewa definitely because they got two races off us in the BVI and they are really good. Equation is fast on the water and sometimes make a few mistakes which helps us but tomorrow with a lot of downwind they will be really fast and hard to beat." Jens Christensen is calling the shots on the boat.
Last year's fleet and class dominator Pyewacket is gearing up in the USA for the Transpac while the much-anticipated Titan XII, Tom Hill's new 75-foot Reichel-Pugh was launched on April 11 but "missed the window" for attending ASW with some rudder wrinkles. Jim Dolan's Sagamore is also not here to defend its crown.
Racing II will see five Swan 56s Lolita, Blue, Vellamo 2, Amerigo and Allianza - batlling it out with Richard Matthews' Corby 50 Flirt thrown in to the mix with Harold Cudmore as tactician. Flirt was modified after a less than illustrious first season in the UK and is still trying to find its form. However, it did win its class in the Rolex International Regatta with light winds and Andy Green from the GBR Challenge onboard. "The modifications are partly successful but I think they¹ve come in with a bulb that is too light against design and that needs to be modified before that boat can be really tricked out," said Cudmore. "It's still not worked out. It's got to be modified one more time, that's one of the dilemmas with one-off boats - you can get it wrong. She wasn¹t fast last year but she'll be better this year," he concluded referring the UK race season.
Meanwhile Frank Savage and his Lolita crew will be looking to beat Blue which knocked them from second to third in last year's Swan Cup on a tie-break. Vellamo 2 topped spinnaker 4 at St Maarten¹s Heineken Regatta.
Local Antiguan boat Lost Horizon II, fresh from Cape Air CORT (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle) victory, is defending its crown in racing III. However, another Antiguan boat Caccia Alla Volpe is joining this class this
year and has had a very strong season. Class winner in St Croix (beating Lost Horizon II), and third placer in St Maarten's Heineken Regatta with seconds in the BVI and St Thomas' Rolex International Regatta she will be tough competition for Jamie Dobbs and crew, particularly as those boats that beat her are not in Caccia¹s class in Antigua. IMX 40s Near Miss and L'Ange De Milon are also in this class together with Dougie Myers' Legacy. Four JOD 35s will also be 'one-design racing' as well as chasing class
Wally yacht Gibian, a 100-foot powerhouse, is scratch boat for racer/cruiser I. Fast.net, a Nautor 70, will be nipping at her heels together with Javelin, a Vaton 75, and last year's second placer in the class Bermudian Farr 72 Starr Trail which had a unfortunate DNF on the final race last year.
The three Formula I sailing 65-foot Farr Spirits - Juno, Minerva and Isis with Dixon 65 Liara, Swan 62 Constanter and Pocket Maxi Helsal 2, a veteran of 15 Sydney/Hobart races, round out the class.
Racer/cruiser II sees seven Swans take a majority share in the 12-boat class. With last year's winner Timbalero 2 not returning Jus Do It 2, a Beneteau 48 second to Timabalero last year, will be vying for podium honours along with UK Swan Celerity.
The top three places from last year are wide open in racer/cruiser III and King¹s Legend and Kimosabi will be battling it out for the number one slot left by last year's winner OysterCatcher XXIV; owner Richard Matthews is racing Flirt instead. They¹ll be up against Eddie Warden-Owen and David MacLean onboard Swan 59 Tazani. Both have sailed together onboard the Corel 45 Babalaas.
Eighty bareboats will be vying for bragging rights with the top three boats from each class competing in the new Bareboat Championship Challenge on Saturday. The man to beat will be Jan Soderberg the undisputed bareboat king on the Caribbean race courses and five-times overall bareboat winner at ASW.
With winds forecast East-south-easterly at 10 - 18kts over land and 15 - 22kts over open waters with occasional higher gusts, the fleet heads off tomorrow to Dickenson Bay. Both fleets will sail around the west coast with division A covering approximately 34 miles and division B 20 miles.
When they arrive, they'll be met by the 2nd Annual Great Dickenson Bay Beach Bash which has expanded its activities this year and started today with a weekend of music, Antiguan food and rum, celebrity cricket, yacht racing, fireworks and more.
"In this, my second year at the helm of the Antigua Sailing Week Committee, we have focused on how to maintain Antigua Sailing Week as a premiere regatta. In this regard, we have added a course for the competitors in the Race Division, and a new Championship Challenge for the Bareboat Classes. The Great Dickenson Bay Beach Bash, which was a huge success, will also have an expanded program this year. We have made an extensive effort of recreating the party atmosphere synonymous with the Antigua Sailing Weeks of years gone by,"
said Kraig Moore, regatta chairman.