Friday, April 15, 2016 – The first day of racing at Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, sponsored by Panerai, was blessed with a perfect breeze of about 12 knots from the south-east. The glorious conditions came as somewhat of a surprise to the competitors as for several days weather forecasts had predicted a complete shut down in the breeze but five knots of true wind from the east was enhanced by a weak thermal breeze and Mother Nature smiled on Antigua Classics for the first day of racing. Classic yachts by definition are moderate to heavy displacement, and in today’s conditions, teams that performed well, kept up their boat speed through precision trimming and driving and remaining focused on the subtle changes in conditions around them.
The race committee set a course of roughly 11 miles, as opposed to the usual 20-mile Old Road course. All competitors enjoyed a reaching start from outside Falmouth Harbour to a laid mark, two miles offshore followed by a downwind leg to Old Road Bluff and a beat back to the starting area. The penultimate leg was a two-mile reach offshore, with a reciprocal reach to the finish.
Two of today’s top performers came from the Vintage Racing Class. Mat Barker’s 1930 Alfred Mylne 65ft cutter, The Blue Peter, was the winner of Vintage Class A and scored the best corrected time of the Vintage Class Division. “Today’s conditions really suited The Blue Peter,” commented Mat Barker. “ Flat water and a gentle breeze is exactly what we want. With full main and a big head sail, the boat just loves it. We are normally chasing the big ketches at Classics which fly in lots of wind, but today we had to use a lot of skill. You need decent sails and you need to trim them properly, we have several new sails and people on board who know how to trim them. The crew work was great today; getting the weight distribution right and keeping alert for changes in the wind were very important, as well as keeping a look out for the big yachts, they can throw out a wind shadow the size of Luxembourg.”
In Vintage Class B, Cameron Fraser’s Kettenburg Pacific Cruiser, Janley was the winner and also second in the Vintage Class Division. Griffith Williams’ Seefalke II was second and showed great spirit by cheering Janley as they approached the dock. Peter Jorgsholm’s Bellona was third as the 1925 Danish ketch struggled today against lighter more manoeuvrable opposition.
Cameron and Maggie Fraser brought Janley to Woodstock Boatyard in Antigua in 2014 for a full restoration and Antigua Classics is the first time Janley has been raced in 15 years. Cameron was absolutely delighted with the win. “Taking line honours today was enough but winning our first race is just unbelievable,“ smiled Cameron. “We got a good start and put in two good legs but the beat on the third leg was where we pulled away from Seefalke. Even in just eight knots of wind we were powered up and we played the lifts in the bays very well to make it a one tack beat. It was such a joy to race her after many months of work. Today made that all worthwhile.”
The closest racing on the first day of Antigua Classics was in the Traditional Racing Class. Four Carriacou sloops enjoyed a close battle on the water with less than five minutes separating the top three boats after two hours of racing. Alexis Andrews’ Genesis, which has won the class for the last three years, was third behind debutant Free of St. Barths, skippered by Nicolas Fazio. In first place, by just over two minutes, was Steve Glascock & Barbara van Beuren’s Zemi. The American co-skippers have never raced a Carriacou sloop before and chartered Zemi for the regatta.
“We have always wanted to sail a traditional boat at Classics and we have been coming from nine years,” commented Steve Glascock. “We wanted to sail on a local boat because it is perfectly designed for the wind and water of the Caribbean and we love traditional yacht design, I am a trustee of the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, Rhode Island. Over the years we have noticed that the traditional sloops have great racing and the sailors are great company on and off the water. The racing today was fantastic, we didn’t expect the wind we had, so it felt just perfect but we were far from perfect. Other boats flew their spinnaker on the last leg and we did not, which we would definitely change. The Carriacou is a great traditional boat and a lot of fun to race, we hope that we are giving the class some support.”
Shoreside activities commence as soon as the classic yachts arrive at the Antigua Yacht Club dock; The Presidente Beer Garden is open for business. Tonight, Mount Gay Rum is running a Cocktail Competition and complimentary drinks for thirsty sailors. Live on the main stage tonight is Brooklyn New York folk duo, Stell & Snuggs, and Gerard Knight’s Acoustic Rock set.