Beautiful Start (Photo © Tim Wright / Photoaction.com )

Nelson’s Dockyard was the quintessential venue for the 30th celebration of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta sponsored by Panerai. For the final evening of a jam-packed week, the historic grounds blossomed with lights, tents, and a magnificent stage filled with glittering trophies.

The evening set for honouring a fleet of winners began with the beating drums of the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Band. Captains, crew and revellers congregated before the stage, anxiously awaiting the results of races and special presentations to outstanding yachts and sailors.

The Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Dr. Rodney Williams, acknowledged the significance of holding the ACYR in the recently designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. “We are honoured that almost 50 classic yachts have come to Antigua from all corners of the world, mostly under sail,” he said. “I understand one of you quoted “wooden boat enthusiasts or gluttons for punishment? Is there any difference?

This year’s entertaining announcer was Tommy Paterson, assisted by a Mount Gay rum and ginger ale. Praise and appreciation were given to Shannon Falcone’s committee boat and to Archie Bailey, Winston and Janeild for their excellent work in setting the marks each day. One by one, sailors took the stage as winners were announced. Dress for the evening was varied. Most teams sported clean crew shirts but some donned evening attire while the crew of the 52’ Skagen gaff ketch Samsara pirated the stage with swords held high, a clear winner of the prize for Best Dressed Crew. The men and women of the 77’ Fife yawl Latifa regaled the audience in floral pareos.

Winner of the Seahorse Studio Trophy for Spirit of the Regatta was 66′ Faiaoahe

Highlights from the evening included the presentation of the Kenny Coombs Memorial Trophy to the 42’ Carriacou Sloop Genesis; the Anne Wallis-White Trophy for Smallest boat awarded to the 30’ Alden Cutter, Calypso; and winner of the Seahorse Studio Trophy for Spirit of the Regatta was Faiaoahe, a 66’ Spirit of Tradition sloop. Full results are available at www.antiguaclassics.com79’ Fife yawl Mariella won the Mount Gay Rum Trophy and coveted Panerai watch

It was most fitting, that after an extensive refit in Italy, the Antigua flagged 79’ Fife yawl Mariella, returned to Antigua to win the Mount Gay Rum Trophy, winner of the most competitive class. Topping that outstanding accomplishment, she also won the coveted Panerai watch, awarded to the boat with the lowest total corrected time from Traditional,Vintage or Classic Class. Carlo Falcone and his army of supportive crew took the stage for a well-deserved photo op and an explosion of cheer from the crowd.

Cannons shot off, ship horns blasted and the sky filled with fireworks. Music erupted from the lively band The Strays and the party took off in style. When it ended is a well-kept secret.
At the end of Race 4, there was a unanimous decision amongst the fleet that the Regatta Committee ordered and received flawless weather. Wind speed started today at 16 knots climbing steadily to the low 20s, turning the last day of racing into a grand finale. Nearly 50 yachts, with sun, clear skies and the Caribbean’s sassy seas turned the waters off Antigua into an artistic masterpiece. For those following the race through the lens of a camera, it was a dream come true.

Spirit of Bermuda’s spinnaker was the most notable
On the Windward course, flying sails popped out for the broad reach after the first mark. The three-masted schooner Spirit of Bermuda’s spinnaker was the most notable, emblazoned with a dark and stormy seal, until it self destructed and took a swim.

Dramatic close calls today
There were some dramatic close calls today – nicely executed, of course! Rounding the mark at Old Road Bluff saw a few traffic jams as boats hardened up for the beat while manoeuvering between the beach and tight tacking duels. It was definitely not the place for indecision.

Upwind work was wet and wild and on the final reach, knot-metres got a workout, some hitting the mid teens. Every boat fought hard and no matter what the numbers say, everyone finished a winner for taking part in the 30th Antigua Classic Regatta. Full race results can be seen at www.antiguaclassics.com

Yachts came to Antigua with purpose. Rittler Sighe, owner of Tilly XV, gave up a quest to scale the 7 summits of the world, replacing it with sailing his Sonderklasse Gaff Sloop at all 7 Panerai Classic Regattas.

You’re not going to find a collection of boats like this anywhere else
Class Lehmann and Sophie Heyer on Hera, their Abeking and Rasmussan yawl, sailed across the Atlantic in December with their 6-week-old daughter to take part. Judging by the party near their boat each afternoon, it was well worth the effort.

Praise for this year’s ACYR is flowing like beer in the Presidente Garden. Michael Higgins of the gaff rigged cutter Samara T said of this year’s event, “Fantastic. Great to be here in Nelson’s Dockyard. So wonderfully unique. You’re not going to find a collection of boats like this anywhere else.”

Mike Brown, the owner of the 50’ Hedges headsail schooner, Russamee added, “It’s an endless sailing party. How could you ask for anything better? I guess we’ll know more after tonight!”

Spirit of Tradition yachts – photo by Ted Martin
Four boats finished today holding all firsts: the 42’ German Frers Vagabundo II; Adix, a 178’ Holgate 3 Masted Gaff Schooner; Chloe Giselle, a Sean McMillan 65 Spirit Sloop; and Chronos the 157’ Klaus Roder Staysail Ketch. Their victories will be celebrated tonight along with dozens more at the glamorous Trophy Presentation and Party on the lawn of Nelson’s Dockyard in front of the Copper and Lumber Store. Before it starts, an amazing slideshow of top photographic shots on the big screen will give the audience a chance to relive the week.

The sailing is over but not the need to party
The sailing is over but not the need to party with friends old and new. Live music from The Strays will kick off a night that everyone hopes will never end.

The Gig Racing and Cream Teas take place tomorrow afternoon at the Admiral’s Inn. It’s a do-not-miss event with sailing, sinking and plenty of humour.