Pictures/Journal - page 8

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This page is all about the boats  . . .  not people  (so don't look for pictures of us here!)

 

English Harbour, Freemans Bay (southern most anchorage); overlooking Fort Berkeley

Used to careen (pull over on side) ships in 1700's to work on bottom

Falmouth Harbour: "empty" during races; marinas only partially visible

Star Wars-ish platinum Syl; lines and most winches are concealed below deck; did not race

Why bother with a dinghy...

ANTIGUA - APRIL 10, 2004:  We arrived in English Harbour around 9 a.m. after our night passage and anchored in the same area we had previously when we visited last December/January.  We had not expected to still be in the northern Leeward islands, but since we were, we decided we couldn't pass up the  Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the renowned Antigua Sailing Week, happening the last 2 weeks of April.  We met 2 new cruising couples upon arriving and were invited to Easter dinner onboard.  After spending several days in English Harbour, we moved ARGO over to Falmouth Harbour, which is a much larger, although not quite as scenic, harbor.  This is where most of the classic and race boats are kept.  We anchored just at the edge of the channel, so we have a front row seat for watching all the boats come in and out each day.  It is less than a 10 minute walk between the two harbors and regatta/race activities are located at both, with lots of restaurants and bars in between.  We also walk the docks at the four marinas frequently, getting a very up close look at all these beautiful - and BIG - sailboats.  Unlike St. Maarten, only a few mega-motoryachts here.  We have also met up with old cruising friends, and met many more, most who are also heading south.  A good meeting spot on the dock for racers and cruisers is the Skullduggery bar which serves up the popular Espresso Martini during happy hour (one shot each of espresso, Tia Maria, Cream de Cocoa, Stoli vodka, shake with ice, strain into martini glass).

The big serious classic/racing sailboats all have a "mother ship", or support yacht.  They travel together and are usually docked next to each other.  (Examples of race boats and their "mother ship" are Ranger & Georgia, Velsheda & Bystander (pictured at right), Chippewa & Arabella, Mari-Cha IV & Mari-Cha III).)  These support yachts are usually luxury mega-sailboats and are used to house and feed the crew, which typically may be 25 or more people.  It is cheaper for the owner of the race boat to own a second boat for this purpose, than it is for him to pay for lodging and restaurants ashore.  These boats typically have a skeleton crew that stays with the boat full time.  The owner flies in qualified racing crew from all over.  The racing talent here is significant, many coming from America's Cup crews, etc.  The majority of race boats here are UK and USA flagged, although the racers are also German, French, Italian, Canadian, Spanish and Swiss. 

Whereas the Heineken Regatta was "it's all about the beer" (the Heineken motto), here it's all about the free/cheap rum, t-shirts and coveted red caps.  The limited number of red baseball caps cannot be bought - the only way to get one was to attend the kick-off beach party and have a ticket (which takes some resourcefulness), but we did manage to get our caps.  It is said that the Antigua Sailing Week caps go for $200 - $250 on Ebay.  There are regatta/race related parties almost every afternoon or evening, some on the various beaches.  We were also invited to the Tot Club for our initiation.  Back in the old days, British sailors were given a ration of rum each day.  When it was discontinued, they rebelled and this tradition was born.  Everyday at 6:00 p.m., members stand in a circle, a toast is made to the Queen and then a "tot" of rum (Pussers) is consumed straight away.  And so we did. 

Most of the races started just outside of Falmouth Harbour over a 2 or 3 hour period.  With binoculars, VHF and cooler, we hiked up the hills to different spots, finding early on our favorite vantage point, near the water's edge under a  shade tree, usually right in front of a start line.  The boats would parade past us coming out and "warm up" just in front of us, and we could hear the winches grinding away.

 

Watching the mega race

 

Antigua Mega Yacht Challenge for sailing yachts over 100 ft. took place the first week, consisting of 3 races.  Quite impressive seeing all these huge sailboats, as we hiked up above  the fort in English Harbour to view.  Yes, many of the sailboats that compete in the Classic Yacht and Sailing Week races are also over 100 ft.

VisioneMorning Glory's mother ship, raced in Mega-Yacht Challenge (specks on deck are people)

 

Tall ships racing

Tree of Life (ctr) needed lots of wind to move it's massive wooden  hull

 

Some oldies but goodies

Old classic Camin,  Race Committee boat

 
Wooden spars Big Wooden spars Old Hinckley

 

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (www.antiguaclassics.com) is not only for the genuine classic boats built years ago, but also for the more modern vessels built in the traditional spirit with the classic lines, and for the traditional workboats of the past that are now sailing as yachts.  It was difficult telling the difference between the older and newer yachts.  Either way, they were very impressive.  There were three classic J-boats, one of which was built in 1928, Cambria (K4),  the famous Ranger (J5) (replica) and Velsheda (J/K7).  There were several tall ships that graced the race course for the initial race.  There were also many other authentic classics, some dating almost 100 years old and in immaculate condition (at least on the outside).  There were 58 boats participating for the 3 days of racing, with the three J-boats doing an additional race of their own.

Racing conditions started off with light winds on the first day, but picked up for the rest of the series.  The race series ended with a parade of boats through historic English Harbour, a very fitting finale for the Classic Yacht Regatta.

 
Ranger, classic J-boat  (replica), original scuttled after war, supposedly only surviving part being the transom which is serving as a bar in somebody's house.
Sleek Smiley face painted on  bottom Georgia, Ranger's mother ship
Dozens of dorades ... Dual controls, computer screens built in below Coffee-grinders out of view
     

 

Classic J-boats:

J-boats Velsheda (L) and Ranger (R); (Windrose (C))

Cambria (1928), pretty "little" J- boat

L-R: Windrose, Velsheda, Ranger, Cambria

Windrose (not a J)

 

 

 

Morning Glory, 1st place

 

Pyewacket, owned by Roy Disney

 

 

Antigua Sailing Week (www.sailingweek.com) is the most popular of all races in the Caribbean, attracting several hundred boats for the 5-day race series.  Racers tend to be a bit more serious than the Classic racers.  There are 19 race classes including six classes for bareboats (charter boats).  The most impressive class includes the high-tech boats (sorry, I don't have any close-ups of them) Morning Glory (German) and Pyewacket (USA) with the canting keels that we saw at the Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten; and the new Mari-Chi IV, a sleek 140' (20' draft, 32' beam, 146' schooner masts height) which is the fastest monohull in the world, crossing the Atlantic in a record setting 6 days last year.  Mari-Cha IV came back in one day with a chunk missing off the bottom of their plumb bow - must have been an exciting start!  We have seen broken masts, booms, fiberglass, fingers and legs - just more reasons not to race!  Deborah was at the hospital giving her rare-type blood at two in the morning for a racer seriously injured (interestingly, Antiguans don't have certain blood types so their blood bank was of no use in this case). 

The dual between Morning Glory and Pyewacket continued here, with Morning Glory coming in 1st in class and in fleet.  Mari-Cha IV didn't do too well, probably because it's strength is in longer stretches, whereas these race courses consisted of a lot of tacking/jibing.  (It did win the Guadeloupe-to-Antigua race earlier this week setting a record.)  Our cruiser-friend-turned-racer, Jeff & Wendy on Yocahu, a Swan 48' sporting 2 new hi-tech sails, did quite well coming in 1st several days.  In spite of not finishing one of the races due to a crew injury, they still managed to finish 5th in class.  Jeff was still excited knowing that he probably could have come in first.  He's now talking about doing the race circuit in the Mediterranean this summer.   

There must be about 90 bareboats racing here.  It is a scary sight seeing all these charter boats - I can say that now since we're cruisers - whether they're racing or anchoring next to us.  It's even scarier when they're flying a French flag.  That aside, we have thought how this Sailing Week would make for a great T.A.S.S. charter trip.  Most of the charter boats are from Sunsail (brought in from their many Caribbean bases) and some from the Moorings, and people from a variety of nationalities.   The bareboats have a special Bareboat Challenge race of their own on the last day, taking the top three finishers from each class.

 

 

Mari-Cha IV; patch over race damage visible lower bow

Mari-Cha IV, with it's 2 masts, dwarfs other turbo-sleds including Pyewacket & Morning Glory

 

Class of bareboats racing

The Sailing Week ended up with a big night of partying (we started it off with the Tot Club toast) and ended up at a huge dock party hosted by Chippewa and it's mother ship Arabella.  The dock in between the two boats had sizeable blow-up swimming pools full of iced-down beer and huge fishing coolers full of rum punch, and big speakers on Arabella's deck.  Even though Chippewa did finish 1st in class and took some other honors, this is apparently an annual event for them.  The following night was a gigantic local event, with a carnival atmosphere of games, marching police in formation, parking lot full of vendor BBQs and other food and drink, and they were still going strong at 4:00 in the morning (as we could hear all too well from bed).  The next day race and support boats started leaving, heading off to the next race, Virgin Islands, we think.  As the big boats leave the dock, they each sound their loud bass horns, and the others respond in kind repeatedly creating a huge symphonic farewell accolade that goes on for minutes.   Cruisers are also starting to head out, too (but we don't get the big-horn fanfare), and Antigua will then be left to the locals until after hurricane season.  

In between race weeks, Deborah has kept busy with filing an amended tax return, catching up on a whopping 80 hours of CPE for her CPA license, and going through a thousand digital pictures - that's the good thing/bad thing about digital cameras - for website update (usually takes her 3 "work" days for each update, this time 4 days).  See, cruising isn't all about sitting around drinking boat drinks all day long!  Steve has read several more books in the meantime.  Thank heavens, there have been no new boat projects to do here (I think what we did in St. Maarten should last us a year!).  Although we have immensely enjoyed the regattas and socializing with cruisers, racers and locals here and in St. Maarten over the past 4 months, we are ready to move south to Guadeloupe and beyond.  We are looking forward to finding some nice quiet anchorages where we can get away from it all for a while and give our livers a well-deserved rest!   I think it's time we start studying our French again . . .    . . .   . . .  as we sail to Guadeloupe . . .

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                                                                          Last updated 03/15/2009                                             

 

 

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