The Yachting World Round Antigua Race. Photo: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com
82 foot Starry Night of the Caribbean. Photo: Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
By Louay Habib
ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- A huge variety of racing and cruising yachts is expected for the 52-nautical mile race around Antigua and with Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta concluding only a few days before the Yachting World Round Antigua Race, the race will provide an ideal way for many classics to complete their Caribbean racing season.
All yachts are welcome and encouraged to enter this exciting one-day race. The race will also provide an excellent day of practice for boats preparing to compete in Antigua Sailing Week.
An international fleet is expected to join local yachts including Bernie Evan-Wong's High Tension, which won the Antigua Yacht Club Round the Island Race recently.
"The boat is going so well at the moment," smiled Bernie. "I have been putting in a lot of time on the water recently and I guess that is the secret. The start of the race had a lot of upwind work and we had good height and speed and I don't think High Tension has ever been that fast around Antigua. For me as an Antiguan, racing around our beautiful island fills me with pride and joy and I hope that competitors from overseas enjoy the race as much as the locals."
Yachting World is once again the sponsor of the Round Antigua Race and encourages yachtsmen to take on the challenge of breaking the existing Round Antigua Race elapsed time record, currently held by Sir Peter Harrison's Farr-designed 115-foot, Sojana, which completed the race in 4 hours, 37 minutes and 43 seconds in 2009. The current holder of the Yachting World Trophy is Whisper, helmed by King Harald of Norway.
This April, Antigua will be the setting for one of the biggest gatherings of Oyster Yachts in the British company's 40 year history. Over 30 luxury cruising yachts will be gathering in Antigua just before the Yachting World Round Antigua Race and Antigua Sailing Week, and Oyster CEO David Tydeman is encouraging the Oyster family to get involved:
"With the grand finale of the Oyster World Rally and the annual Oyster Caribbean Regatta both in Antigua this April, there will be a large contingent of Oyster yachts in Antigua. The Yachting World Round Antigua Race would be an ideal opportunity for competitive Oysters to test their boat handling and racing skills. The race organisers have indicated that if a significant number of Oysters enter, there will be a separate class for Oyster Yachts and that is an initiative that I would very much like to encourage."
The magnificent 94-foot Frers, Bristolian, will be a favourite for line honours this year, although two high performance 52-foot race boats, will provide a two pronged threat. Robert Date's Australian team on Scarlet Runner and the Spanish TP52, Balearia are both capable of finishing first. Bristolian's skipper, John Burnie, has raced around Antigua more times than he can remember.
"The Round Antigua Race has always been a popular event," commented John. "Like its counterpart in the Solent, it is truly iconic -- even though it does not have quite as long a history as its UK relative. However, the Round Antigua Race stands as an event in its own right. With the continued sponsorship of Yachting World it rests as a must-do just before Antigua Sailing Week begins.
"There are many technical aspects to the race and the tactics required in some areas are in direct parallel with those required in either the RORC Caribbean 600 or Antigua Sailing Week. The start is under magnificent cliffs, the Pillars of Hercules leading up to Shirley Heights - the course proceeds in an anticlockwise direction. Passing the magnificent reef off Willoughby Bay towards Green Island everyone is looking for the first opportunity of free wind.
"As the fleet rounds the most eastern point, spotting the marks is critical as the crew look for the first spinnaker hoist. It can be a tight reach at first, providing a magnificent 15-mile sail across the northern shores of Antigua. A big gybe is expected once north of Antigua and then a fast reach to the marks clearing the reefs off Dickenson Bay and the harbour of St. John's.
"On a fast reach or run the fleet will see the magnificent rain forest hills rising up to Boggy Peak and tactically the fleet should stay inshore for the flat water of Jolly Harbour and Five Islands. Here the water changes colour dramatically from pale blue in the shallows to a deep azure. Approaching Cades Reef and often much earlier, the wind heads quickly, kites come down and the crew has a tough beat up towards Curtain Bluff to stay out of the current in the deeper water. All too quickly the finish looms and the race is over but the memory of the fascinating course lingers forever.
"The Yachting World Round Antigua Race is indeed a spectacle -- and, even though the crews have to concentrate on the technical aspects of the race, there is plenty of opportunity to see the whole island of Antigua in all its magnificence -- long may the race continue."
Matt Sheahan, Yachting World performance editor, took part last year on Grand Soleil 43, Quokka, which tied for first place with First 40, Lancelot II:
"The perfect length with a variety of tactical issues," summarised Matt Sheahan. "The sprint around Antigua is a superb race in itself but it also provides a great way to shake down the boat and the crew and prepare for Antigua Sailing Week. With legs that are long enough to settle into and without the tight turns of a race around the buoys, the Yachting World Round Antigua Race is a great way to sort out crew work and sail selection in a competitive environment. And at the very least it helps you avoid peaking too soon ashore!"
The elapsed time winner of the Yachting World Round Antigua Race will be awarded the Yachting World Trophy after the race at the awards presentation to be held in conjunction with the Antigua Sailing Week Welcome Party. Prizes will also be awarded to the overall corrected time winner and to winners of 1st through 3rd places in each class.
The Yachting World Round Antigua Race is a standalone event on the Saturday between Antigua Classic Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week - 26th April, 2014.