Cheeki Rafiki/Stormforce Coaching, Beneteau First 40.7, CSA 5. Photo: Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
By Louay Habib
ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- Sunshine and warm breeze was blowing through Falmouth dock, Antigua, on Monday morning and the thousand or so sailors at Antigua Sailing Week knew they were in for a big treat. Sparkling conditions prevailed for the second day of the regatta. A stable easterly breeze of about 13 knots and a choppy sea state produced near picture-perfect racing conditions. Bar the multihull division, all classes had two short-sharp races on Monday and contenders for class titles are beginning to be established.
Start Boat A ran courses from Rendezvous Bay in the vicinity of Carlisle Bay and Curtain Bluff. With tighter courses, manoeuvres and boat-on-boat tactics were much more in play.
Piet Vroon's Tonnerre de Breskens 3 is dominating CSA 0 with a perfect score of three bullets after two days racing. Three other yachts are also unbeaten, David Cullen's J/109, Pocket Rocket, Geoffrey Pidduck's Six Meter, Biwi Magic and Gunboat 62, Zenyatta, skippered by Nils Erickson.
CSA 3 is incredibly competitive with a three-way tie at the top. Lancelot II chartered by Richard Matthews, Quokka 8 -- last year's class winner -- and a hot South American team on Salona Racing, all have nine points. Last year's Lord Nelson Trophy winner, El Ocaso, is just two points off the lead.
In CSA 1, two yachts won races on Monday. Alan Edwards' British Swan 65, Spirit, took its first ever win in any yacht race and Michael Peacock's American Frers 62, Merrythought, won the second race of the day by a dramatic seven seconds to take the class lead. Sunday’s winner, British Frers 94 Bristolian, skippered by John Burnie scored two third places to stay in touch with the class leader.
"Even a blind squirrel gets lucky once in a while!" joked Merrythought's skipper, Michael Peacock. "Merrythought has always been a quick boat especially upwind and we got in phase today and everything just clicked into place. We are having a great battle in the class, especially with Bristolian and Spirit. We managed to force Bristolian over early in a start today and after racing, John Burnie and the crew didn't complain, which shows what a great spirit we have in the class."
In CSA 5 40.7, two British yachts are having a great battle for the class lead. Stormforce Coaching's Cheeki Rafiki skippered by Doug Innes won Race 2 by under a minute from Caipirinha, skippered by Patrick Holloran. Caipirinha came back by winning Race 3, also by less than a minute from Cheeki Rafiki.
Simon Marshall works the mast on Cheeki Rafiki and today's action-packed short courses created a serious work out. "I must admit my arms are a bit tired," laughed Simon. "As the class is all 40.7s, the racing is really close and a round of applause to the organisers for the class split, it is really exciting racing. The Cheeki Rafiki crew are a mixed bunch - some of us have a lot of racing miles and we also have people new to sailing. We are just one point ahead of Caipirinha and it looks like it's going to be a close race for the class title."
Start Boat B ran courses starting from Windward Beach along the beautiful bays of the south east coastline of Antigua. Upwind yachts were playing touch-and-go along the cliffs and into the bays to get out of the current. Downwind, running deep and staying in good pressure were big factors to performance; with a compressed fleet, the boat on boat action was intense.
Gunboat 62, Zenyatta, was streaking around the Antiguan shoreline on Monday. By far the fastest multihull racing, Zenyatta completed the 16 mile windward-leeward course in an impressive two hours. On board was Gunboat CEO, Peter Johnstone. "The race officer, Paul Miller, is a friendly guy and he offered us a second lap, but we decided to go and sail around the other yachts for a bit of action, as we spent a lot of time on our own during the race. Zenyatta has similar speed to a Volvo 70, the big difference is we don't hike out and the saloon has sofas, a full galley and a nice sound system. Not to mention a barbecue and a drinks chiller! Victor Ferrari has chartered her for the week and has brought a group of friends from Mexico to experience Antigua Sailing Week and we are having a ball."