Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
Antigua’s Sailing Week
A canon-shot announced the opening of Antigua’s Sailing Week, when sailing vessels in all sizes from 23 nations around the world, competed in different classes for the prestigious overall prize, The Lord Nelson Trophy. In most cases, the outcome of a whole week of racing was to be decided by seconds.
The most interesting part of the regatta was the competition amongst the 80 to 100 foot, single mast boats with large crews. Many boats had sailed across the Atlantic and/or Pacific Oceans to participate in the event, while other crews had flown to Antigua, Guadeloupe or one of the nearby Caribbean islands, rented a bareboat and competed after shake-down sailings.
It’s been more than 50 years since I had sailed competitively, but - like most Greeks - once you get the sea in your veins, it’s very difficult not to get excited when a sailing competition is announced.
I had cut my teeth on Star and Flying Dutchman sailing boats; 2-person, 23 and 20 foot Marconi sloop-rigged, extremely fast racers.
I was attracted to the Stars by the very high speed the boat can achieve and the radical hiking position adopted by the crew and the helmsman, who use a harness to hang off the windward side of the boat. Recently, Star-class keelboats were removed from sailing at the Summer Olympics, and therefore the Star-class will not be in competition in 2016 in Rio.
The Flying Dutchman was even faster than the Star-class boats, and the crew (i.e. me) had to hang by a trapeze harness with only my tippy-toes holding on to the gunwales of the dinghy. The Flying Dutchman made its Olympic debut at the 1960 Olympics Games and was removed as a competitor after the 1992 Games.
Antigua Sailing Week consists of five days of competitive racing off the rugged south coast of Antigua plus the Guadeloupe to Antigua Race and an optional day of racing around the island. It is one of the Caribbean's most prestigious regattas with more than 100 yachts participating each year in classes 0 to 8, plus a multihull class and 2 bareboat categories. Large sailing boats were the most watched competitors and watching them is a very exciting experience. Of course, racing as crew in one of them is even more thrilling!
This time I was an observer, not a competitor.
Which meant that I would sleep in a regular bed – not on board; eat in restaurants on the island; and participate in all the shore events taking place in Antigua during the Sailing Week. It also meant that I could have rum-and-coke or any other alcoholic beverage I wanted, plus espresso coffee whenever a resort’s bar was open. I saw a number of the crews taking part in many of the parties, but most left early in the evening, so they would be clear-headed for racing the next day. A “drunken sailor” might be a great idea for a nautical ditty, but can be an accident-ready-to-happen in competitive racing, where skill and pin-point timing is essential.
My sailing days are over. Yet, I could not resist the calling of the sea, when I saw the multi-colored spinnakers when the vessels were racing with the wind and the crews hung from the gunwales of the racers. My heart skipped a beat!
For further on Antigua see Liming in Paradise in the Destinations section.
© June 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.