Classics underway in Antigua

The 32nd edition of Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, sponsored by Locman, is underway and the fleet enjoyed lavish trade wind racing along the beautiful south coast of Antigua.

A common course of 21 nautical miles and a long course of 31nm provided thrilling racing at every point of sail. The solid easterly breeze topped out at close to 20 knots on the Old Road course.

Athos posted the shortest elapsed time for the entire fleet; 2 hours 13 minutes and 43 seconds, and took the overall win in the Tall Ships class. The powerful Klaus Röder 157' ketch, Chronos, got the best start in the class, and won the battle with her sistership of the same design, Rhea by just under 16 minutes.

With an overall length of 203’, Athos is the world's largest privately-owned two-masted schooner. From the drawing board of Hoek Design Naval Architects, and built by Holland Jachtbouw, Athos has a displacement of 348 tons. She can hoist nearly 33,000 square feet of downwind sail area from her rig, which towers over 200’ above her teak decks.

In the Dragon Class, a highly competitive start resulted in several teams receiving time penalties for being OCS. The Dragon's course was the common course, putting the fleet into full ocean conditions.

Today's winner was Freddie Mills' international crew representing the St.Thomas Yacht Club USVI. Mills is originally from Lake Placid, USA, his partner Kathryn Thomson is Scottish and Nikolai Töllborg is from Sweden.

“I have never raced anything like a Dragon before, and to go effectively offshore like that was a lot of fun,” commented Mills.

“It was awesome sailing. On the reach, Nicolai spent a lot of time pumping out the boat. We were scooting along doubling our speed as we came down the waves – it was a blast!”

A special mention goes to Carlo Falcone's 1938 79' Alfred Mylne yawl, Mariella, which won class today by just eight seconds overall. Mathew Barker's 1929 65' Alfred Mylne sloop, The Blue Peter, was second.

Racing in the Classics Schooner class, Columbia is back for her fourth Antigua Classics, and won her class today. Tom Gallant's 47' schooner, Avenger, is dwarfed by Columbia, but took a very credible second.

Avenger has been Tom Gallant's home since 1979 and for over 120,000 miles of ocean sailing and Jimmy the cat is very much part of the crew. The 88' schooner, Ocean Star, skippered by Travis Yates, returned to classics after her last appearance in 1999, was third.

Launched in 2014, Columbia is a replica of the 1923 William Starling Burgess fishing and racing schooner of the same name. The 141' schooner is built in steel, unlike the wooden original, but still has her exact graceful lines.

Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s founder and president, Brian D’Isernia, owns the impressive classic. Columbia is skippered by Seth Salzmann, who was on the helm for the duration of the race, in charge of the 32 people on board.

“She's slow to pick up her speed if you lose it. And if you chicken out and luff up, it's gonna take you some time to recover,” Salzmann said of driving the impressive 245 ton schooner, which hit a top speed today of 14.9 knots.

“You need the combination of feathering the sails, dumping a little bit and then trimming back up, without moving the helm too much. Also it takes a trained crew to be on it in the manoeuvres, thinking forward, adding or subtracting sail when the wind changes.”

In the new Historic Class, Jonty and Vicki Layfield's S&S Swan 48, Sleeper, scored an impressive win. The1960 Jack Holt sloop Rita, skippered by Tanner Jones, was second, and Markus Bocks' S&S Swan 48 Montana was third. Owner/Driver Vicki Layfield is competing at Antigua Classics for the first time in the 1972 Sparkman & Stephens' designed Sleeper.

“Sleeper is comfortable upwind, but on a reach it is a real work out. There is so much weather helm, I thought my arms would be pulled out of their sockets.” Layfield said.

“I have to say that it was incredible to race amongst such an amazing collection of boats. I recall one mark rounding with three huge schooners to weather of us, and the Carriacou sloops were so fast on the reach, it was very difficult to catch them up.”

After the first day of racing at Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, a good old fashioned dock party was held at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, with a DJ spinning the tunes afterwards on the clubhouse lawn. Racing at 'Classics continues tomorrow, with the Butterfly course.

Louay Habib

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