Sailing Antigua

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Clear blue waters and the fair trade winds made Antigua famous for its sailing long before it became a prime tourist destination. For over 40 years it has hosted major international sailing events, many of which have been imitated in other Caribbean islands. Where Antigua has the advantage, however, is in its unique historic setting for such events, namely in Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, the only working Georgian dockyard in the world. It also has excellent deep water anchorages and marinas.The sailing season in Antigua kicks off with the Charter Yacht Show, run by marine industry representatives, with brokers and exhibitors from all over the world converging on Antigua in December each year, as they have been doing since 1961. This is now immediately followed by the SuperYacht Cup – the 6th taking place in 2011. The two most important and long-standing annual sailing events are Antigua Sailing Week (over 40 years old) and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (over 20 years old), both of which take place in April. Serious yachtsmen from all over the world come to Antigua to take part in Sailing Week, which provides both a series of highly challenging races as well as the chance to have fun both on and off the water. As many as 200 boats and more, from tiny 28- footers to over 100 foot super yachts, participate in this highly popular regatta. The after-race parties are attended with equal enthusiasm by sailors and locals.
The Classic Yacht Regatta, which usually attracts around 70 entries, is considered more ‘gentlemen’s racing’. Even more spectacular are the vintage wooden sloops, towering yawls and ketches, the brilliant Spirit of Tradition schooners and not forgetting the very attractive nippy wooden fishing sloops from Carriacou. In 2010, the sloop Pink Lady was a noticeable new participant, not least due to the brilliant pink costumes of its all-female crew! More recent and very successful initiatives include the RORC 600 and Caribbean Dragon Racing. The RORC Caribbean 600 is a 605 mile race around the Caribbean islands, starting and finishing in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. This venture is jointly organized each February by the RORC (British Royal Ocean Racing Club), which organizes similar ‘600’ races all over the world) and the Antigua Yacht Club. Now in its third year, it is destined to become one of the classic ocean races ranked alongside the world-famous Rolex Fastnet and the Rolex Sydney/Hobart races. Caribbean Dragon Racing was introduced into Antigua in 2008, based at the Harmony Hall Yacht Club, created especially for this class of one-design boat. Their classic design dates back over 80 years, contemporary models using more modern materials, which allows them to take part in both the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week. The Antigua Dragon Championships take place in January each year and the Caribbean Championships
are scheduled for March. Much international interest has been shown in these very fast and highly competitive boats and Russian participation has been particularly notable over the last two years. It was thanks to a Russian initiative that a regatta organized together with the Jolly Harbour Yacht Club has been gaining popularity over the last two years. In 2009, 15 boats raced to Guadeloupe and to Barbuda, stopping in Antigua on both legs. In 2010, 250 Russians chartered 31 boats, answering an advert in Moscow which stated that ‘no sailing experience was needed…’. Those experienced sailors from Antigua who did enter were impressed by the inclusion of a Volvo 70 in the racing class together with two Farr 65s and aWally 70. All the participants raced hard and partied hard, the general consensus being that the Russians certainly know how to celebrate. An even more successful Russian Regatta is anticipated for 2011. Of a less competitive nature, much-loved and well-attended races include the Round the Island race, in January and the Nelson’s Pursuit race on 31 January, followed by New Year’s celebrations in Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour. The Jolly Harbour Yacht Club organizes an annual Valentine’s Regatta in February, and the Antigua Yacht Club is responsible for the laid back Green Island Race from Falmouth Harbour to the idyllic Green Island anchorage in May. The AntiguaYacht Club also organizes many fun activities, especially on Sundays, to which all visitors are welcome – including Sunday brunch at the Yacht Club restaurant, right at the water’s edge.
Recently sailing was officially declared by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as a national sport and the National Sailing Academy was launched last year for students aged eight to eighteen. The Academy is removing logistic and financial barriers to Antiguan youth wanting to enter the increasinglypopular marine industry and it has been largely thanks to very significant contributions from the SuperYacht Cup and various individual yachts that this has been made possible. The sailing programmes take place at Jolly Harbour Yacht Club or English Harbour Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbour, where the chief sailing instructor is former Olympic champion Karl James. Easy to reach by boat and by plane, Antigua can certainly claim to be the Caribbean’s yachting centre and major international sailing destination. So good health and fair winds.

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