The crystal-clear waters off the Caribbean isle of Antigua were spotted with sails yesterday as the 40th Birthday celebration of Stanford Antigua Sailing Week got underway in ideal conditions. After a passing morning squall brought a brief round of sprinkles, a highly competitive fleet of 204 boats racing in 16 divisions set forth under blue skies and steadily increasing easterly trade winds.
The race committee sent the six racing classes that comprise Division A on the 1st Leg of the Around-the-Island Race, a counter-clockwise 35.4 nautical mile course from the starting line off Falmouth Harbour to a finish outside Dickenson Bay. As the A fleet headed east, Division B – made up of six cruising classes and four bareboat classes – set off to the west on a 23.1 nautical mile course that also finished off Dickenson Bay. Once there, the racers congregated ashore for the first of the week’s famous beach parties. Sailing Week had officially begun.
Today, Division A will complete Leg 2 of the Around-the-Island Race with a 25.9 nautical mile point-to-point contest back to Falmouth Harbour. Division B will also return to Falmouth Harbour with a slightly shorter course of 20.8 nautical miles. The format is new for this running of Stanford Antigua Sailing Week: In years past, the fleet would congregate off Dickenson Bay for a day of round-the-buoys racing. Race officials instituted the new format in response to calls from competitors to make Falmouth Harbour the centerpiece of the event, and early responses are highly favorable.
“This is a big improvement,” said longtime Sailing Week competitor Henry Peper, the navigator of Antiguan entry Caccia Alla Volpe. “I think it makes it better for the sailors, who don’t have to go back and forth from one side of the island to another, but can instead concentrate on the sailing.”
Aboard Caccia Alla Volpe, a 44-footer competing in the Racing II division, skipper Carlo Falcone nailed the start and the lean, plywood yacht – nearing a milestone of her own, as she’ll enjoy her 30th birthday in 2008 – began what turned out to be an inshore tacking duel with the Melges 32 Chippewa, a well-traveled 32-footer skippered by U.S. sailor Dave West. Once off the breeze, however, the downwind conditions played right into Chippewa’s strength, as she went on to the victory in the 10-boat class. Caccia Alla Volpe finished fourth, behind Peter Peake’s Soca 43, Storm, and Avia Willment’s Rodgers 46, Universal Marina.
In Racing I, a familiar boat sat atop the leader board. Fresh from victories at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and the BVI Spring Regatta – not to mention the last running of the around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race – the 70-foot ABN AMRO ONE, skippered by Kiwi Mike “Moose” Sanderson, continued her havoc-wreaking tour of the Caribbean with top honors in the 10-boat class. “The boys did an awesome job around the track today, said Sanderson. “This is our third regatta in the Caribbean and we take it very seriously.”
The big surprise in Racing I, then, wasn’t ABN AMRO ONE: It was the second-place boat. The lone Irish entry in the fleet, Gerard O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain corrected out to number-two position ahead of Tom Hill’s Titan 12, Johnny Malbon’s Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing, and all three Swan 601s: Jim Swartz’s Moneypenny, Leonardo Ferragamo’s Pioneer Investment, and Sir Peter Ogden’s Spirit of Jethou.
Chieftain was hardly the lone surprise. In Racing III, yet another lone entry – Russian skipper Mikhail Mouratov’s Swan 48, Murka – corrected out ahead of veteran Caribbean campaigner Clay Deutsch’s Chippewa. However, order was restored in the universe in Racing IV – the 10-boat Beneteau 40.7 class, which is racing one-design in Sailing Week – with ace Puerto Rican skipper Sergio Sagramoso topping the field.
In other provisional results, Antiguan Dave Hanna was in first place in Racing V aboard his Olson 30, Lost Horizon II. Wrapping up Division A, Travis McGarry’s Gunboat 62, Looking for Elvis, was top boat in the five-boat Multihull Racing class.
In the provisional standings for Division B, Andrea Recordati’s Wally 80 Indio was top boat in Performance Cruising I; James Huddleston’s Oceanis 445, Three Harkoms, matched the deed in Performance Cruising II; and in Performance Cruising III, top honors went to Bernie Evans-Wong’s Cal 40, Huey Too.
In Cruising I, the Morris 48 Firefly, skippered by Cuyler Morris, was the cream of the 16-boat fleet. Cruising II was led by the Moorings 445, Chess, skippered by Jan Soderberg. The Multihull Cruising class was topped by John Winter’s 80-foot catamaran, Fat Cat.
Last, but hardly least, Georg Ondrej and his Dufour 50 Heliodore was the leader of the 17-boat Bareboat I class. Bareboat II was the domain of Christophe Nielsen’s Oceanis 473, Rossi. In Bareboat III, Hans Christian Wuff on the Beneteau Cyclades KH+P was in first, as was Fury, Martin Sager’s Dufour 40 in Bareboat IV.