Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta

After four days of racing in various conditions and courses, Adventure Antigua's team Zemi wins in the Traditional Class. We had a huge team which reached 14 people in two of the races.  
After our engine was installed by A1 Marine in Jolly Harbour we had to do some rigging changes before the regatta and they were completed just in time for the race. With only minutes to spare, Itano, Jason and I managed to get to the Antigua Yacht Club on Wednesday. On thursday a few of us got together and went out to test the rig and see how Zemi felt. It was the first time we had sailed properly since last year. We had won our class in the regatta then, but the winds had been exceptionally light. Our sail on Thursday was fine and the boat felt good with the extra lead ballast that i had just purchased from a local scrap metal business. I took a photo of my truck deep inside the scrap metal place when I was about to collect the lead the Tuesday before. My sister Fran was going to be joining us for the regatta so she came out on the practice sail with us: All of the wooden Caribbean vessels sailing in the Traditional class of the regatta bunched up together between the Turtle Surf Shop and the Skullduggery Bar on the Antigua Yacht Club Marina. Half of them seen here: The first race was on Friday and our start was actually just after 10 am. We had two crew coming in from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands at the very last minute and they were bringing uniforms. Andy Morrell and his son Josh run HIHO which is a high end clothing company (check it out) and our team was going to look sharp if they arrived with the loot. In fact, HIHO is one of the sponsors of Antigua Sailing Week which starts here at the end of this week. Anyway, they arrived, jumped on board Zemi and we cast off our lines. The race was starting shortly, and we needed to get everyone set up (and suited up).
The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda provided air rifles for the race committee, so i can't say the races started with a bang. Needless to say, it was quite funny hearing about that mess up on the radio. Anyway, the race started and Zemi was off. Our boat has more sail area than the others and the light winds of the first race were in our favor. We slowly pulled ahead. On the broad reach we had our spinnaker up which gave us a slightly bigger lead. When it was time to drop this sail in preparation for our sail back upwind, something went wrong. The line holding the sail to the top of the mast was jammed. There was nothing we could do but sail upwind with about four of the crew trying to bunch the sail up around the mast. Spinnakers are sails that don't go upwind and that's where we were headed. Thankfully the winds were light and the sail didn't get ripped out of the hands of our crew and torn to shreds. We were going directly for the rocks at Winter Hill and had to tack with this sail which was another challenge. Then there were other yachts which had right or way coming toward us. We had to "duck" them, still with this sail dangling from the top of the mast. Finally a decision was made to send one of the crew up to the top of the mast. Out came the bosun's chair and up the mast Jason went with a knife! The sail was finally cut down, but we had to get it fixed, and in no time we were sending Nikolai back up to get it prepped for the next time we had to use it. Here is a pic of Nik way up at the top while we were racing: Here he is on his way back down:
With this kind of team work we were able to finish enough ahead to beat the second place boat by under a minute on corrected time after the handicap had been worked out. Here is some of the team celebrating our win back at the dock:
More on the rest of the Classic Yacht Regatta tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2012

As you know we offer a classic yacht tour, and each year we try and compete in the Traditional Class of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. The first year we entered on the brand new Ocean Nomad with paint still drying on the deck we finished second. The next year we finished first. I didn't race again until last year and this time it was on our new Carriacou Sloop, Zemi with paint still drying once again. We finished first and were delighted. IMG_20110417_124305 Since then Zemi has not been sailing once and has sat in Jolly Harbour slowly getting an engine installed. It's finally in there and operational. She is now able to get in and out of harbours without sailing. Ocean Nomad is the older of our two sailing vessels and has been out of commission for the past month while her mast was repaired. She may be ready to sail in the regatta which starts on Friday which means that Adventure Antigua will have two boats in the Classic Yacht Regatta.
I will be skippering Zemi again this year, and over the next few days I will be strengthening the rig and finding some more ballast. In last years race we knew she was under ballasted which means she didn't have enough lead below deck to keep her steady in the water during heavier winds. Luckily the winds were light last year and it worked to our advantage.
This year will be different if the forecast continues as it is right now with winds getting up to 22 mph. We have to have more ballast otherwise we will not be able to sail fast and will spent plenty of time over on our sides! Lead is what we need, but if we can't find it we will be looking for anything else. We have three days to get it below deck and register the boat. Among the team sailing with us this year we have Andy Morrell of HIHO with his son Josh. This means that Adventure Antigua's team Zemi will have some nice clothing to race with for a few days. We also have an old team mate from Scotland sailing with us. Harry Ingram didn't sail across the Atlantic this time but took the quick flight here for the regatta. He will be leaving his chair below deck and will be on the rail like the time when we won on Ocean Nomad. I understand he's bringing some good Scotch to "bless the deck". You know, it was the Scottish who first built these boats down in Carriacou for the Plantation owners of Grenada. Plenty of history which you can learn about if you end up watching Vanishing Sail which is a film about these amazing vessels. Click here to learn a bit about the project and see a preview. Of course we will have plenty of local knowledge, skill and rum drinking/sailing experience on board too with several of our long time team members playing key rolls. Guilli, Nikolai, and Big John will be there too. Once again this year Mount Gay Rum is providing us with shirts and hats or one of the day's racing. I am sure there will not be a shortage of rum either. I will blog more about the progress of Zemi before Wednesday and then after the first race on Friday. Stay Tuned.