Antigua Sailing Week

(posted from Grande Anse d’Arlet, Martinique)

Antigua Sailing Week is five days of round the bouys racing off Antigua’s south coast. Add in the feeder race from Guadeloupe on Friday and the race around Antigua on Saturday and you have sailing/partying marathon.

Our friend, Bob Starbird, has raced for Peter Morris on his Frers 43, Jaguar, for a number of years. When Bob found out we would be in Antigua around Sailing Week, he asked me if I would be interested in crewing on Jaguar. I jumped at the chance. Bob put me in contact with Peter and I was on the crew.

You Can Check Out, But You Can Never Leave

Coming up to Sailing Week I realized that some boats go from Antigua to Guadeloupe on thursday before Sailing Week to do the feeder race on friday. I talked to Sailing Week chairman Kathy Lammers about finding a ride to Guadeloupe and she put me in touch with Steve Schmidt on Hotel California Too, a Santa Cruz 70. Steve was anchored almost next to us, so I helped him with a couple boat projects. I got invited to join him and some friends for a day to watch the Classic Regatta from his boat. A few days later I sailed with him to Guadeloupe.

Hotel California Too even looks fast at anchor

The Santa Cruz 70 is a downwind sled designed for the Transpac. Steve had Hotel California Too custom built as a cruising boat. The modifications included a shorter mast and a cutdown stern that can be used as a dance floor when their isn’t a dinghy parked on it. Despite these and other modifications, the boat flys. The trip to Guadeloupe took us eight hours on Compass Rose, but only six on Hotel California Too.

Jaguar (pronounced jag-u-ar)

Jaguar and crew were waiting when we got there.  They had to deal with emergency repairs to the high pressure fuel pump in Martinique, but they made it. The next morning we lined up for the race. Only about half of the race crew had been available to deliver Jaguar up from Trinidad, but the wind was such that we didn’t fly a spinnaker, so we did OK short handed. Of the available jobs, I selected mainsheet duty figuring it would be simple. Wrong! The sheet is setup to be trimmed from either side of the boat, so there are winches and traveller controls on both sides. If you are not careful, you can let the double-ended sheet work its way to one side of the boat and then you don’t have enough line to manage the sail from the other side. The whole boat is like that. For example, there are three genoa traveller tracks with position controls on each side and two spinnaker poles. During the racing with the full crew on board I shared the aft end of the boat with two other crew who worked the check stays and the hydraulic controls for almost anything you can tweak on a boat.

The feeder race was a warm up for me. By the next day the full crew had arrived and we went out for a short practice sail. (While I was practicing, Jackie was doing the around the island race on Hotel California Too).

Jackie races around the island on Hotel California Too

Practice was a bit bumpy, with a lot of people trying to learn new positions on an intricate race machine. One crew member dropped out after the practice. The next day was the first race and there were still a lot of rough edges. Another crew member dropped out with a sore back, so we were getting shorter handed. Peter said he was looking for one or two more crew, so I approached Sam (Samantha) and Jon from Imagine of Falmouth who are part of the crew for Hotel California Too. They had met Peter before, and all agreed that they would join the crew.

The rest of the races went much smoother. We had to skip the second race one day because of an equipment failure so that was our throw out race. Our best finishes were a 4th and 5th and we finished the series 7th of 11 boats. El Ocaso, a J120 out of California won the class and was top boat in the regatta. We felt we did pretty well with a 30 year old design against primarily much more modern equipment.

Jaguar going to weather

Racing was tricky because the best wind seemed to be close in to the cliffs

Things got pretty busy during tacks

Spinnaker run

Lay Day

We had a Lay Day in the middle of the series. The organizers scheduled a beach party with lots of fun events. I entered a heat of the stand-up paddleboard race to fill out the field. I had the lead out to the bouy, but had a lot of trouble turning the board. I forgot about the skegs at the back of the board. Then I fell off a couple times and the guy in second passed me. I figure I did pretty good considering I have never been on one before. The experience confirms my opinion that it’s a pretty silly way to get around on the water.

Beach bums Allen (Mendecino Queen), Eric, and Bob (Jaguar crew) hanging out on Pigeon Beach

I got volunteerd to enter the sailing race on Laser Picos. The deal as one kid from the local sailing program and one adult. I asked him if he knew how to sail and he confidently replied, “Yes”, so he got the helm and mainsheet and I got the jib – about the size of a handkerchief. We sailed well, but need to work on tactics as we got squeezed at the first mark. The lead boat didn’t know the course and with the exception of a couple of us, the rest of the pack followed. The organizers were more interested in having fun than having to explain to the first boat across the finish that they didn’t Complete the course, so we didn’t quite win, but we did have fun.

Captain and crew (Eric)

Next: We leave Falmouth Harbour

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