Hi there again from Antigua!!
Today was the first race of the famous Antigua Classic Regatta (Antigua Sailing Week starts next week). Huge J-boats and 150+ ft. schooners are the marquee yachts here, but there is a huge variety of fantastic classic yachts. One of the most popular and most lethal on the race course is none other than my old boat, (“Rumbleseat”) now called “Diva.”
I was invited by her current owner, Dr. Robin Tatersall of Tortola, to come aboard for the first race of the series. What a great experience to sail on my old boat that I spent so many years (13!) restoring and then racing in the Pacific.
Because Diva is slightly (ahem) modified, she races in the highly competive “spirit of tradition” class, where the boats are quite new, but (somewhat) traditional. Oddly, all the boats in our division are less than 10 years old, but Diva was origially built in 1930! The next smallest boat in our class is 57 ft and the biggest is 80 ft! On the start, Dr. Robin (who is vastly experienced racing the Caribbean) had a great start and off we went. I trimmed the boat for maximum speed since I sailed thousands of miles on her (including the 1996 Singlehanded Transpac) and know how to make her happy….
We had ample inspiration to get to the first mark as quickly as possible, for the start behind us was none other than the monster J boats “Valsheda,” “Shamrock V,” the new 153′ Schooner “Windrose,” and the huge and beautiful “Hetairos!!” They were catching up just as we got to the mark, and we could hear the deafening shriek of the easing of the tortured sheets on Windrose over our shoulders as she cracked off just behind us.
The next few minutes were something to see as one by one the largest and most impressive racing sailboats on earth passed close by with their acres of spinnakers and gennikers flying. We tried to avoid the huge wind shadows as best we could, and took off surfing on the wakes on the kind of power reach that Diva loves. Even though there was no keeping up with these awesome crafts, we had several rides up to 13-14 knots and lost surprising little time.
After the next mark there was a long beat where we got “in phase” with the windshifts and clobbered our class, actually gaining on them boat for boat even though they owed us time! One more power spinnaker reach, then a fetch to the finish and my memorable race aboard my former love was over.
Dr. Robin wants me to race the rest of the series with him, but tomorrow I go back to work on Ocean Planet. There is just so much to do to get ready, and I have little time before the Guadelupe-Antigua race, Antigua race week, and then we’re off to Charleston, SC to haul out and begin prep for the Around Alone. That is, assuming we keep getting donations and can afford it!
Below is a shot of some of the classic boats here. You can see the tiny 39 ft, Diva on the right.
Oh by the way, we won the race by six minutes on corrected time.