The Antigua Yacht Club presents
the 34th Annual
19th–24th APRIL 2023
ANTIGUA TOURISM AUTHORITY; CIP; NATIONAL PARKS/NELSON’S DOCKYARD; ADMIRALS INN; BOOM RESTAURANT; SAILING CLASSICS; ENGLISH HARBOUR RUM; ISLAND PROVISION; S.PELLEGRINO; RED STRIPE; ANJO WHOLESALE; LYMAN-MORSE; BUDGET MARINE; GANNON & BENJAMIN; BROOKLIN BOATYARD; IMRAY; CARIBBEAN ALLIANCE; WOODSTOCK BOATBUILDING; CHIPPY FINE YACHT WOODWORK; EPICUREAN; HORIZONS
photograph by cory silken
ACYR 2023 TABLE OF CONTENTS 2 Welcome from the Commodore of the Antigua Yacht Club 3 Schedule of Events 4 Safety on the High Seas 5 Classics Team 12 What is a Classic? 14 The Spirit of Tradition Class 18 All Things Wet clare cupples 21 Seeking Perfection jan hein 24 Down and Dirty in the Scuppers: Women in Classic Sailing lucy tulloch 27 A Lifetime of Classics jane coombs 30 Oh to be in Antigua now that the Classics are back robin stout cover image: Juno by Cory Silken
photograph by cory silken
WELCOME FROM THE COMMODORE OF THE ANTIGUA YACHT CLUB
The Antigua Yacht Club Board of Directors and members are delighted to welcome back Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in the form originally envisioned and delivered by Kenny Coombs and the founding committee 37 years ago.
The new Classics Team intend to run a casual and informal Regatta with the emphasis on safe and great Gentle(wo)manly “efficient sailing in company”, aka racing, in our near perfect conditions off the south coast of Antigua. There will be plenty of opportunities to admire the “grande dames” of yesteryear and to “swing the lamp” with like-minded people. All this being held against the historic background of Nelson’s Dockyard and liberally lubricated with the favourite libation of the islands…rum!
I know that the Team are particularly keen to bring back all the old favourites, the Concours d’Elégance, the Single-Handed Race, the Parade of Classics into English Harbour, the Gig Racing - and the ladies of the Cream Teas are sprucing up their flowery hats as I type. We hope you’ll fully immerse yourselves and enjoy every diverse aspect.
The only change that Old Hands will notice is that some younger boats will be joining you in the Regatta in a new class, Modern Classics, for yachts designed over 35 years ago. Many have beautiful lines, have been lovingly maintained over the years and wishing they could join in the fun. It’s a fact of life that we’re all ageing faster than we’d wish.
As the penultimate Sailing Event of the 2022-2023 season, this is your chance to meet old and new friends and re-live your experiences of the Caribbean Season before you sail away to new waters or home, leaving us here to our sleepy and very hot summer.
Finally, may I take this opportunity to remind you that the Antigua Yacht Club is always looking for new members who’ll be able to fly our distinctive burgee with pride all over the World. It will keep you up to date with what is happening on this small island and hopefully inspire you to return very soon. Enjoy the Regatta and fair winds.
photograph by cory silken
photograph by alexis andrews
Schedule of Events 2023
WEDNESDAY 19 APRIL 0800-1800hrs Registr ation 1800 hrs Welcome Party at Boom Restaurant THURSDAY 20 APRIL 0900-1200 hrs Concour s d’Elégance Judging 1200 hrs Skipper s’ Briefing for Single-Handed Race 1400 hrs CLASSIC SINGLE-HANDED RACE 1700 hrs Skipper s’ Briefing for Main Races 1800 hrs Pr ize Giving for Concours & Single-Handed Race FRIDAY 21 APRIL 1000 hrs RACE 1 SATURDAY 22 APRIL 1000 hrs RACE 2 SUNDAY 23 APRIL 1000 hrs RACE 3 1300 hrs Parade of the Classics MONDAY 24 APRIL 1400 hrs Gig Racing at the Admiral’s Inn 1500 hrs Cream Teas at the Admiral’s Inn 1730 hrs Pr ize Giving for the Main Races
SAFETY ON THE RACE COURSE
The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta has enjoyed a good safety record throughout its history; however, here are a few tips on safety that can help keep the Regatta safe and fun. (Every captain, helmsman and bowman should know the rules of the road and the racing rules. The larger yachts are skippered by professionals who know these rules so it pays for the cruisers to read up on them as well to avoid a dangerous situation.)
Don’t make any sudden course changes in the path of a larger and faster yacht coming up behind you. Most of the incidents are caused by this. Sail your course and look behind you before making a course change even if you have rights. Make your change early. Common sense must be paramount, and it is dangerous to push your luck.
In the same manner that anyone would not challenge their rights with a supertanker, skippers and crews of smaller yachts must consider the implications when a large gaff rigged yacht is required to alter course. For example, it can take 3–4 minutes to get the preventers off, pull in yards of sheet by hand, get sails between the masts down
on deck, before the helmsman can even start to turn the wheel to change course!
It takes some time before a larger yacht answers the helm, and on some bigger classics with direct steering it can require two people to turn the wheel fast enough to try and avoid a collision. Forcing any big yacht into a crash jibe can be disastrous! Manoeuvring takes time and planning and at 10 knots, a boat will cover half a mile in just 3 minutes and furthermore, when a large yacht turns, it pivots in the middle, so her stern actually comes closer to you as her bow bears away.
It always pays to keep an eye out for the larger, faster yachts coming up from behind, especially at a mark rounding where the big yachts need a wide turning space. Give them room to get to the outside, and everyone will get around safely.
It’s not easy to imagine what it takes to manoeuvre a large yacht, unless you have been racing on one. The safest thing is to do is keep clear, at a distance and enjoy the magnificent sight as they majestically sail on by.
The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta Programme is published annually by the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (ACYR), Antigua Yacht Club, Falmouth Harbour, Antigua.
+1 (268) 460 1799 email@example.com www.antiguaclassics.com
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Jane Stark firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR & ADVERTISING: Gilly Gobinet +1(268)4646084 email@example.com
All rights reserved.Written permission is required for reproduction of all or part of this publication.While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the contents, the ACYR cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The advertising content and the claims and opinions expressed therein are the sole responsibility of the individual advertisers. The views and statements made in any of the articles or listings are also the responsibility of the respective authors.
We would like to thank our contributors (authors & photographers) for their generosity in contributing to our illustrious Programme & without whom this publication would not have been possible. Jan Hein, Jane Coombs, Robin Stout, Lucy Tulloch, Clare Cupples & Cory Silken
The Regatta would like to express its gratitude for the continuing support of our sponsors & to extend a welcome to our new ones: Antigua Tourism Authority; CIP; National Parks/Nelson’s Dockyard; Admirals Inn; Boom Restaurant; Sailing Classics; English Harbour Rum; Island Provision; S.Pellegrino; Red Stripe; Anjo Wholesale; Lyman-Morse; Budget Marine; Gannon & Benjamin; Brooklin Boatyard; Imray; Caribbean Alliance; Woodstock Boatbuilding; Chippy Fine Yacht Woodwork; Epicurean; Horizons
Regatta Coordinator – Robin Stout
Admin Support – Leslie Arnold
Race Coordinator – Clare Cupples
Race Committee – Paul Deeth
International Judge – David Pelling
Single-Handed Race – Tim Wall
Race Officer – Neil Andrews
Deputy Race Officer – Richard Freebourne
Timekeeper – Anne Morcome
Radio – Mike Rose
Flags – Caroline & Tim DeGavre
Horn & Spotter – Alexandra Blakeman-Early
Spotters – Helen Brayley & Angela Parry
Recorder – Pam Mansfield
Antigua Yacht Club – Karl James & Team
Marks – Winston Harris & Rowan ‘Archie’ Bailey
Paramedics – ABSAR
Safety Patrol – Antigua & Barbuda Coast Guard
photograph by cory silken
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below, left to right: Seefalke and Ticonderoga; Aschanti, Columbia and Juno; Genesis and Aschanti; Petrana
What is a Classic?
Most people in the yachting scene know a genuine ‘Classic’ when they see one – a yacht built in the 20s and 30s, with lines of beauty and grace, acres of canvas, fine craftsmanship and gleaming varnish are good examples.
The survivors of that golden era are unmistakably ‘Classic’ yachts. Perfect examples include Tuiga, Mary Rose, Eilean, Mariette of 1915, Coral of Cowes, Aschanti IV, Cora, and hundreds of others which are being kept to high standards..
Recently we have all seen fine examples of the craftsmanship of yesteryear carried on in modern vessels, like some of the designs from Bruce King, Andre Hoek and many others. Examples of these exceptional craft include Athos, Whitehawk, and Rebecca. They all have the fine lines of a Classic but are built and rigged using modern techniques and materials. Classics like Juno, Elena, Rebecca of Vineyard Haven are true replicas built in recent times, using traditional methods and materials. We must also include in our definition the wonderful traditional workboats of the past that are now being restored and sailing the seas as yachts, like the Carriacou sloops.
To be eligible for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, all entries must have a full keel, be of moderate to heavy displacement, built of wood or steel, and be of traditional rig and appearance. Old craft restored using modern materials such as epoxy or glass sheathing, or new craft built along the lines of an old design, are acceptable. Vessels built of ferro-cement may be accepted if they have a gaff or traditional schooner rig. Fibreglass yachts must have a long keel with a keel-hung rudder and be a descendant of a wooden hull design. Exceptional yachts not fitting into the above categories may be eligible for entry in the Spirit of Tradition Class, which was initiated in Antigua, and is described in another section.
photography by cory silken
The Spirit of Tradition Class
In 1996 the SPIRIT OF TRADITION CLASS was established in Antigua for vessels built along ‘classic’ lines using modern techniques and materials. Yachts in this class must have a ‘look’ that is true to a traditional design and must demonstrate excellent craftsmanship and tradition, both on deck and in the hull, such as the Bruce King designed Alejandra
Other excellent examples include Rebecca or the Andre Hoek designed Marie and Athos. They may, however, have modern under-bodies and appendages and use modern technology in their rigs such as Adela or Ranger, or be modified with carbon fibre like Velsheda.
The Committee is looking for yachts that are exceptional and those whose owners have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that their vessel maintains the beauty and lines characteristic of fine yachts built in the past.
All new yachts who feel they are acceptable for entry into this class must complete a Pre-Entry Form on our website www.antiguaclassics.com and include photographs of the hull, rig and deck layouts. If the yacht is approved and accepted the Committee will direct you to an Official Entry Form online. Acceptance into this class is provisional for the first year.
Entries in the Spirit of Tradition Class must be measured and have a current CSA measurement certificate.
The Spirit of Tradition Class has its own trophy structure; the legendary yacht, Ticonderoga, sponsors the trophy for First Overall in this class.
It is the Regatta Committee’s hope that by creating the Spirit of Tradition Class, we can continue to encourage the future building of exceptional yachts that will keep the Classic traditions alive.
Previously accepted vessels need only apply for re-entry by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
photos by cory silken
opposite: Bequia this page, top: Freya below: Faiaohe
All Things Wet
Putting on a three or four race regatta on the south coast of Antigua is easy, all you need is to get a few boats together in the same place, find someone to shout 3-2-1 “Go”…… and off they go, right? Wrong!
Here in Antigua, although we are blessed to have some of the best sailing conditions in the world, with a warm climate and normally steady Trade Winds, a good 90% of the preparatory work is done before anyone even sees the water in order to have a successful Regatta, with happy competitors. Those boats taking part need to know where they’re going to get together, who’s eligible to enter, when, and how the races are going to be organised. This is all covered by a Notice of Race.
Then they need to know what rules will apply, what class they’re going to be in, when their start is, where they’re going to go and, most importantly, where they’re going to finish. Sailing Instructions (SIs) cover all these details and more. There’s a standing joke amongst Race Officials that if they ever wish to keep a secret from competitors, they publish it in the SIs.
An efficient start involves a Committee Boat (CB) anchored near the start and a Committee Boat Team viz. a Race Officer (RO), who hopefully knows what the heck he’s doing, and several other people identifying the competitors, doing the count-downs, flags, sound signals and recorders. This team has a secret weapon up their sleeves, called an AP Flag. If there’s a sudden shift in the wind or anything happens that will affect a “fair start”, they can display AP and everything starts again….simple!
I’ve already mentioned that it always helps if the competitors know where they’re going.The actual courses are published in advance and turning points are marked with anchored buoys.
On the south coast of Antigua, the sea bed drops away rapidly in a series of shelfs, so the inshore marks are laid in 30-50m of water, the outer mark being in 150m of water. All marks are laid and recovered daily by Winston (inshore) and Archie (offshore). One of the perks of the job for the CB Team is that Archie, having to stay offshore all day, fills in the time fishing and many a time has delivered wonderful fresh fish to the CB, which is cervich-ed and devoured with enthusiasm. Not many ROs have a lemon/lime and a red onion in their race bag!
Then, always assuming that boats have got that far, they have to finish, be identified, a time taken and given a cheerful wave. Many years ago, I managed to take a photo of the 37ft Hillyard cruising boat, Lady Corinne , taking “line honours” from the magnificent 135ft J Class Velsheda; the fact that they’d sailed completely different courses went unmentioned.
So, we now have elapsed times, but for hugely disparate yachts. In order to try and work out fairly who actually won, the boats are each given a Rating before the races (which, in one race series I was involved with, was called
top left: Tim setting the finish line
top right: Caroline “drying” flags during the Parade of Classics (there is never a time when those flags would be flying simultaneously!)
bottom left: Anne and her all-important watch
bottom right: Mike and his trusty radio
photograph by time degavre
left to right: Tim, Caroline, Steve, Mike, Angela Parry, Stephen Parry, Anne, Fran Nobbs, John Nobbs, Luiz Kahl.
photograph by time degavre photograph by time degavre
photograph by time degavre
photograph by time degavre
the Time Correction Factor, or, more commonly, the Time Confusion Factor) which is multiplied by the Elapsed Time, giving a Corrected Time and bingo, you know who won.
Yacht Racing is what’s called a “Self-Governing Sport”, i.e. under normal circumstances, there’s no referee out on the water. Even in the most Gentle(wo)manly sailing, there’ll always be mistakes or different interpretations of the Racing Rules of Sailing. When these are identified or there’s a suspicion that the Race Committee made a boo boo, the problem is taken to The Protest Committee, comprising three or more people who have an in-depth knowledge of the rules, who do their best to identify what actually happened and make a decree as to who was less wrong and find in their favour.
Most folks involved with running Yacht Races are Volunteers. In the case of Race Officers and International Judges, they spend many years gaining experience in many parts of the world in different conditions and with many different types of yachts, from Optimists to Superyachts. Others may just do local regattas, or even one specific event each year.
The Committee Boat Team for Antigua Classics could be described as Classics in their own right. For many years they’ve turned out and guarded their roles jealously. As a result, they’re very good at their jobs but woe betide anyone who wants to join them….as I found out in 2012 and was honoured that I got that far.
This year, having had four years off, the “old gang” are back in force.The Voice of Classics, Mike Rose, with his positively arid sense of humour is manning the radio again, Anne Morcom is timer and Tim and Caroline Degavre are on flags. They are joined this year by newbies (to the Classics CB) Chris & Pam Mansfield, Helen Brayley and Alexandra Blakeman-Early
Sorely missed are Fran Nobbs, spotter extraordinaire, John Nobbs, Assistant RO and finisher, and Steve Spanis, guns. Also, Stephen Parry, RO and Luiz Kahl, results, who have both sadly passed away.
This year we have a newbie Race Officer, Neil Andrews. Neil is based in Falmouth, UK which also has an extremely successful annual Classic Regatta and Neil is experienced in running that and anything else that is thrown at him.
Canadian David Pelling is our International Judge, which is a paltry title for a chap who keeps us, and particularly me, on the straight and narrow for All Things Wet, and is one of the best diplomats I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Over the years there have been many memorable incidents on the CB from spectacular i.e, Athos running downwind on leg three of The Butterfly under a huge spinnaker with the rest of the fleet scattering; 60ft Spirit Yacht Spirit of Rani literally leaping 10 feet sideways to windward out of 82ft 1902 gaff ketch Coral of Cowes’ way when her lee runner got jammed after a gybe (well, that’s what I say - nothing to do the fact that she was pushed sideways out of the way by Coral’s bow wave…) to the somewhat slower, more gentlemanly sailors clawing their ways to windward and the finish line, willed on by the CB Team (who can’t have a beer until racing is completed), and last but by no means least, the heartwarming moment when the CB Team scattered bougainvillea bracts across the finish line in memory of long-time stalwart of Antigua Yachting, Jan Santos and dolphins came to play.
Then I haven’t even mentioned the Dinghy Wranglers, Single-Handed Race, Parade of Sail and Prize Giving, all of which come under the umbrella of All Things Wet.,,,maybe next year……
Captain Clare Cupples with her command Lord Nelson in the foreground, and her sister ship Tenacious in the background
by max mudie
Which boat to jump aboard for a race during Antigua’s Classic Regatta? In 2015, the entry list held vessels as varied as snowflakes. I wanted to go fast, sure, but I also wanted to stay dr y and sail with a captivating crew. Are there parameters, I wondered, to help define the perfect ride?
I began my short-list with the newest vessel, the Klaus Röder ketch, Chronos. She’d possibly be the most comfortable and at 179ft LOD, she was certainly the biggest.The magnificent gaff schooner Coral of Cowes was the undisputed matriarch of the fleet at 113-years-old, and the smallest entrant was a 25ft Folkboat, which luckily didn’t have room for me.
To determine the fastest boat, I headed to Skullduggery’s for advice. The rum drinkers voted for the J Boat, Rainbow, but the Wadadli folks insisted on corrected time so I chose 105ft Whitehawk, overall winner of the 2014 Regatta. The slowest, which might offer benefits the others couldn’t, was 52ft Samsara, a converted Danish fishing boat.
With my list complete, I managed to talk my way onto the newest and biggest, oldest, fastest, and slowest boats for four days of racing and clandestine research. It was a Goldilocks move, in search of sailing perfection.
For race one I boarded Chronos, joining their crew and two dozen guests, all togged out in yacht stripes. As she
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY j AN HEIN
above: A traditional dream – Coral of Cowes right: Samsara and Coral of Cowes rounding the outer mark.
bit into agitated seas, I waited for her to yaw or buck, but she was so steady that the teak chairs never moved an inch. The start happened without fanfare and before we reached the first mark, the deck morphed into a lounge with guests sipping fruity drinks and dining on bowls of soup. I passed on lunch but when the chef invited me into the galley to check out his cakes, I happily went for a taste test. Hands down, the clear winner was the passion fruit confection laced with fine sugar.
On day two I boarded Whitehawk, knowing there’d be no cake. After quick introductions to captain and 22 crew, I was handed a shirt and instructed on how to get out of the way. Everyone headed to their battle stations and the team in the cockpit, armed with an assortment of navigation devices, started formulating their win. With more wind and bigger seas, tacking and jibing the boat and two dozen people was carefully choreographed. On the only dry leg, the chute came out of the bag like a genie from a bottle, and after it was stuffed back in, we clawed our way upwind.
I smartly saved Samsara for race three, knowing that even the slowest boat can manage four legs of reaching and still reach the party on time. The boat, in contrast to Whitehawk’s varnish and high tech gear, is a traditionalist’s dream of linseed oil, galvanized rigging and 86 ash blocks. She lumbered toward the start line, crew hauling all the lines that make a gaffer go, crossing seconds after the gun. Instead of navigating devices, bottles of water appeared and were passed around. I was impressed with the focus on hydration until I realized that the flow of water had something to do with how many crew had partied hard the night before. As the day wore on, the answer was obvious. Samsara finished
25 minutes after the second slowest boat, earning a gun blast from the Committee Boat and a round of high-fives on deck.
For three days I’d been photographing my final ride. Coral of Cowes is unbeatable when it comes to spectacular shots. She routinely carries three jibs, gaff fore and main, each with topsails and her bowsprit is an impressive 16ft long. Being that the boat is a geriatric, I stepped aboard, assuming she’d sail like one. I was dumbfounded when she shot forward as each sail was lifted into place. The wind and seas had softened for the last race, perfect for the old gal to strut her lively moves.
That night, after awards were handed out in English Harbour, the band cranked up and I wandered away, still contemplating the question I’d set out to answer. To me, all the boats I’d raced on were perfect in some way. Whitehawk had a repeat victory- taking home another watch. Chronos aced the culinary contest. Samsara edged all others for Miss Congeniality; and Coral of Cowes won the fleet’s beauty pageant.
All of my exhaustive research to determine the best ride ended without a definitive answer; I still didn’t know which one was perfect. Since it wasn’t the largest, smallest, oldest, newest, fastest or slowest, I came to the only possible conclusion… for the sake of science and the chance to sail on the world’s most classic yachts, I’d have to do it again the following year.
this page, clockwise from top left:
Every year at the ACYR, there are too many options; Whitehawk charging along;; Whitehawk busy crew; Close enough opposite, clockwise from top left:
Chronos leading the way; Samsara with her hydrated crew; Coral of Cowes, old, but with plenty of power; Sometimes size matters;. Smallest but not driest. The 25’ Folkboat, Lorraine
I’m not a feminist. Nor do I think men and women are the same. But I do like to see people breaking the mould and defying convention. And traditionally, classic sailing has long been a man’s world and it kind of amazes me that still, after so much has changed, this predominance remains. So let’s celebrate some of the salty sirens that have graced Antiguan waters during these classic regattas.
Down and Dirty in the Scuppers: WOMEN IN CLASSIC SAILING
TEXT & PHOTOS BY LUCY TULLOCH
The first boat I raced on, just days after I arrived in Antigua in 1990, was Olin Steven’s favourite design, the 1934 yawl Stormy Weather. I was intrigued to learn that whilst her decks had black caulking, her cockpit always had white caulking… in order not to stain the white skirts of the ladies sitting in the cockpit of course.
One of the co-founders of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta back in 1987 was our very own Jane Coombs. She has owned her 1937 26ft Harrison Butler cutter Cora for 35 years and skippers Cora in many Classics. She has raced or sailed across the Atlantic on such beauties as Adventuress,Windrose,Vixen II, Vileehi and Lucia and is a chef, seamstress, photographer and writer. One afternoon after a solo evening sail in Falmouth harbour, she was carefully bringing Cora stern-to her usual narrow berth at Antigua Yacht Club and a passing yachtsman turned irritatedly to her and said “Oh for goodness sake, woman, go and wake up your husband!”
One female tour-de-force, cunningly-camouflaged in pink, was Kirsty Morrison. Passing her Yachtmaster in her 20s,
she sailed a Nicholson 32 with another girl to Ireland and Scotland. Some Irish fishermen came out to greet such a pretty wooden gaffer and then looked quizzically at the girls and asked…”But where’s everyone else?”
Sailing in Classics in 2007, she fell in love with the Carriacou sloops. Smitten with their style, spirit and tradition, she started looking to acquire one to bring to Antigua and race with an all-female crew. She imagined
buying or building one but sailing in the Grenadines, one afternoon, she spotted Pink Lady anchored off Palm Island. Built in Carriacou in 1975, Pink Lady (yes, her hull really was pink) had become the icon of Palm Island following a worthy and colourful fishing career. Kirsty took a year to persuade the owner Rob Barrett that racing in Antigua would be the perfect promotion for the resort and soon, she was hauling her out in Carriacou for a refit.
Arriving in Antigua in April, Kirsty and her pink bikini-clad crew and the pink sloop gathered more attention than almost any other boat in the Regatta. Although the boat was slow and trophies for speed were elusive, photographers & journalists flocked and everyone adored the spirit the Pink Lady brought to the Event. The team graced international magazines for months and Kirsty went on to skipper a Farr 72 and now runs a 76ft modern racing classic, with a strong male crew of mostly America’s Cup sailors. She once
described the Regatta as “A floating family of salty souls drawn together by their love of a hand-sawn frame, their lust for a finelyhewn line with a weakness for a rum-fuelled yarn”
One such lady who appreciated fine lines was the inimitable Elizabeth Meyers. Having grown up with stories of J-Class yachts in her childhood, she was writing an article on the J’s and came across Endeavour. And in 1991 began the epic restoration project that is said to be the cause of the resurgence in interest in the J-Class yachts.
In an interview with CNN, she said it was “an absolute Armageddon battle start to finish to get the boat done”. Criticism is something she has encountered at every crossroads. But in 1999, Velsheda and Shamrock V and the newly-rebuilt Endeavour sliced through the fleet at Antigua Classics to the awe of all the yachts left in their wake.
Many sailors in Classics know Clare Cupples as our Race Coordinator, she has also been the Vice Commodore of Antigua Yacht Club for 6 years. But probably few know that she has her Merchant ticket and is a Master Mariner. She was 1st mate on Tenacious, the tall ship sailed by a mixed ability crew, including disabled people and later, Captain of the Lord Nelson, the 54m barque for adults with disabilities. It was on an inky black night with a gale howling that Clare was climbing aloft to rescue a ripped topsail, the Bosun shouted up to Clare “Don’t worry Clare, it could be the old days!” To which she replied “If it was the old days, I’d be in the whorehouse!”
There is a trophy awarded for the Most Photogenic Yacht and a glance through the images from the photographers’ reels must tell all. One such yacht who won my heart year after year was built by the late Philip Walwyn from St Kitts. He built her in a shed with a small team of local wood-workers, outside their hilltop wooden house beneath the volcano, looking out to sea and Statia, and named her after his flamboyant artist wife Kate Spencer. Yacht Kate is an all wood replica of a First Rule gaff-rigged racing Twelve Metre designed by Mylne in
opposite top: Schooner Girl Shanan racing onboard Columbia. opposite bottom: Jane Coombs, co-founder of the Classic Regatta.
this page above left: Kirsty and her Pink Lady crew. above right: 12m replica Kate.
below left: Jane’s 1937 cutter Cora sailing around Falmouth Harbour.
1908. Launched in 2006, she was the star of many Classics in Antigua. Kate the yacht now lives and races in Holland whilst Kate the artist continues to create exquisite artworks at her studios in St Kitts and Sicily.
Daisy grew up one of nine children, daughter of Brian D’Isernia, owner of Eastern Shipbuilding Group. She returned from living in Australia to discover her father was building a steelhulled exact replica of the1923 141ft historic fishing schooner Columbia. Daisy was a certified diver at 15, she holds a pilot’s licence and has climbed Kilamanjaro. She now manages the charter bookings, marketing and social media and is the owner’s representative of this glorious and much-admired schooner racing regularly at Classics. Her passion for the schooner is infectious and she brings a humble joy to those who are lucky enough to sail with the Schooner Columbia
The picture I took of one of Columbia’s crew a few years ago has won competitions and has garnered over 5,000 Likes, shares & comments. The interesting thing about the image of Shanan Schooner Girl at the leeward rigging with a wall of water behind her, is not just that she is a girl on deck but that she is a girl in harness on deck meaning the default person to
go aloft. Shanan’s skill up the rig is somewhat due to her rockclimbing experience but she really honed her skills working on a square rigger doing everything from furling sails aloft at night to checks at the top of the mast sailing across the Gulf of Mexico. Her enthusiasm and confidence aloft is clear and Columbia’s Captain and Mate had no sexist notions about giving the “dangerous” jobs to the guys just because they were guys and instead recognised that Shanan was the best person for the job. She has done the North West passage on a 50-footer, been mate on a cargo ship in the Pacific, completed an engineering course and obtained her captain’s licence and skippered yachts in Key West and now New York.
Another daughter whose father was of paramount importance to her love of sailing was Susie Stanhope from Cornwall, England. She had owned and skippered yachts before, but in honour of her father, Susie commissioned a Spirit 56 to be built to her own specs, built in Ipswich, UK and launched in 2008. As owner and skipper of Spirited Lady of Fowey, her fulltime crew consisted of two spaniels and a cat. But reaching Antigua, she gathered a dynamic team of women to make her debut at Classics in 2010, winning trophies in 2011, 12 & 13. This spirited lady has lived onboard for 14 years, currently in Panama and works with gap year students, special schools, orphanages and hurricane or flood-damaged areas being as environmentally protective as possible.
Decked-out in pink or not, these women have had to strive just a little bit harder to reach where they are and I salute them all and their colourful accomplishments.
clockwise from top left Columbia crew haul hand-over-hand without winches.
141ft Gloucester fishing schooner replica Columbia. Susie at the helm of her Spirited Lady of Fowey. Columbia crew Delaney also seen aloft.
A Lifetime of Classics
With a lot more life behind me now than ahead, I find myself reminiscing lately and realizing that there has just always been a wooden boat in my midst. I will try to summarise how all these salty, soulful friends have played an important part in the fabric of my life; however each paragraph could be a chapter and some could be even be a book.
I was very young when my father completed his navigation training on the clipper Cutty Sark at Greenwich, London, and went on to commission the 22ft clinker-built Kestrel named after my mother, “Francesca”. One of my earliest memories is playing in the mahogany shavings at the boatyard where she was built. Once she was launched, most weekends from spring to autumn were spent “messing about in boats” out of Birdham Pool in Chichester Harbour, on the south coast of England. Every winter was spent varnishing boat parts at home. The smell of the oozing, black tidal mud and and the frantic slapping of halyards on masts, can still, oddly, make me swoon with nostalgia. Back in the 60s most of the boats were still built of wood and we waved when we saw another. How things have changed!
My mother, a poor traveller in any mode of transport, never took to sailing. I think she found a great deal of truth in
the saying that it was “long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror”. She was an avid “armchair sailor”, however, and fully encouraged her loved ones to have adventures on her behalf. Unbeknown to me, she signed me up on an extensive waiting list with the UK Sail Training Association when I was 10. By chance my name came to the top of the list in 1976, offering me the opportunity to sail on the 134ft three-masted topsail schooner Sir Winston Churchill, from Bermuda to New York for the Bicentennial celebrations. At eighteen this was indeed an eye-popping, life-changing experience and by the time it was over all thoughts of following a career in art and design had entirely vanished in my wake.
above: Our first day boat Bewitched below: Our family yacht, the Kestrel Francesca
Following a short, restless return to chilly England, I answered an advertisement in Yachting Monthly and set sail for Puerto Gibraltar in Spain that autumn on a 40ft Hilliard schooner named Moronel, with a wonderful bunch of arty folk. Despite stormy weather, we had many memorable adventures along the way and are still firm friends to this day.
Soon, I had my heart set on reaching the Caribbean so I set out on a rather ill-fated voyage on a 35ft teak doubleender called Nutkin that fell well short of the destination Tragically, after ten days of storms, blown sails and poor navigation, we were driven ashore on the Atlantic coast of Morocco in a terrifying bona fide shipwreck!
Luckily we three were all safe but I do not recommend arriving in an Islamic country sporting black underwear, a lifejacket and waist length blond hair!
Licking my wounds and against my mother’s wishes, I returned to Spain where I had the honour of assisting with the restoration of Conner O’Brian’s legendary 42ft Saoirse. She was the first yacht to circumnavigate the world by way of the three great capes between 1923 and 1925 in an age when only square-rigged grain ships were plying those routes.
Disappointment at being unable, due to timing, to join as delivery crew on the 1938 Ivanhoe, turned quickly to relief when three days later she was impounded in Algeciras and found to be carrying considerable amounts of drugs; all involved were sent to jail! Lady Fortuna was definitely watching over me.
At this time the beautiful schooner Marie Pierre (now known as Aschanti 1V of Vegesack) was the ultimate superyacht of the day based, in Jose Banus. I made a promise to my 20-yearold self that I would someday sail on this magnificent vessel but she proved to play an even bigger roll in my future.
Around the age of 21 I secured my first paid position as
deckhand on a 65ft schooner Hawaita (apparently named for the first utterance on waking hungover after the post purchase celebration!) For that season in the South of France, I had no bunk when on charter so I slept in the bowsprit net and on the galley floor if it rained but I was utterly in heaven.
Whilst helping some friends on a Loch Fyne Skiff named Currach in San Antonio, Ibiza, I met my late husband, the legendary Kenny Coombs, and jumped ship on to his Norwegian gaff rigged ketch Hollandia. The next two years of my life were filled with many adventures from the Mediterranean to where we finally left her in Harlingen, Holland.
Not long after Kenny and I sailed into English Harbour in 1983, he was offered the position to captain the 117ft barque Marques. Impoverished at the time, we gave it long consideration but feeling under-qualified he turned it down. We were stunned to hear not long after that she had been driven under in a white squall north of Bermuda with the tragic loss of 19 of her 28 crew.( including several Antiguans). Lady Fortuna looked after us again.
In 1985 we took command of the beautiful 75ft Herreshoff schooner Vixen II and we were back in our element. It was also not long after this that I fell in love with the little 26ft Harrison Butler Cora at Antigua Slipway and she became ours. It has been a 35 year love affair that has bought me so much joy.
above left: Heading of to Bermuda in 1976 to join The Sir Winston Churchill top right: Aloft in the rigging of the barque Marques right: Herreshoff schooner Vixen II
In 1987 the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta was conceived aboard Aschanti of Saba (the aforementioned ex-Marie Pierre) over a few glasses of rum with Master Mariner Uli Pruesse and fellow enthusiasts. Uli became our dear friend till he sadly passed; the Regatta, meanwhile, thrived and our lives were shaped for the next 30 years. I also had my youthful aspiration to sail on this magnificent schooner granted numerous times.
Our next classic charge was the robust 80ft gaff ketch Vileehi, built in 1930. Now this paragraph about the two years spent onboard could well become a book one day, so bizarre was its nature! Sadly she sunk in 2019 in Port Saint Louis du Rhone but I hear she may have been raised and restoration begun.
After Vileehi, the sprightly 61ft Alden yawl Lucia A came into our lives and we were fortunate enough to take part in the entire Mediterranean classic yacht regatta circuit and feeder races two years in a row. She was a joy to sail and could take the fierce Meltemis and Mistrals when her
narrower British rivals were being knocked flat in the water.
And finally there was the creme de la creme. Kenny was head-hunted to be Sailing Master on the 95ft William Fife schooner Adventuress, following a complete re-build at Rockport Marine, Maine. I proudly became the Minister of her elegant Interior. What followed was two years of great sailing, racing, entertaining and “harbour burns”, involving many local inhabitants who remembered her well from the early charter days as the Bermudan yawl Isobel. Dear Kenny passed away suddenly in October 2013 but she was the perfect, top notch last command for a great classic seafarer.
Since then Cora and I age together as gracefully as we can with a bit of patching here and there. Occasionally I guiltily consider perhaps switching to a more modern, easier to maintain replica, especially during yard periods! But will I …. really?
Whatever I decide I will always have a proclivity for wooden boats. I will be found lurking around traditional boatyards or seeking out the few wooden masts at boat shows. Long after my sailing days are done I’ll relish the conversations to be had with the genuine people that keep them alive. I may die with a varnish brush in my hand bringing out the beauty in some unique piece of wood. We don’t change. Our characters and passions are formed early and become condensed like an excellent, reduced French sauce.
I am very grateful for the connections I have made in life through wooden boats, the rip-roaring sailing and most of all Lady Fortuna for allowing me reach to reach this epoch safely.
left: At the helm of Lucia racing at St Tropez.. below:: Cora racing in ACYR in 1993.
Oh to be in Antigua, now that the Classics are back!
I have attended, participated in and photographed many regattas in many places and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta is my all time favourite! It’s not just one thing that does it; the yachts, the tradition, the sailing, the people, the island, the events and the fun all come together and make it an unforgettable happening. It takes you back to a different era and makes you feel a part of something that keeps old traditions alive. Walking the docks and taking in the classics, both big and small, is such a memorable experience. Sailing one hard on the wind with the spray flying as you slice through the tropical trades is something you just can’t forget. There’s nothing like classic schooners reaching for the line just before the start or fighting for the finish line. The boats range from Carriacou sloops to big schooners and they’re all art in motion.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY ROBIN STOUT
Antigua’s warm trade winds make it both an ideal place for world class racing and for sailing which is consistently awesome. What happens ashore is also very special. Antigua is rich in culture and history and English Harbour is a special place. Steeped in history and tradition, you couldn’t ask for a better setting for a classic yacht regatta. Stepping into Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour is like stepping back in time.The locals are great. Be sure to stop by for a tot with the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda who have hoisted a glass to toast the king and queen every evening for over 30 years.There’s elegant dining but you can also sample a burger from a street vendor cart or have a mouth watering roti for lunch at a local restaurant.
From the welcome cocktails to the gig racing and cream teas, these are put on largely thanks to ever-faithful volunteers. I love the grandeur of the Concours d’Elégance, where you can tour beautifully maintained, classic yachts. The Parade of Classics in English Harbour is not to be missed. And the parties are always so much fun, with rum and beer galore and you cannot help but join in the dancing when the music is pumping and the dance floor jumping.
Racers from all walks of life attend the Antigua Classics Regatta: from professionals to armchair sailors, there is something for everyone. Youth also sail in this event and it is fun to watch them sail aboard the traditional Carriacou Sloop New Moon. The founder of the regatta, Kenny Coombs said it best “Everyone here is on the same level, Whether you come in flip flops or private jets, everyone is here for the sailing.”
opposite: Columbia slicing through the waves.
above: Author Robin Stout hoisting the main. below: Columbia’s beautiful bow.
I have been fortunate enough to ride along on some of these beautiful boats as a photographer. Being a racer myself made my ride-alongs momentous, such as the special memories aboard from New Moon, the smallest boat in the Regatta that year and crewed by local youth. The WISH foundation that runs this Carriacou sloop do an amazing job of getting Antiguan kids trained and on the water.
I have also been fortunate to sail aboard Ticonderoga (72ft ketch), a fast and fun ride, and Columbia (141ft Schooner) was an amazing experience. Skipper Seth never raised his voice and the crew worked together beautifully. We sailed fast and the day was a thing of beauty. Another favourite would have to be Aschanti IV. All 114ft of this yacht are pure beauty. Aschanti also has a skipper who never raises his voice and a crew that handles her beautifully.These are experiences that will last my lifetime and for which I am forever grateful.
As well as local volunteers, people come to this Regatta from all over the world by boat or plane so as not to miss taking part in this unique event. It takes a lot of volunteers to make the Regatta come off smoothly and I want to do all I can to see it succeed; the office helpers, start and finish line, mark-set boats, dingy wranglers and more all work together and create a memorable event. I am honoured to be asked to be the Regatta Organizer of this Regatta in 2023. I’m excited that we’re bringing back the traditions started by Antigua Classics founder, Kenny Coombs and going back to our roots in Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour.
I love Antigua. The island and her people are so very welcoming and friendly.The weather is almost always perfect. The water is a beautiful hue of blue, warm and inviting. Every time I return to Antigua I feel like I’ve come home.
above: SeeFalke II
below: Apollonia crew celebrating a fun day of racing.