ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The young crew of Cork 1720 Digicel Challenger celebrated their victory at the beach party and prize-giving ceremony on Sunday after their overall win in the Racing Division in the Jolly Harbour Valentine’s Regatta in Antigua.
“This is a great victory for us,” said helmsman Bob Green. “The guys have worked so hard, training after school to prepare for this event.”
In the Cruising Division, Rick Gormley and his crew on First 38 Elethea also celebrated their victory.
“I’ve done this event for 13 years and in fact the Jolly Harbour Valentine’s Regatta is the reason I came to live in Antigua,” he said.
“I would put 95 per cent of our success down to the crew work and 5 per cent to the helm. The racing was very close and there are some good sailors out there, so we are very pleased with our victory.”
The Multihull Class was the first to start Sunday’s racing. John Westgarth-Pratt’s Ascension, a Fontain-Pajot 36 Mahé and Bill Clifton’s Catana 43 Four Winds came neatly off the start line only inches apart, and enjoyed a close few legs before Four Winds finally took victory on the finish line.
Their one-race 17-mile course, set to suit their size and handling, took in 13 mark roundings, taking them up to the harbour entrance of Antigua & Barbuda’s capital, St John’s for some challenging manoeuvres.
“The long legs of the course suited us really well,” said Westgarth-Pratt.
“It was a great sail for us up to St John’s and then we flew back with the spinnaker.”
For the other two classes, Cruising and Spinnaker, Sunday’s final programme consisted of two races with starts just outside the entrance to Jolly Harbour and a first windward leg into the shore and back to Five Islands.
From there a series of windward leeward legs took the fleet northwards.
The regatta ended as it began three days prior, in perfect conditions of 12 to 14 knots and flat turquoise seas.
Chairman of the Regatta Organising Committee Kathy Lammers summed up the event.
“We’ve seen a wonderful celebration of the regatta’s 20th anniversary,” she said.
“We’ve had excellent conditions and such great participation from a wide variety of yachts, both those based in Antigua, and others who are passing through on their voyage itineraries. We are really looking forward to the event growing further in future years.”
The racing was exceptionally close. Stephen Carson and his crew on Hightide were sniffing victory as they came bounding back from a sluggish start to the event. They added another first and second to Saturday’s improved results, to end up only one point adrift of Digicel Challenger’s winning score.
Geoffrey Pidduck’s six-metre Biwi Magic experienced a minor drama when she dragged Jolly, the first windward mark, downwind as she attempted to round.
One competitor observed: “A couple of boats are saying a very big thank you to Mr Pidduck for moving the mark to their advantage.”
In the Cruising Division, only three points separated second, third and forth position – Don Ward’s Frolic, Festus Isaac’s Chardonnay, and Robbie Ferron’s Springtide, respectively.
The regatta wasn’t just for the keelboats. The celebration was joined by a dozen Laser Pico dinghies provided by Antigua National Sailing Academy which completed six races on Sunday, close off Jolly Harbour beach.
Winning all but one of Sunday’s six races was 11-year-old Antiguan sailor Rocco Falcone who is already an emerging star at championship level.
But it was the consistency of Bea Shrewsbury that took the championship. Olympic sailor Karl James was on hand during the weekend to offer some coaching advice. “All the young sailors who took part did incredibly well,” he said.
Prizes were presented by Minister of Tourism John Maginley at the closing Rum on the Beach party at Castaways Beach Bar.
Competitors and guests enjoyed the music of Chicki’s Hi Fi as well as the Spirited Band and enjoyed beach cricket organised by former West Indies pace bowler Kenneth “Flipper” Benjamin.
Marketing and Sponsorship Director for the Jolly Harbour Valentine’s Regatta and Rum Festival, Alison Sly-Adams, described the ethos of the event.
“We are delighted with the reaction to the entire event from sailors, partygoers and sponsors,” she saids.
“This was the first year of the rum festival and we have been able to really assess the potential of the event.
“Our rum sponsors have given us fantastic support with their displays and bars. The visiting public has tasted new rums and new and exciting ways of drinking them. We look forward to further developing the festival into a platform for participating rum brands to use as a showcase in 2014 and each year,” Sly-Adams added.
Regatta sponsors included founding partners Jolly Harbour Marina Village, Budget Marine, Jolly Harbour Marina, Jolly Harbour Yacht Club, Jolly Harbour Merchants’ Association and Jolly Harbour Homeowners’ Association.
The event was also supported by Ministry of Tourism, Seahawk Paints, Pineapple Rentals, Townhouse Megastore, Digicel, Outdoor World Yamaha and Takumi.
Thanks to the seven rum partners: English Harbour Rum, Clements Rum, Angostura Rum, Mount Gay Rum, Appleton Rum, El Dorado, and Bacardi.