Monday, May 13, 2013

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta 2013

 "To all cruisers, the 4th Annual Coconut Telegraph Meet and Greet will be held tonight at 4pm at the Mad Mongoose.  This is English Harbour Radio, signing off”.
And so it begins!  It’s like a gathering of the clans.  From Sinbad’s mooring in Falmouth Harbour, we can see the boats; classics, cruisers and mega-yachts; entering the harbor one by one in anticipation of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. 

Mega-yachts, classics, and a local man exercising his horse, Falmouth Harbour
 Each year, classic yachts from Europe, North America and the Caribbean gather to show off their mirror-like varnish, gleaming brass, and their grace and speed under sail.  The docks are a hive of activity with crew members scurrying about their tasks, sailors aloft tweeking the rigging, and stores selling beverages and spirits by the case.

See the tiny man on the giant mast?
Flawless varnish, acres of teak...
There's always work to be done.
Every night of Race Week starts with a party, and the Coconut Telegraph is the first.  We met new friends and renewed old friendships from last year’s events.   It was nice to get to know fellow cruisers in advance of the arrival of hordes of visitors and race crews.  We talked about upcoming cruising plans, summer hurricane season arrangements, and swapped stories and insights on dockyards and anchorages around the world.
Mongoose madness
Randy volunteered last year to assist the Antigua Yacht Club, host sponsors of the event, and this year we wanted to do it again. They remembered Randy and his comprehensive skill set.  We were issued official volunteer t-shirts and assigned to set up the food tents and move picnic tables on Wednesday, in preparation for opening night. Come evening, we headed in to the Mongoose for the first Red Hat Party. For buying Mount Gay rum drinks, you can collect tickets to get Mount Gay Regatta shirts or the coveted Red Hats, worn as a status symbol by sailors everywhere. 
Not from Antigua.... but these sell for crazy money on EBay!
The next day we went hiking. From Nelson’s Dockyard we took the water taxi to the Galley Bay hotel, and from there hiked out to Fort Charlotte. Unlike most ruins, this one has a big tree with picnic table under it, a breezy vantage point for watching the races in shaded comfort. 
English Harbour and the Dockyard from Fort Charlotte

The sea cliffs at Cape Shirley
Not really looks like that.


Along the trail eastward are the majestic sea cliffs of Cape Shirley.  Because this was a short hike, Randy agreed to go further, up Desmond’s Trail to the overlook at Shirley Heights.  It was a good scramble, with cool refreshments in the Georgian-era Inn at the top.

On Desmond's Trail to the Overlook at Shirley Heights
The Dockyard from Shirley Heights


On the trail, headed down.
That evening at Happy Hour, Randy and Skipper Bruce talked Bruce’s young crewman Jeremiah into hiking up to the fort at Monk’s Hill with Di. That got Randy off the hook! The next morning Di picked up Jeremiah at the yacht club and headed for the Catamaran Hotel dinghy dock.  We walked toward Falmouth, and turning inland, climbing a steep road past some very nice homes and panoramas of Falmouth Harbour.  
Up and up we went, from road to two-track to trail.  The path wound uphill through dense prickly acacia, along a steep escarpment. We took a wrong turn and ended up at a dead end in the thorny tangled bush.  We bushwacked on with the cutlass, following the ridge until a higher escarpment and at last the fort walls came into view.  Scrambling over a massive collapsed wall, we hacked on until we reached the road and the fort’s arched gate.
Jeremiah starting down the path, leaving the road.  Not!
Bushwhacking along the fort wall
The old munitions building
There’s not much left of the structures of the fort, other than the munitions storage building, always the last standing since the walls are at least three feet thick. 
The massive stone gate to Fort George on Monk's Hill.
There were splendid views  in all directions. We had fun, since we are both history buffs. Jeremiah was great company. The scramble down is always faster, and as soon as Di got back to the boat, a drenching shower rained down, washing away the dust and sweat. Randy had been cooking all day, and made grilled pork loin and rice pilaf, with a crisp tossed salad to start. Yum.  We headed ashore for yet another Happy Hour, and met up with cruiser friends Morgan and Sherry, who invited us to join them aboard 64’ catamaran Nirvana for race watching. Cool!!!

The next day at 0830 we tied up to Nirvana and joined our cruising friends for a race-viewing party.  Bob and Debbie from Chamoya, Janice and Steve from Sailacious, Anne and Jim the Brits from Impressionist , Darnelle aboard Island Dream (we met a year ago in Virgin Gorda), South African John from Out of Africa, Steve the Brit photographer, Jackie from Compass Rose, Mark and Winnie from Liahona. Lovely people. 

Morgan skippered us right into the race action. I’ve never experienced the excitement of yacht racing ‘til we were at the starting mark when the canon fired “start!”. It was thrilling.   



On the second day of racing, the wind was fierce; three boats were dismasted and several others sustained damages and had to retire from the racing.  Thankfully no one was hurt.  The carpenters were busy that night.
Blue Peter with her mast in splinters...
due to a failed chainplate.



Race week continued like this, with hiking or resting by day, parties by night, and another trip out among the racers, thanks to Morgan.  We got some great photos (they might have been better but Di’s camera is dying).  We gathered with friends in the Dockyard to watch the Parade of Yachts through English Harbour on Sunday.  
This parade can be a very fancy social event! Di forgot to wear her  pink frock.
The Pride of Antigua
At last we had to say farewell, for it was time to move the boat to Jolly Harbour for water and fuel in preparation for moving south. The weather window is Open!