The Oyster fleet powered to windward to be rewarded with a downwind reach in ocean swell, followed by a downwind leg along the stunning rocky coastline of Antigua. Class 1 had two laps of the triangular section of the course for a 22-mile race, Classes 2 & 3 had one lap for a 16-mile race. The entire fleet finished downwind in Rendezvous Bay. A swell of over two metres produced exhilarating sailing conditions to round off a spectacular regatta on the water, and set the scene for the final big party in one of Antigua's most exclusive locations.
The tremendous battle between Henrik Nyman's Swedish Oyster 745 Pitanga and Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean, skippered by Roger Whyld had produced exciting racing for the entire regatta. Starry Night was first over the line and controlled the start and during the race passed Pitanga to leeward with their huge kite flowing in the wind. However, Pitanga prevailed to score their third win of the regatta to win the class. Starry Night was second, and Sir Richard Matthews British Oyster 82 Midnight was third.
“Of course it was good to win, and the important thing is that we are getting better and better, the team sailed very well,” commented Henrik Nyman. “It is so nice to sail in Antigua with such a huge variety of courses provided by people who are experienced in organising these regattas. To feel the power of the wind and the sea, to be surrounded by all these wonderful people - it can't be better than that. I am very happy and I would like to say that the owner of Starry Night is a great sportsman, and that is one of the things I have learned from this regatta, and I appreciate that a lot.”
With the top three teams tied going into the last race, there was drama right at the start of the final race with Ed Rumble's American Oyster 625 Black Lion called over the line at the start, along with Wolfram Birkel's German Oyster 625 Red Cat. A thrilling race ensued with the outcome uncertain even after the finish. British Oyster 655 Sotto Vento, sailed by Richard Smith, was awarded first place in the race by just five seconds on corrected time. However under the rules of the regatta, Black Lion and Sotto Vento were awarded equal points, which meant that the class winner was Black Lion after a tie break. John McTigue's at the helm of his American Oyster 625 Irish Blessing, made the best start for Race 4, and finished third in class for the regatta.
“That's as close as it gets, any of the class could have won!,” commented Ed Rumble. “My aspirations for this regatta were to have fun, meet some new people and enjoy my boat. I did all that incredibly well and more. I am new to big boat sailing and this event has been astounding. The Oyster team have done a great job and the people I have met have been great. We have been getting the boat in shape for about a year, and my Captain has done a great job of getting it ready and all that hard work has paid off. This win was very unexpected, but we are incredibly happy about it. I have made some fantastic friends here, the whole thing has been a wonderful experience. Black Lion is an incredible boat, and the excellent crew on board got us over that winning line.”
John Rutherford's British Oyster 45 Degree of Latitude made the best start in the final race to score third for Race 4. However, David Pedley's British Oyster 56 Sea Flute won the race crossing the line just 27 seconds ahead of Joakim Furusten Swedish Oyster 56 Bliss. Simon Brown's British Oyster 56 Britican was fifth for the race, securing third for the regatta. Sea Flute was one of four Oysters in the regatta that had just sailed the globe in the Oyster World Rally.
“That was amazing!” commented David Pedley. “The win was totally unexpected, the boat has just sailed around the world, the sails have done tens of thousands of miles, we have a ton of spares on the boat, and we were not expecting to pick up the trophy. We entered for a bit of fun and we certainly got that, as well as a very close and competitive racing. All of the teams that did the Oyster World Rally have become very close friends, and to meet all of the other members of the Oyster family has been just incredible. I am off to Palma after we leave here, and I will definitely be sailing in the Palma regatta.”
The Oyster Antigua Regatta came to a conclusion at Clarence House in Nelson's Dockyard, built in 1783. The fine Georgian residence offered a stunning elevated view of the Oyster fleet nestled in the dockyard and a beautiful sunset over Antigua. Centuries-old stories are etched in the impressively restored house located in one of the most beautiful spots anywhere in the Caribbean.
Richard and Jenny Hadida were introduced by Oyster’s CCO Paul Adamson to present the prizes at the Oyster Antigua Regatta awards ceremony. There was a special thank you to Molly Marston from Oyster Yachts USA for her tireless work in organising the event, and also a special prize for Ian Galbraith, owner of Oyster 53 Jigsaw, who showed incredible sportsmanship during the regatta.
“Antigua is one of the most magical spots on the earth to go sailing, and to have the final night here at Clarence House in Nelson's Dockyard is just superb,” commented Oyster CEO Richard Hadida. “This is the new Oyster and my mission is to continue the legacy that Sir Richard Matthews has left us. Jenny and I have really loved the week, it has been super special, and as an Oyster owner, I feel that if I am happy then so are you. Massive respect should also go to the Oyster family that completed the Oyster World Rally, it is an incredible achievement.”
After the awards ceremony, delicacies from the renowned beach restaurant, Catherine's Cafe were served to the Oyster family. The internationally acclaimed Asher Otto and Itchy Feet took to the stage for a live set that lasted long into the evening. The Oyster Palma Regatta will take place 2nd - 5th October 2019 with a full programme of racing and parties at the fantastic city and sailing grounds of Mallorca, Spain.