It was a truly memorable day even before the start of the second day of the Oyster Antigua Regatta. Sponsored very appropriately by Dolphin Sails, a cetacean stole the limelight at the start of the show! The Oyster fleet left the safe confines of Nelson's Dockyard to the starting area off Rendezvous Bay to be advised by the race committee that a whale had been spotted in the vicinity. The Oyster fleet were advised to keep a watchful eye, and numerous members of the Oyster family gazed in amazement as the junior humpback whale, seemingly extremely at home, lobtailed its presence! The humpback was most definitely On-Course-Side for the start of Class 3 and inquisitively followed the Oyster Yachts to the first top mark.
The second race of the regatta was a passage race to Jolly Harbour of approximately 20 nautical miles. After a short beat, the Oyster fleet cracked sheets to turn downwind for a three-hour festival of superb sailing. With brisk warm trade winds, slightly south of east, the course was almost dead downwind to a mark of Cades Reef. The fleet continued to the West Coast of Antigua, where clouds emanating from the rainforest, and a new breeze bending around the top of the island, conspired to push the wind forward. By the time Sandy Island came into view, the fleet where closed hauled. A reach to the finish off the stunning Five Islands Harbour ensured that during the passage race the Oyster Yachts had encountered every point of sail. The Oyster Yachts were a magnificent sight under spinnakers but the humpback whale was the talk of the town after racing.
Sir Richard Matthew's Oyster 82 Midnight took the gun for both classes, and overall line honours in an elapsed time of just under 2 hours and 15 minutes. “This is not our first regatta,” smiled Sir Richard, referring to the afterguard on Midnight, including the legendary Irish sailor Harold Cudmore, and multiple Dragon World Champion Poul Høj Jensen.
The whole team on board Midnight produced a faultless display of boat-handling, and not all of the moves were out of the traditional textbook. A goose-winged main and spinnaker, which requires perfect concentration and communication on an Oyster 82, was followed by a double-headed set as the wind went forward, and a spinnaker float drop, straight out of the top draw. It was impressive to say the least. Alan & Sue Parker's British Oyster 82 Dama de Noche was second. Oyster 745 Pitanga and Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean both retired from the race.
Wolfram Birkel's German Oyster 625 Red Cat once again made the best start. However, John McTigue's American Oyster 625 Irish Blessing, won a battle royal after time correction, with three yachts constantly swapping pole position throughout the race. A spectacular yet friendly competition ensued throughout the race. Irish Blessing took the win by under two minutes. Ed Rumble's American Oyster 625 Black Lion took line honours for the class and was second after time correction by just 23 seconds. British Oyster 655 Sotto Vento, sailed by Richard Smith made up the podium.
Ed Rumble is relatively new to sailing and purchased the stunning jet-black Oyster 625 in 2012. “My first love was Rugby Union, and the Black Lions are my club in Chicago, hence the name,” explained Ed. “I wanted a really well-built, comfortable boat, primarily to sail across the Atlantic with my 15-year-old son, and it was an amazing experience for both of us. Black Lion was just perfect; safe, reliable and easy to handle, even with a small crew. The Atlantic crossing gave me the opportunity to learn so much about the boat in just a few weeks. For my son, the experience had a big impact on his outlook on life and still does. This is my first regatta with the boat in the Caribbean, and we have some really good sailors on board, which is really useful to develop my abilities, especially on the helm.”
Joakim Furusten Swedish Oyster 56 Bliss scored a narrow win, crossing the finish line just 19 seconds ahead of Simon Brown's British Oyster 56 Britican. The top four Oysters in the class were all in contention. Yesterday's winner, David Pedley's British Oyster 56 Sea Flute, once again made the podium, just over two minutes behind Bliss. Chilean Oyster 46 Solway Mist, sailed by Christian Pazaro, was fourth. Ian Galbraith's Scottish Oyster 53 Jigsaw, was once again quickest off the start line.
Joakim and Cecilia Furusten are competing at the Oyster Antigua Regatta during their round the world adventure. Having purchased their Oyster 56, the yacht was substantially refitted at Fox's Yard in Norfolk UK, then sailed to Stockholm, Sweden. Bliss crossed the Atlantic at the start of this year, and after exploring the Caribbean, the couple will pass through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, continuing their planned three-year circumnavigation.
“We complement each other in that I am more driven, while Cecilia is more into planning and strategy,” commented Joakim. “We want to be as free as possible, the only thing we are guided by is the weather and the seasons. We will not race around the world, our goal is to look around and discover,” added Cecilia.
After the passage race to Jolly Harbour, the Oyster family gathered at one of Antigua's finest locations for a regatta dinner. Sugar Ridge is one of Antigua's newest luxury boutique resorts with beautifully landscaped grounds and inviting swimming pools. The fun doesn't end at an Oyster Regatta when the sun goes down, and after cocktails, dinner was served to the Oyster family. A live Jazz got the party going and with Lay Day at Jacqui O's Love Beach the following day, the fun lasted long into the night.
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