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Monday, April 25, 2011

ALMOST BLOODSPORT .............



When it comes to 'Yacht Racing', it is the closest thing to full-out war without using ammunition ............. When it comes to 'Yacht Racing' all forms of chivalry, courtesy and manners fly out the door ........... When it comes to 'Yacht Racing' there are more rules and regulations than the Constitution ........ When it comes to 'Yacht Racing' no mercy shall be shown and therefore no quarter shall be given .............Men and money shall battle it out for honours, glory and bragging rights and not just men, for more and more women crews have joined in the fray ........ The Classic Regatta week for traditional yachts was followed by "ANTIGUA RACE WEEK" in which some of the World's finest 'sportspersons' come to do battle ...... There's simply no-one around to take on 'Goliath' though, that yacht "MALTESE FALCON", so it simply sailed off the dock at Antigua and took off into the blue ocean ......... Had trouble trying to keep up with it in the dinghy to take the photos ........ This incredible piece of high-tech engineering is state-of-the-art stuff, where just a single mast without the booms, sails and peripherals, costs a bit more than $ 10 million ........... The subtlety of naming it 'Falcon' is not lost on anybody ....... Even the wager in the original "America's Cup" was in today's value worth but a handfull of coins, but the possession of that Silver trophy Cup has had more money spent on it than most of us are able to write down in words ..............



Those sails by the way, furl and unfurl out of the rotating masts and are completely computer controlled ... So if you want to beat the 'Maltese Falcon' in a race you might just have to do some 'hacking' not tacking ..............



But there still are some beautiful things to be seen and found right in amongst the racing madness that has prevailed, for more than 150 racing yachts are assembled in Antigua, whose owners and crews come from all over the World for this annual event ..... Which in turn brings out the best and the worst in the sponsors, who host absolutely fabulously disgustingly good parties ........ The Mount Gay rum party, also known as the 'red hat party' since those with tickets are able to receive their prized caps, provided so much free rum that we doubt if there is any left in Barbados ..... Puts a whole new meaning into "Getting into the Spirit" ........




But by morning it is back into the serious side of racing, for there are five days of racing and eight nights of parties ........ Tough choices have to be made ........ The big luxury catamaran put on its own party which you could clearly hear all over the harbour .........



No doubt you will remember Dwight Rodriquez, our buddy from Puerto Rico who arrived to compete in this 'cut-throat' game with his yacht "TODA VIA", celebrating with friends just like the rest of us ........... Dwight is also a master chef and barely was he rafted up beside us than the first plates appeared with ham, bacon, cheese and egg to kind of let us know " I'm Back " .............



Race boats are normally pretty spartan on the inside but there is always something else you can remove to lessen the weight ......... Like your liferaft, the barbeque, mops, buckets, you name it .......... And then afterwards, some other yacht will launch a protest against you in the 'Race Village' like the yellow team parked on the bench ...... Protests first go to 'Arbitration', then to 'Mediation' then to the 'Protest Committee' which is presided over by a Judge ............. There are lots of procedures like calling in the incident over the radio, raising a red flag, being at the committee tent within an hour of the race ending ...... Needless to say there is no such thing as a " pleasant little day out racing " .............. Good in some ways, for we on "TODA VIA" went from 7th place to 4th place as a result of others in our class having a 'little penalty' session ......



Now down to this business of yacht racing ..........And matching so many different designs to make it fair .......... 'King Solomon' where are you when we really need you ......



So after many days of racing, receiving only one protest so far, we return to the harbour each afternoon exhausted, but happy ........... Twenty miles away the active volcano on Montserrat continues to spit ash and fumes into the sky, but other than that everything is "Quiet on the Western Front" .......



Everywhere else in ANTIGUA life carries on as usual, and the remains of an old sugar mill still stands alone and has 'seen it all' ......Except at the English Harbour end of the island, where industrious locals have set up food and T-shirt tents to cater for the 2000 plus foreign visitors ................

In St. John however, the Capital of Antigua and Barbuda, there is this signboard hanging outside an office that has left us somewhat puzzled .......... Could it be that that in some cases the gender cannot be determined, and would this require some form of Government oversight? ............ Certainly at some of the parties, that was definitely the case ............ And on the race course also, for stout and able gentlemen were heard to shout "Bitch" many times over ................. And some other unprintable gender-related expressions ...... Wait a minute ....... Perhaps it means that if you plan on having an 'affair' with the same or the opposite gender in Antigua, you first have to register it with the Directorate ........ That's probably it ................

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

THE ANTIGUA 'CLASSIC' REGATTA .................



And if you have never double-clicked on a photo to enlarge it, now would be a real good time to do that ......... What an incredible experience to be out there on the water, and to see such magnificent yachts in action ........ There were sloops, yawls, ketches and schooners of every shape and size, and most with crews too many to count ............ And when so many yachts come together at the rounding of the mark, well, it gives you goose bumps just to watch it, even if the temperature is in the 90s ................. We took friends out on "ARITA" to just beyond the first mark on Day 1, about six miles offshore and sat there in splendour with all our flags up ......... There was no excuse for not seeing the mark ......... One yacht with jambed gear, blew his siren at us to get out of the way ............. The second race we watched from the cliff top on a really grey day, and for the third race we went out again with friends on the catamaran "KUHELA", to watch and take more photos and video ...........So, with about 2800 photos and a bunch of videos, here's a little 'taste' ......... Just let us know if you need the 'full meal' ..........



Motoring out past the start line ............. Lorry Clark took the photo from the top of the hill .............. Somewhere out there six miles away is one the turning marks in the triangular course ...



The races were divided into classes appropriate to size and design, making allowances or penalties for being true vintage, built in the 'Spirit of Tradition', or simply wood with modern underbodies and designed for speed ........... It takes quite a bit of wind to push a beautiful yacht like " ELENA " which displaces 220 tonnes ........ But nothing beats the spectacle of the J-class yachts that were built in the 1930s ...



Just double-click on the schooner " ELENA " to see this beautiful vessel in detail ...



The event's finale was a parade through English Harbour by the yachts and their crews ........... No wonder they have washer/dryers on board to take care of all those uniforms ........ What a spectable of colour ........... What a display of superb carftsmanship ........... What an embarrassing exhibition of wealth ......... Ah, well ....... Back to thinking about polishing up our own stainless steel, now that it is all over .......



Oh, and we may have forgotten to mention that after every race there was a huge party on shore with free liquor ............ "LIQUOR IS QUICKER" ........ Very appropriate when it comes to Mount Gay rum punch ....... Mount Gay did a great job with their sponsorship and helping everybody out with caps, backpacks and T-shirts .......... And also there were parties before and after the whole event, which is why it was so good of us to be sitting out there at the mark ........ Made it easy for the other sailors to find it ......... The mark, that is ......



Yes, ........ It's us, still standing, despite the parties and late night street wanderings with friends from that beautiful schooner "AMOEBA" ............

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