Antigua Race Week - 2000

Summary

The island is largely a third world country with pockets of luxury and wealth. We chartered a boat at the southern end of the island and rented an apartment on the northern end of the island – about a 45-minute drive between them. A great idea as, when we needed it, we were able to get away from the noisy party atmosphere of the regatta to our apartment right on the beach with crystal clear water, ideal for refueling the energy levels. If we wanted to stay where the action was we would just sleep on the boat.

Warm temperature sailing on mostly coastal races to new destinations on the island provided great variety and fun in the sun days capped off with a dip off the back of the boat and a few beers to wind down. The destinations were well prepared to receive and host the thousands of yachties with organized events and parties. The best being on a beach in a normally secluded bay. It transforms into a city of seemingly endless tents along the long beach. Local food is cooked, souvenirs are sold and even an outdoor nightclub is set up.

The dugout canoe taxis from the boat to the shore are an experience because they seem so unstable particularly for our big boys.

On the trip back to English Harbor one of the races ended in a civilized port where there was plenty of restaurants end entertainment to choose from. The food quality was generally very good. In English Harbor the choices of entertainment was excellent – a number of venues to choose from including bars with great music to quiet sophisticated restaurants.

We chartered from Sunsail who were truly excellent in every way. The support was incredible. We had an incident where a French boat came a little to close to windward, got a gust of wind and allowed its mast to collide with ours taking our $1200 wind instruments onto the sea. Sunsail had the entire unit replaced within an hour of getting to port and the assistance they provided us for the protest helped us win. The French skipper despite blatant lies in the protest room to his credit wrote a check there and then after the arbitrator ruled in our favor.

After some great racing during the week we entered the last with some local knowledge about avoiding current by hugging the shore. We did so but were still extremely slow and finished the race last in our division. We found out later that a leaky cooling hose had filled the bilge with a lot of water adding immense weight to the boat. Coming in last place down the final leg someone made the call we all wanted to hear to relieve our frustration: “beers out, bimini up and Neil Diamond on”. We made our laid back crossing of the finish line to the blaring sounds of “Sweet Caroline” and were met with multiple blasts and cheers from the race committee who were glad to see their week over after copping a lot of flack from the competitors accusing them of poor organization and screw ups.

Presentation night was en extraordinary night. It began in frightening fashion when a fire broke out on board from the overheated motor (leaky cooling hose) burning the foam insulation around it. Black smoke emerged from the cockpit but was soon extinguished by a fire extinguisher as we were putting the final touches to our formal dress for the evening.

The presentation was held at the yacht club and was very much a formal affair attended by government officials, local yacht club aficionados, competitors including THE Larry Ellison and the despondent race committee. Our man from Borneo dressed dashingly but attracted attention with a set of red flashing heart shaped antennas worn on his head.

The Escaped Aussies took front row in the cheering department near the stage as the winners accepted the awards and were genuinely appreciative of the enthusiastic support following mostly mundane and clichéd speeches. Larry, of course, on Sayonara, took the major trophies and was the last of the award recipients. It was then that the Escaped Aussies truly hit the spotlight when our man from Borneo strode to the stage and asked Larry for the microphone following his speech. Despite the shocked look on the official’s faces he was allowed to proceed. “ You’ve heard from the big boys and now I’d like to say a few words from the average guys in town. We wanted to say what a great event this was with a special thanks to the race committee who worked hard all week with little thanks and gave us a great reception after we finished dead last in the last race of the regatta – that really made our week”. Never thanked at these regattas, the race committee and the previously bored but now very awake general audience let out a large cheer and applause. Louder and more genuine than when Larry got his prize.

After leaving the stage the man from Borneo was rushed by the local media for an interview starting with the first question, “ so, who are you?”. It is now EA tradition at the end of each regatta to thank the un-thanked.

An overnight delivery to St Martin from Antigua capped off a great week and we all appreciated the lazy day on the French part of the island doing the café thing before flying home.