Yachts are sailing in for the 2017 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Yachts are sailing in for the 2017 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.
19 Apr 2017

English Harbour is electric with excitement as boats sail in for the 30th Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, the first in this year’s series of the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenges. Vessels are arriving from all quadrants of the compass. Some crossed the ocean in containers; a few cruised north from down island; many journeyed from the States, Canada, Bermuda, Europe and beyond. One came from the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal and another took the long way around the Horn. Lucky ones came straight from the boatyard.

The fleet, hovering near 50, is as varied as a string of signal flags, and since registration is still open, there will surely be more colour. The matriarch this year is the 72’ gaff yawl, Anne Marie, built in 1911. Sharing the spotlight as youngest, built in 2015, are Chloe Giselle, a 65’ Sean McMillan Spirit Sloop and the 42’ Alwyn Enoe Carriacou sloop, Free in St Barths. In between, ranging from 30’ to 178’, with build dates spanning a century, are an intoxicating blend of rigs and sail configurations, all nodding to the past.

One of Antigua’s artisan varnishers.

Entrants, tied stern to the quay in horseshoe configuration at the 17th century Nelson’s Dockyard, are undergoing spa treatments as varnish is freshened, bronze polished and last minute paint applied, all in preparation for Thursday’s pre-race beauty contest, the Concours d’Elégance. Antigua’s varnish artisans, famous for their talent and skill, are working dawn to dusk and the results are stunning.

A look at Nelson’s Dockyard in the early 1950s. Photo by Desmond Nicholson.

To commemorate this monumental year, the venue has shifted to the Dockyard, an elegantly restored UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rare photos of the grounds, taken in the early 1950s by legendary yachtsman and historian, Desmond Nicholson, are on display at the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel in a show entitled, “Times Past.”

Several new social events will surely delight traditionalists. A large-scale Royal Navy Rum Tot will give rum aficionados a chance to showcase their finely-honed skills. Swashbucklers and pirates can brandish swords and beer, Caribbean style, at a party in their honour. A collection of vintage cars will grace the remarkable backdrop during the Parade of Classic yachts on Sunday. The pinnacle of period festivities will be Saturday’s Vintage Ball, when captains and crew will attempt to dress the part of their vessel in suits, gowns, hats, and most likely, antique flip-flops.

The ACYR is renowned for incredible camaraderie shared by old-school yacht enthusiasts. Spontaneous celebrations erupt dockside and on-deck throughout the week, but it’s the official Welcome Party on Wednesday night that will launch the week into full sail.

On the water, competition begins Thursday with the Single-Handed race followed by four days of significant contests within eight classes. We are so pleased to have former fleet entries join us again and we extend an Antiguan hot-hot welcome to boats sailing with us for the first time. Let the 30th Regatta begin!