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Antigua Classic Regatta

We sailed from St Pierre, Martinique on a bright morning and made our way north and to windward of the next island, Dominica, as to go to leeward would mean pretty much losing the wind and the ability to sail. Over night we had plenty of squalls, some even pulling the wind into a westerly direction for several hours. Eventually the wind came in clear again and we found ourselves to windward of Marie Gallant but just barely. Rather than motor around we tacked into the night working our way to windward of Guadeloupe – the Picton Castle is quite weatherly for a square-rigger and we made 4 points on each tack.

By dawn the second day out we could weather the eastern point of Guadeloupe, sailed between it and the small island of La Desirade and fell off for Falmouth Harbour, Antigua right next to English Harbour. We had been invited to join the annual Antigua Classics Regatta for sailing yachts and vessel of traditional distinction. We thought that this would be different for us, very likely instructional and possibly a great deal of fun, too. The sun was getting low as we approached the harbour so we launched a boat with Lynsey and all the papers, raced her in to clear in at Customs & Immigration before they closed for the day leaving us stuck onboard, while we found a good place to anchor the ship.

So, there we were, the Barque Picton Castle, a big classic square-rigged sailing ship, a barque at anchor at Falmouth, Antigua, just around the corner from historic and celebrated English Harbour. The bay was filled with beautiful classic sailing yachts and traditional sailing craft of all kinds. Quite a sight for our crew. This was a wonderful convocation of beautiful vessels – massive number of beautiful boats, from the eight sweet Carriacou-built wooden work-boat sloops, to a Nevis built island schooner, to the huge, elegant gaff-rigged Schooner Yacht Eleanor (which is being sailed very, very well) and J-Boats Ranger and Valsheda along with a raft of fine schooners like the magnificent Gannon & Benjamin built Juno, General Patton’s When & If, Heron and Block Island schooner Amanda, etc; are all stunning with a very positive tone in this scene, no high pressure modern yachts and associated high-pressure, high-tech racing yachties.

Our goal was to get our Picton Castle crew farmed out on all the other vessels in order to give them an alternative experience, test and exercise their skills as well as simply have good time sailing. After discussion with Kenny Coombs, Man-In-Charge who had invited us, the gang walked the docks in the early morning and all hands found sites for the races that wanted to. Having all our crew sail in other vessels is very much like their “final exam” and they all did very well, I am proud to say. Some yachts were unsure at first about taking these unknown sailors but soon we were getting requests for more crew. We also launched our ships dory and sailed her in the races as well – but one time in the inner harbour…

– Quote of the day –

Mike, Lynsey and Paul were sailing our brightly painted 23’ Lunenburg dory with her bright African fabric sails around the crowded inner harbour of Falmouth. Docks were filled with gorgeous classic and very expensive yachts here, in for the Classic Regatta. Our gang were admittedly grandstanding a little and the dory was getting heaps of attention and cheers from the docks and people taking pictures because it was quite a sight and pretty cool. There was a lady standing in the crowd that was watching from a finger pier surrounded by very shiny yachts and she was evidently annoyed about something. Her blood came to a boil and all of a sudden she blurts out quite loudly and seemed to mean it…

“I just spent 13 million dollars on my boat and THEY are getting all the attention!!!”

We would have sold her the dory for a good price…a lot less than 13 million…

We had a nice open-ship aboard the Picton Castle at anchor in Falmouth for all the traditional yacht racers at the Antigua Classic Regatta – it was supposed to be short and sweet, two hours in the afternoon only (this just in – it was sweet but not so short, peeps lingered…). Crew behaviour all around during all these Classic Regatta activities was all first class in spite of the temptations for excess.

The big modern passenger Barkentine Caledonia joined the fleet, with former Picton Castle Chief Mate Captain Kim Smith in command, for a couple days too. The last day of the races we went out with the fleet – it was quite remarkable to sail along for a while with these outstanding sailing craft like the J-Boats and then we peeled off to sail away and carry on with our voyage in the wonderful islands of the Eastern Caribbean.

dory with other boats racing at Antigua
sailing the dory in front of the fleet, Falmouth, Antigua

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