Wednesday, May 11, 2016

J/122 EL OCASO Crushes Antigua Sailing Week

J/122 El Ocaso sailing Antigua Sailing WeekJ/11S SLEEPER Cruises CSA Racing 4
(English Harbour, Antigua)- Yet another wonderfully laid back, but hotly contested Antigua Sailing Week is in the record books.  An event noted for its eclectic atmosphere, amazing social calendar on-shore with fantastic musical acts and “partaaays”, and simply off-the-charts amazing sailing conditions just about every day.  Remember, the secret in the Caribbean for having the most breeze, the most consistently, is to sail as late in the season as possible- that’s when the heavy trade winds start to build in April/ May and when board sailors/ kite surfers migrate down to the Caribbean to their favorite “hot spots” for steady 15-25 kts days, every day!

One of those teams that enjoyed the 2016 weather was Jonty Layfield’s J/11S SLEEPER.  As they slowly wind-up their new-found toy to go faster and faster, they are proving to their colleagues that it can go just as fast with an equally eclectic crew!  Her is Layfield’s description of his Antigua Sailing Week crew this year:

“We are starting sailing week, first race today with a scratch crew of all sorts of people, all with little or no race experience. Most are mainly picked up from around the bars and local schools. We have 4 young Antiguan's, Shannoy, 8, Morrison, 14, Joshua 16 and Vincent just 16 (he is a learning the bow and is doing a great job), a Spanish lady, a French guy (who is cruising around the world), a Bulgarian who speaks very little English, a young girl called Emma, Mario (Antiguan local), who has just started sailing, Vic and me! Crazy? Perhaps. I think it will be an interesting week!”  As you will learn, shortly, the rest of the world was probably crazier by half!

J/11S Sleeper sailing Antigua Sailing WeekDay 1
Hundreds of spectators watched the start of racing for Antigua Sailing Week from the Shirley Heights Breakfast Party and from the Half Moon Bay spectator boats, but none of them got as good a view as the curious whale that lined up in the pre-start area with the racing fleet. Warm air, 14 knots of breeze and a moderate sea state provided glorious conditions for the first day of racing sponsored by English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum. Three of the seven classes racing under the CSA Rule were just as hot as the weather, with seconds deciding the winners.

Jonty Layfield racing Antiguan J/11S SLEEPER corrected out to win Race 1 in CSA 4 by just 11 seconds from Jim Hightower’s Texan King 40, Hot Ticket.

In CSA 5, British yachts filled the podium for the first race of the day. Chris Body’s team racing the J/122 EL OCASO corrected out to win CSA 4 by just 36 seconds from Sir Richard Matthews’ Grand Soleil 43, Team Oystercatcher– Quokka.  EL OCASO won the second race of the day by a healthy margin. Pamala Baldwin’s J/122 LIQUID from Antigua Yacht Club broke through the British dominance with a second in the last race by just 13 seconds from Team Oystercatcher– Quokka. EL OCASO’s perfect score had the team leading the class, with Baldwin’s LIQUID ending the day in third place.

“The highlight today was three minutes to the first start, a huge whale longer than the boat, pops up just ten feet from the boat. As we were heading for the start, we didn’t have a camera on deck but it must have been at least 50ft. You don’t see that in the Solent,” said Chris Body of EL OCASO. “It must have been an omen because we went on to win both races. We had to pull all the stops out today and I have to say it was a memorable day, especially as we were sailing with four family members.”

As the sun set on the first day of racing, Antiguan ‘swunk’ (Swing-Funk) band, The Sound Citizens, fired up their guitars, drums, organ, saxophone and anything else within reach. The band delivered a high energy stage show that lit the blue touch paper and the party went on into the evening. There will be a few sore bodies going out for the second day of racing for the 49th edition of Antigua Sailing Week.

J/39 sailing Antigua Sailing WeekRace Day 2
The CSA Racing division enjoyed spectacular windward leeward courses on the south coast of Antigua for the third day of Antigua Sailing Week. The rush to gain the upwind advantage from lifting pressure along the rocky shoreline caused some spectacular pin end punch-ups. Rock hopping upwind past the iconic Pillars of Hercules, the fleet enjoyed classic Antigua Sailing Week racing. The flurry of spinnakers returning to the start area was testing for the crews and the gusty conditions with occasional surfing waves was the key to gaining top placed finishes.

Chris Body’s J/122 EL OCASO was undefeated after three days of racing.

It was the big party night at Antigua Sailing Week and Jamaican roots reggae sensation Luciano was the headline act on the main stage in Nelson’s Dockyard. The Johnnie Walker Your World & Mine Concert also featured home-grown Antiguan talent: Soca Diva, Claudette Peters and R&B and Soca star Tian Winter with Cheeze Kake Factory and M&M Music.

Wednesday, 27 April was the famous Presidente Lay Day Beach Party. With no formal racing the next day, thousands of Antiguans, sailors and visitors partied long into the night.

J/122 sailing AntiguaRace Day 3
Antigua Sailing Week burst back into action after Presidente Lay Day with some terrific rock and roll action off the South Coast of Antigua. The trade winds were back with 16 knots from the southeast, piping up to full-on foam up in 20-knot gusts. Brilliant blue skies with warm Caribbean water and a two-meter swell; these are the conditions that any sailor wants to experience and over a 1,000 salt encrusted yachties were grinning from ear-to-ear after a wicked day of racing.

Chris Body’s J/122 EL OCASO lost their winning streak in CSA 5, placing fifth and third in today’s races. Clearly, the El Presidente Lay Day got to this crew, still suffering from post-rum depression! As a result, EL OCASO needed a top four finish on the last day to be sure of winning CSA 5.

The action in CSA 4 was red hot, with just four points separating the top four teams. Jim Hightower’s Texan King 40, Hot Ticket found it tough going against the lighter displacement yachts in the class today, resulting in two fourth places. In fourth place for the class is Jonty Layfield’s Antiguan J11s SLEEPER, which was top boat of the class for the day with a win and a second. SLEEPER was just four points off the lead after that performance

Antigua Sailing Week overviewRace Day 4
Classic trade wind conditions prevailed for the final day of Antigua Sailing Week, serving up one last helping of awesome yacht racing. 15 knots from the southeast with a significant sea state delivered challenging conditions for the yachts. Going into the last day, the winners of many of the 11 classes were still in the balance, and for those teams that had already guaranteed class victory; there were other prizes to win. Nineteen teams were competing for the Royal Southern Yacht Club Inter-Yacht Club Challenge and there were many other awards still to be decided, including the big one – the winner of the Lord Nelson Trophy.

Winning CSA 5 was the J/122 EL OCASO, a former Lord Nelson Trophy winner at Antigua Sailing Week that was chartered to Chris Body who raced with his wife Caroline and their two daughters, plus friends from the UK.

“It has been a fantastic time. Caroline and I came to Antigua 25 years ago and we decided it was time to come back with our daughters and experience Antigua Sailing Week for the first time, and it has been absolutely marvelous. The morale of the crew has been a big part of that. We thought towards the end of the week that we might have a chance of the overall win, but to win our class is what we came here to do. All credit to Sir Richard Matthews and his crew on Team Oystercatcher – Quokka as we had to sail really hard to get the class win and the results don’t show how hard that was,” said Chris Body.

Jonty Layfield’s J/11S SLEEPER had easily the best record in their class for the last five races, but it was not enough to overcome their twin 6th place finishes in races 4 & 5 to win class. Instead, they still finished “in the chocolates” and took a hard-earned 3rd place in CSA Racing 4 class against a rogue’s gallery of full-on racing boats like a King 40, Ker 37, Melges 32, Stimson 42 and Pogo 50.

In CSA Racing 7 class, it was an excellent showing by Remco van Dortmondt’s J/35 SUNBELT REALTY- DASH to win their last race and take third overall in class!  Classmate MICRON 99- OSSENFEFFER, a J/39 sailed by famous local Robbie Ferron, was a class leader until they had to retire for the last three races.  Despite their “no show” in those races, they still managed a 6th overall. Sailing photo credits- Paul Wyeth/   For more Antigua Sailing Week sailing information