11th Superyacht Challenge Antigua: full on, day one
Race One of the Superyacht Challenge Antigua was held in full trade winds producing spectacular sailing for the magnificent fleet. It was a bumpy rollercoaster ride on the South Coast of Antigua with the superyachts reefed for high-octane, uber-action. Class winners for Race One were John McMonigall's Oyster 82 Zig Zag, Don Macpherson's Swan 90 Freya, skippered by Joph Carter, and 140ft German Frers ketch Rebecca.
The north easterly breeze was gusting over 20 knots and combined with a swell of over two metres, conditions were ballistic and full on. The Race Committee led by PRO Hank Stuart, chose a race area along the South Coast of Antigua with a deep-water mark four and a half miles offshore. The Buccaneers Class raced on a course of approximately 18nm with upwind, reaching, and downwind legs. The Corsairs and Privateers enjoyed a similar course, with the added thrill of a technical windward leeward component, giving a race length of approximately 23nm.
John McMonigall's Oyster 82 Zig Zag is competing at the sixth regatta in a row, including winning the Gosnell Trophy in the last event. This year John's team come from Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia and the team is made up of young Corinthian sailors under the new skipper, Carl Raynes. Zig Zag won today's race, after ORCsy time correction, from the 121ft Dyksra sloop Action, which has double Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson, and Double Olympic Silver Medallist Ian Walker in the crew.
"That's not too shabby a result!" smiled John McMonigall who was driving for the whole race. "It was a great, great day. I was a bit worried about the strength of the wind at the beginning, so we didn't go for the hero tacks, but we did get a really good start. The downwind leg was great, and the big beat back was about sticking to it and concentrating. This crew is absolutely amazing, a lot of the young sailors come from an Antiguan boat called Liquid. Half the crew are ladies, including Laura Dillon our tactician, who I have known for at least 15 years."
"It is great to be racing in amazing conditions, and we are very pleased to have no injuries on board," commented Zig Zag's Laura Dillon. "We did touch a mark in the race, and we decided it was the right thing to take a penalty. The course was good and a nice length for the first day with big breeze. I have sailed with John on Zig Zag at many other regattas, and it is really nice to be back racing after two years with the pandemic."
Three high-performance sloops had a full-on foam up of epic proportions. Race One went to Don Macpherson's Swan 90 Freya, skippered by Joph Carter but only just. The 112ft Baltic Nilaya, with Filip Balcaen at the helm, was just 64 seconds behind after ORCsy time correction. The J-Class Hanuman was an extraordinary sight, right at the top end of the J-Class limits, Hanuman is back racing after a refit and was third, having sustained some sail damage.
"It was a great day for a Swan," commented Freya's skipper Joph Carter. "Freya is built for heavy weather, and the short course was also to our advantage against the higher rated boats. To be honest, I am a little surprised at the race win, because we were probably under canvassed downwind today."
Nilaya's tactician Bouwe Bekking commented: "I don't think we left much out there, I think Hanuman had a pole breakage today, and Freya sailed really well. The atmosphere on board Nilaya is one of the best I have experienced on any boat. The team has been together since Nilaya was launched, Filip (Balcaen) has many friends racing who are fully part of the team, they are as good as the pros, and probably smarter than us!"
After yesterday's record run around Antigua, the 218ft Dykstra/Reichel Pugh ketch Hetairos took line honours in the first race of the series, smoking around the 23-mile course in less than two hours. Hetairos was quite a sight, heavily reefed, powering the surf at over 20 knots of boat speed. However, today's victor in the Privateers Class was the 140ft German Frers ketch Rebecca, skippered by Rob Foxell with Grant 'Fuzz' Spanhake on the helm, Rebecca was absolutely flying. The 180ft Dykstra ketch Kamaxitha missed Race One with gear failure but is expected to be racing tomorrow Friday 11th March. Round one to Rebecca but the big ketches look set for a titanic battle.
Racing at the Superyacht Yacht Challenge Antigua continues tomorrow, Friday 11 March, with Race Two scheduled to start at 1100 AST from outside English Harbour Antigua.