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Classic yachts head south for Antigua

Published on October 5th, 2015

The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, sponsored by Panerai, attracts many yachts from the United States of America and Europe with a good number sailing well over a thousand miles to participate. As the winter months close in on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, many classic yachts head south for Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

The 29th edition of the event will be held April 13-19, 2016.

Antigua Classics is a unique event in the international classic yachting calendar for its participants, atmosphere, scenery and racing conditions. In April of every year, the promise of four days of spectacular racing attracts dozens of classic and vintage ketches, sloops, schooners and yawls, to create an extraordinary spectacle together with J Class, Tall Ships and Spirit of Tradition yachts.

The latter category first began in Antigua in 1996, a testament to the high status of this event within the panorama of international classic yachting.


Rebecca winner of the 2015 Spirit of Tradition Class at Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. (Tim Wright)

At 139ft (42m) German Frers designed ketch, Rebecca, will be one of the largest sailing yachts racing in April. Rebecca is one of the finest modern sailing yachts in the world and spent the summer in Newport, Rhode Island, before returning to the Caribbean for the winter. Rebecca was the winner of the 2015 Spirit of Tradition Class at Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

“Antigua Classics is not really about boats like us,” commented Sparky Beardall, Captain of the magnificent ketch Rebecca. “We are honoured to be invited to sail in the Spirit of Tradition class. Many classic boats come from all over the world just to sail in this regatta. We just hope that they might enjoy seeing Rebecca sail by.

“Rebecca has been Antigua-based for the winters basically since she was built in 1999. Our core group of race crew are our Antiguan friends that own businesses and work there. They are like family and come back every year without hesitation to sail the Classics and other regattas with us.

“Classics is a favourite because the conditions suit Rebecca perfectly. It is lower key than the other regattas but most of all, it is the spirit on the dock after the racing that makes it so much fun. Out on the race track, it is truly amazing to be at the helm stomping along at 14-15 knots on a five-sail reach. She is beautifully balanced and you can really feel that Rebecca loves it as well as the crew.”


105ft (32m) Bruce King designed ketch, Whitehawk (Cory Silken)

Last year, Ralph Isham co-skippered the 105ft (32m) Bruce King designed ketch, Whitehawk, to four straight wins in Vintage Class A and Whitehawk was declared the winner of the Panerai Trophy for the second year in succession. Designed in 1978, Whitehawk sails over 1600 miles from Newport, RI to Antigua to participate. This year, Ralph Isham and crew will be returning to race at the regatta.

“Many of the team are members of the Mill Reef Club and have homes there, so we know Antigua very well,” commented Ralph Isham. “Joe Dockery is the owner of Whitehawk and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to race such a beautiful, elegant yacht. The conditions at Antigua Classics are just spectacular, it is one of the most exciting things in the world to race at the regatta.

“Our team is a blend of Corinthian sailors, boat builders and professional sailors and many of the crew are associates of the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, Rhode Island. We race the boat hard but the crew have a deep appreciation and passion for racing classic yachts, which effectively draws the line. On board and on the dock, everybody has a role to play and that seems to be evident with so many other yachts competing; the standard of racing and maintenance of the vast majority of the yachts is spot on.

“Antigua Classics has a combination of camaraderie on the water and tough competition, without over doing it. Off the water the dockside has a wonderful atmosphere.”

1926 65' staysail schooner, Mary Rose (Tobias Stoerkle)

1926 65′ staysail schooner, Mary Rose (Tobias Stoerkle)

Gerald Rainer’s 65′ staysail schooner, Mary Rose was built in 1926 and was the last schooner designed by Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, builder of five America’s Cup winners between 1893 and 1920. Mary Rose usually spends the summer months in New England, before returning to Antigua to attend Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. This year will be Mary Rose’s fifth consecutive regatta and she has won her class every year.

Last year Mary Rose was the overall winner for the Lunenberg Shipyard Alliance Concours d’Elegance and the winner of Vintage Class B. Among her many achievements in previous Classics was participating in the Single Handed Race in 2011, in the Large Classic Class (45 to 75 feet), no small accomplishment with her full staysail schooner rig flying.

“We are a bunch of friends from Europe and America, South Africa and even New Zealand, who come together once a year, at Antigua Classics for ten days. We share our love for old wooden ladies, their teak decks and the polished varnish reflecting sun and salt,” smiled Gerald Rainer. “In the warm up days, we are not too serious except when start time approaches. Once across the line, our minds gear to waves and wind angles, our eyes rotate from instruments to sails, from the mast top to the charts.

“The most memorable moment is certainly to hear the gun when crossing the finish line and even more memorable is to hear the gun four days in a row! Another memory sticks in my mind; the skipper on the gigantic Rebecca is about to pass us to leeward, when we hear on the radio that his crew tells him that passing us on the windward side would be easily possible. We hear more – ‘but they are our friends’ – that is the spirit we shall remember.”

The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta invites entries that have a full keel, are of moderate to heavy displacement, are built of wood or steel and are of traditional rig and appearance. Old craft restored using modern materials such as epoxy or glass sheathing, or new craft built along the lines of an old design are accepted. Vessels built of ferro-cement may be eligible if they have a gaff or traditional schooner rig and fibreglass yachts must have a long keel with a keel-hung rudder and be a descendant of a wooden hull design.

Exceptional yachts not fitting in the above categories may be eligible for entry into the Spirit of Tradition Class and can apply in writing with photographs or drawings to support their request for entry to

Event website:

Report by Louay Habib

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