Thrills and Spills

110ft (33.5m) Malcolm McKeon sloop Zemi © Claire Matches

Race Day One 14 March 2024

Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua, 14 March 2024. The 13th edition of the Superyacht Challenge Antigua (SYCA) got underway with races for all classes off the South Coast of Antigua. The SYCA Race Committee, led by PRO Hank Stuart, set a 17.6nm triangular course for the Buccaneers which included long reaching legs offshore and a long beat inshore. The Corsair and Privateer Classes were set a more complex course of 26.3nm with relatively shorter legs at every point of sail. All Superyachts raced around the offshore mark STAN, named after SYCA co-founder Stan Pearson who ‘sailed on’ just over two weeks before the start of the regatta.

At the start, 13 knots just south of east, gradually built during the day. Two hours into racing, a rain squall produced 20 knots of breeze. With plenty of cloud activity, the wind was flicking around an easterly to south easterly direction, plus the gusty conditions kept all of the teams alert to sudden changes in wind speed and direction.

Swan 90 Freya © Claire Matches

Corsair Class

The Swan 90 (27m) Hummingbird, skippered by Josh Hill, made the best start in the class, crossing the line just five seconds after the gun was fired from Fort Charlotte. Don Macpherson’s 90ft (27m) Swan Freya also got away to a flyer just eight seconds after the gun hot on the heels of Hummingbird. Last away in the Pursuit Start, and only nine seconds after the gun, was the 110ft (33.5m) Malcolm McKeon sloop Zemi, skippered by Hjalmar Winbladh.

Freya made the best of the conditions to record their first bullet of the regatta, taking Class Line Honours and the win after ORCsy time correction by 07 Minutes and 48 Secs from Hummingbird. Zemi was third.

“This is the first time we have ever raced against another Swan 90S but before the race, we decided that we were going to sail as normal; get Freya going as fast as she can,” Commented Freya’s Skipper Joph Carter. “The owner was on the helm for the whole race and today’s course put a lot of emphasis on crew work, fortunately we have sailed the boat a lot as this team. We didn’t have a clean race, including no hydraulics coming up to to the first weather mark! Against Hummingbird, we thought are weakness was going to be downwind as they have a bigger kite and headsail. However, with today’s reaching zig-zagging course Freya’s Code Zero and GS was quite quick and at times gave us an advantage but in the big squall the change was in their favour. Upwind we are pretty evenly matched, but we started four minutes in front of them, which gave us a controlling position. It was great racing today and Freya are looking forward to more tomorrow.”

Zig Zag Team at The SYCA Welcome Party © Claire Matches

Buccaneer Class

John McMonigall’s Oyster 82 Zig Zag, skippered by Carl Raynes, made the best start in the class, crossing the line 15 seconds after the gun was fired from Fort Charlotte. The 108ft (33m) Hoek designed sloop Namuun, skippered by Tom Aiken, made a more conservative start but it was nip and tuck for over two hours of racing. Despite the huge variety in the designs of Zig Zag and Namuun, the two yachts enjoyed the closest racing on the water for the first day of the Superyacht Challenge Antigua. Zig Zag finished the race in an elapsed time of  02 Hours 31 Mins 59 Secs. Namuun’s elapsed time was just 12 seconds behind Zig Zag. After ORCsy time correction Zig Zag was the winner.

“On Zig Zag we started 4 minutes ahead of Namuun and by the first mark we held that lead on the water,” commented Zig Zag’s skipper Carl Raynes. “After rounding Stan we could sail deep with our A-Sail. Namuun was faster than us offshore but was sailing a lot more miles, we got the kite down really well and we were still maintaining our lead but the next leg was a reach and Namuun really came into us. Our best move of the race was going inshore into Rendezvous Bay, we got lifted and that was the big gain. Unfortunately Zig Zag owner John McMonigall is not on board, and he really wanted to be here, but we have video calls with John all the time, and he was really happy about Zig Zag winning today.”

The 218ft (66.45m) Dykstra/Reichel Pugh ketch Hetairos © Claire Matches

Privateer Class

The 218ft (66.45m) Dykstra/Reichel Pugh ketch Hetairos skippered by Graham Newton, made the best start in the class, crossing the line just three seconds after the gun was fired from Fort Charlotte.

182ft Dykstra schooner Adela © Claire Matches

The 182ft (55.5m) Dykstra schooner Adela skippered by Greg Perkins hooked the Nelson’s Mark under full sail. Adela secured the mark on board, and with great courtesy returned it to the Race Committee with the help of ABSAR. Later in the race, Adela retired. The Race Committee invoked the ‘mark missing’  in the Sailing Instructions, which provides for a virtual mark, which the fleet used for the rest of the day. The Race Committee will replace Nelson’s for Day Two.

Hetairos went on to win the race in an elapsed time of  02 Hours 10 mins and 31 Secs but it was not as straight forward as that. A technical problem on board approaching an inshore mark had  Hetairos crew hard pressed. Assisted by a wind shift and quick work by the highly experienced crew to rig a solution kept Hetairos on course for the race win.

Boom! © Claire Matches

The SYCA Welcome Party was held at Boom Restaurant, Admiral’s Inn prior to the first day of racing. Located at The Gunpowder House, with its spectacular infinity edged pool overlooking Nelson’s Dockyard. Over 200 Superyacht owners, guests and crew enjoyed a laid-back get together with ‘bubbles’, Dark ‘n Stormies and appetisers.

Racing at the Superyacht Challenge Antigua continues on Friday March 15th with fantastic action off the South Coast of Antigua.