A Unique Classic Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta April 13-19 2016

Monday, 03 August 2015


Since 1988, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta has been hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club. Whilst it has retained its corinthian spirit, the regatta has evolved into the most famous classic yacht regatta in the region, frequented by a unique fleet of yachts from the Americas, Caribbean and Europe.

In partnership with Panerai, a faithful and long standing Committee helped by an army of volunteers, provide a truly memorable event.

A vast diversity of yachts attend Antigua Classics, including traditional craft from the islands, classic ketches, sloops, schooners and yawls making the bulk of the fleet, together with the stunningly beautiful Spirit of Tradition yachts, J Class yachts and Tall Ships. So what is a classic? To be eligible for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, all entries should have a full keel, be of moderate to heavy displacement, built of wood or steel, and be of traditional rig and appearance, yachts that do not fit this criteria can attend, subject to approval by the Committee.

Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta is unique for its type of yachts, sailing conditions and above all its fantastic atmosphere. The vast majority of mesmerising yachts sail to the regatta from overseas and perhaps that fact, more then any other, explains why the regatta is totally unique. Angelo Bonati, CEO Panerai, explains why the company values the regatta.

“At Antigua Classics, there is profound depth and passion for the yachts, the boats are sailed by people who really want to race these beautiful boats, pushing them hard, and only polishing them after racing. Many of the yachts have sailed across the Atlantic and from North America to participate and to see these fantastic boats in their element is a wonderful fusion of art and design.”

Leo Goolden had never been to the Caribbean before last year's regatta, the young boat builder from Cornwall, sailed solo to Antigua across the Atlantic in his 1942 25-foot Folk Boat, Lorema.

“I left Falmouth, UK in January 2015 and sailed to the Cape Verde Islands. The weather was pretty nasty at times and I took my time pulling into a few places. I don't mind admitting that I was apprehensive, it was the first crossing for me. Antigua Classics is amazing, I feel very privileged to be racing on the same course as schooners and J Class, Rainbow. I know a few people competing and I have been nosing around, looking at their work and a few people have come to look at Lorema. She was a wreck when I first got her but she is a sturdy boat and capable of handling the Antigua conditions.”

Griff Rhys Jones came to Antigua Classics for the first time last year, racing his 1946 Sparkman Stephens yawl, Argyll. The well-known British comedian was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Griff Rhys Jones came to Antigua Classics for the first time last year, racing his 1946 Sparkman Stephens yawl, Argyll. The well-known British comedian was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

“Most of the time we race Argyll in the Mediterranean and often we are racing against yachts that suit lighter wind conditions. Argyll was originally designed and built as an ocean racer and did very well in the Panerai Transat; she was only beaten by Altair, the 133ft schooner! Antigua Classics is known for those ocean conditions and that really suits Argyll.

Last year was my first Antigua Classics and I had been told there was a lot of reaching and that the races were complex but I didn't find that was true at all. In fact, some of the downwind racing was fantastic, with lots of crew work and really exciting sailing. The racing was competitive, which was good but we have been racing Argyll on short courses for five years, so there was nothing surprising for us. Unfortunately we infringed on the start line of the first race, which was galling, but we came back very well to claim third in class for the regatta.

For my first visit to Antigua Classics, I was surprised how many people I knew there; a number of boats that are based in the Mediterranean come over for the regatta, so the atmosphere ashore was like being at home. We stayed in a lovely villa where I could get on with some work and also relax, I am not a drinker, so I didn't part take in the usual activity at regattas; getting into a bar and complaining about the owner!

I loved being back in Antigua, in the 80s I was writing a book and the whole business of getting back into sailing happened in Antigua. I got stir crazy looking out to sea and I returned with the family, chartered a boat and we had a really great time. Last year, I loved the whole atmosphere of Antigua Classics, the racing was fantastic and I especially enjoyed the cream tea party and gig racing, as I have a lugger back in Suffolk. The whole regatta was bigger and better than I had thought; well organised and competitive but still with the corinthian atmosphere that I enjoy.”

Mat Barker, skipper of the 1930 Alfred Mylne sloop, The Blue Peter, has competed at the regatta for the last three editions. Mat races The Blue Peter throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Americas. Matt maintains the classic yacht himself, keeping her as original as possible.

“From J Class to Carriacou Sloops, the great mix of boats at Antigua Classics sets it apart from other classic yacht regattas. It is usually windy and you are sailing in the Atlantic the minute you leave the harbour, the race courses are not technically challenging but the conditions can be, so my advice is check your chain plates and your rigging before you race. The racing is certainly competitive; no quarter is given with everyone pushing to the limit. I have been coming back year after year because Antigua Classics is brilliant fun and always falls around my birthday, the next one is my fiftieth, so I have invited my favourite clients and we are going to have a blast!”

The 28th edition of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, sponsored by Panerai, will take place April 13-19, 2016. For more information and on-line entry visit

Race Reporter: Louay Habib

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Last Updated ( Monday, 03 August 2015 )