The Audrey Hepburn of saiboat races. Elegant, graceful and beautiful to watch. Antigua’s Classic Regatta offers a chance to see some of the most stylish and sophisticated grand dames of the yachting world up close and in motion. This annual event was spun off from the bigger, more bustling Antigua Sailing Week in 1987. The goal was to give these hard to maneuver full-keeled boats a better platform to compete against their peers.
31 years later it is now a firmly established stop on the yachting circuit. Though the regatta was originally established to highlight old boats that were being out-performed by more modern designs and materials, race categories have been expanded to include any boat built in the classic manner. There are rules. All boats must have a full keel, traditional look and rig, be built from steel or wood and be of heavy to moderate displacement. They are now divided into 6 classes to keep the competition ‘fair’: vintage, classic, traditional, spirit of tradition and tall ships. The oldest boat in this year’s regatta was built in 1924, the newest in 2015. It can be very hard to tell the genuinely antique from the new replicas. They are all stunning!
Much of the gossip this season centered around the smaller number of boats than in past years… only 30. It seems many yachters, like tourists, have been avoiding the northern Caribbean this winter. Fear of hurricane damage. I didn’t notice any in Antigua. Their loss was my gain. It was easier than ever to plant ourselves by the starting line and watch these incredible boats, in full sail, go by.
The regatta organizers stress that the emphasis of the event is on sailing together, rather than winning. That said, most of the sailors seemed to be taking the racing pretty seriously. And the rum! No one can drink like a seafaring crowd. This is a fun, raucous party. And an opportunity to see some pretty magnificent boats.
In 2019, the Classic Regatta takes place April 17-23. I hope to be there…channeling my inner Audrey by wearing a little black dress. And bare feet. For all the boat wealth on display its actually very laid back.