Antigua Sailing Week: another day in paradise

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Jonathan Russo is a passionate sailor from New York who took a break from the Northeast spring and headed to the Caribbean for Antigua Sailing Week, where he is filing daily reports for Soundings. This is his second dispatch.

As an early riser, one of the joys of being at Antigua Sailing Week — or any regatta, for that matter — is that plenty of my fellow sailors are also up with the sun. At 7 a.m. the wharfs of English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour are abuzz with sailors having coffee, loading sails, adjusting rigging and discussing tactics. It’s not unusual to hear a variety of languages being spoken.

Sunday was the first day of round-the-buoys racing at Antigua Sailing Week. The crew aboard our Farr 65, Spirit ofJuno, which is chartered from Ondeck, was ready to sail because, unlike the opening-day race, today’s results count. Points are added to the final tab, which results in a daily and regatta-winning boat.

We were in luck because the Caribbean was putting on a show, with a steady breeze of 20 knots.

Juno is in Division 2, which gives us the opportunity to view some of the most magnificent boats around — the Dolphin 100 Nomad IV, Farr 95 Dharma and Oyster 82 Zig Zag. This is like playing golf with Tiger Woods or racing your Chevy next to a Formula One car. It is just a thrill to watch these boats circle the start like sharks looking for a kill.

The course was windward, leeward, with some reaching legs, to test the skills of the crews on all points of sail. We started very well, the big Caribbean Sea rolling everyone over the line. Juno, once again under the command of Tony McBride, started the long sail to the first mark.

Tony always seems to have the same facial expression, no matter how tense or difficult the sailing. It is a mix of Zen master and supercilious teenager. Nevertheless, his clear instructions to mates Ebban and Cheyenne, and to the 12 of us guests on board, are always clear and calmly spoken.

After making the first mark, it’s a reach to the second and then the downwind spinnaker leg. We put up the huge kite, and Juno surges forward with terrific force.

At this point, some of the really fast multihulls had caught us. They just blasted through and overtook us, speeding toward the horizon.

Five hours later we were back at the start, with a respectable finish, earning compliments all around from Capt. Tony.

After some rest and unwinding, it was time for the parties. There is a reason people come back to Antigua year after year, and this day was one of those reasons.

Jonathan Russo has been sailing for more than 30 years. His home port is Shelter Island, N.Y., and he sails his Sabre 38, Sachem, extensively in New England waters.