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VIDEO: Sailing in paradise

Jonathan Russo is a passionate sailor from New York who left the Northeast spring and headed to the Caribbean for Antigua Sailing Week, where he will file daily reports for Soundings. Here is his first, as he settles in for one of his favorite events of the year.

This year marks the 47th running of the Caribbean’s oldest regatta. Antigua Sailing Week has it all: a beautiful island known for its 365 beaches, warm breezes, delightful people, great sailing, fantastic parties and lots of good rum. What more could you want?

There is also a wonderful egalitarian spirit to Antigua Sailing Week. Everyone participates. The megayachts are here, along with the latest high-tech sailing machines, such as the Gunboat G4 and the MOD 70 Phaedo^3.

The casual sailor is also welcome and, for a modest fee, can step aboard and help crew sailboats from such companies as OnDeck Charters. Hometown crews can charter their own boat from Sunsail or OnDeck. Sailing is the great equalizer; everyone will experience the same wind, water and effort to win their class.

The regatta started Saturday with a race around the island — the Pearns Point Round Antigua Race. It is a long day of sailing, so depending on the boat, sailors could count on five to eight hours on the course. It is pure Caribbean beauty, however, with every point of sail experienced.

The breeze built with the day, reaching about 14 knots in the late afternoon. On board Spirit of Juno, a Farr 65, skipper Tony and first mate Ebban had our diverse crew doing all of the sail changes without a hitch. Running backstays were adjusted, jibs brought round, mains tacked and spinnakers jibed. If you want real hands-on sailing experience, being part of a charter crew is one sure way to get it.

The day of sailing led to the opening party, with bands playing a variety of music, amazing authentic Caribbean food and, of course, plenty of rum.

Racing around paradise on the first day was just magnificent, and I can’t wait for more.

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.