Thanks to its generous sponsors and the dedication of owners and sailors, the 21st Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta once again graced this island nation’s waters. From April 17-22, 2008, Falmouth Harbor and nearby historic Nelson’s Dockyard (legendary refit facility for the Royal Navy) were filled with what can only be described as the finest collection classic yachts afloat.
The yachts were varied in size and class, ranging from La Sirene, a 26-foot Friendship sloop to the largest of the fleet, Ranger, the Stevens/Burgess J Class sloop. Other large classics included Aschanti IV, the 105-foot Henry Gruber staysail schooner; Eleonora, a 120-foot Herreshoff gaff-rigged schooner; Whitehawk a 103-foot Bruce King ketch; and Altair a 103-foot W. Fife gaff-rigged schooner.
The race classes were distinguished by type: classic, vintage, traditional and spirit of tradition. In all, 60 yachts competed in a series of races established on three courses — unfortunately the fourth and final race day was cancelled due to lack of wind.
The weeklong event was filled with parties and socializing among new and old friends all bound together by their love and respect for these magnificent yachts. Perhaps one of the most memorable was party hosted by some of the boatbuilders, boatyards, caterers, photographers and marine magazines from the State of Maine. The grassroots, Downeast-style party was the brainchild of Portland Yacht Services owner (and the owner of Lions Whelp, a 65-foot John Alden staysail schooner), Phineas Sprague who brought together owners and crews, race staff and locals for a fun time with everyone lending a hand.
The regatta closed with a prize ceremony and a presentation by Angelo Bonati, CEO of Officine Panerai, the race’s premier sponsor. The presentation documented Bonati’s ongoing efforts to rebuild Eilean, a 73-foot 1936 Fife ketch that Bonati rescued after it had lain derelict in an English harbor mangrove swamp. Bonati first spotted the abandoned yacht while in Antigua for the Classic Yacht Regatta in 2006. He quickly recognized the vessel’s potential and acquired it in the summer of 2006. Bonati had Eilean shipped to Italy where it is currently undergoing extensive restoration. His hope is to have Eilean, Panerai’s new flagship, ready for sea and classic racing in 2009.