The Catamaran Adventures of Noel and Ceu
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Sailing the Most Beautiful Yachts in the World

Current Location: Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
Current Position: 17 1.14 N 061 46.36 W Click to view map.
Distance sailed since last post: 183 nautical miles. View the map of our voyage track here

She is 78 years old but, as befits her name, still as hot and sexy as a prom queen. Helped, no doubt, by the extensive makeover she had a few years ago. And we got to ride her for a whole week! Her name is Eros – Greek god of love and passion – and the occasion was the 30th annual Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

So how does one get to sail on a beautiful multi-million dollar yacht for a week? Well, you could charter her. Or you could walk the dock during the days running up to the event and just ask all the skippers if they need any extra crew. Surprisingly the answer is often yes. We had 20 crew on board. Most of the other boats are similar, some have even more. It is hard to get that number of people together, so often they are short a few.

As it turned out our boat was full of newcomers! Cameron, the proud new owner of sailing yacht Eros, a 105 ft staysail schooner built in 1939 and previously owned by Greek billionaire shipping tycoon, Stavros Niarchos, was very pleased to be able to share the experience with  five of his friends from California friends. Most of them had never sailed before, but they were a great crowd and quickly got the hang of things. There was also, of course, the Captain, Michael, the first mate Wilson, who has been with the boat for years, and one other paid crew, Adrian, who had only been onboard for a few months, plus Oli, the tactician, brought onboard just for the racing. And all the rest were volunteers like us! We even had a couple of children join us for the last two days. These volunteers were mostly other cruisers who had walked the dock like us.

The Antiqua Classic Yacht Regatta is a spectacular event. 50 large yachts arrive from both sides of the Atlantic to take part. Some are over a 100 years old. Others are brand new, but build to classic designs. All are owned by individuals with a deep love of the beauty of the old designs.

The event is, of course, structured as a regatta with one race each day for 4 days. But it is light-hearted racing and, as far as I could tell, almost everyone won a prize of some sort – and certainly had a full mention at the prize giving. We came a very respectable 3rd in the Vintage Class A division. The other boats in the division were Marriette of 1915, and Mary Rose, both even older than Eros. Each evening there was a bar and some music but, truth to tell, everyone was pretty tired, so no one was staying up late. And at the end we were even called up to the stage to receive our prize for third place! A proud moment for Cameron at his first ever yacht regatta.

We all went out for a practice sail on Thursday. That was a little chaotic, considering the brand new crew. But each day got better. On Saturday Oli nailed a perfect start for us at the windward end of the reaching start, bang on the line a the gun.

On Sunday we tried out the Fisherman sail which no one, apart from Wilson, had used on this boat before. It was rigged wrong on the first attempt, but flying nicely on the second, and added a nice knott to our speed. We used it again on Monday for one leg, but then a shackle broke, and so that was that for that sail. Oh Well.Despite the huge forces on all the rigging that was our only breakage for the week, so pretty good going. Better, anyway, than Adix and Spirit of Bermuda who both tore their downwind sails.

Flying the ‘fisherman’ sail,

Oops – Adix tearing her sail – a bit more expensive than our broken shackle

 

No worries, a few minutes later and Adix – at 225ft the biggest in the regatta (and previously the biggest in the world) – is back in the race, and zooming past us.

Each of us had a specific job to do. Mine was to ‘blow the jib’. That meant that when we tacked it was my job to first let the jib fly, so the boat could round up into the wind, then bring it back in again so it wasn’t flogging about, then hold it in while it was backed briefly, to push us through the wind onto the new tack, and then to let it fly again so the jib trimmers could tighten it up on the new tack. Similarly I had to let it off when we gybed.

That was it. Considering there were only about 10 such manouevres during the race, there wasn’t much for me to do!

Ceu’s job was to release and tightened the running backstays on the foremast. The leeward one had to be slackened so it wasn’t interfering with the sails, and the windward one had to be tight, to hold up the mast. Of course every tack and gybe meant loosening one and tightening the other.

 

Getting fifty big boats in and out of tiny English Harbour was an interesting challenge. Fortunately the dinghy wranglers were on hand to push the boats in and out of their slots.

 

 

Hoisting the main stay sail. Just pure muscle power. For the main sail we needed six men to haul it up. Richie, Adrian, Wilson and Cameron at work.

No wonder we didn’t win! And that is first mate Wilson in the foreground

On our way out to the race course, just outside English Harbour

Michael (on the left) and yours truly just checking things out

 

One of the younger crew members trimming the fore stay sail

 

 

Cameron, the owner, supervising as Adrian attaches the main halyard prior to hoisting the mainsail

 

Capt. Michael, in the foreground, checking on mainsail trim while Cameron (in red) steers and Oli (tactician in White) looks on

High tension seconds before the start of the race on Saturday as we nail a perfect start. From the left we have Mary Rose, Columbia and Marriette of 1915

 

 

Ceu amidst the fore stay sail and jib, ready for action

 

Stomping along in the fresh trade winds. That is the fisherman sail ready for hoisting.

Marriette of 1915 and Wild Horses (built 1998) who was in a different class, but on the same start line as us

 

Marriette of 1915 overtaking us to windward – well, she is 60% longer and so faster. We had to finish within 12 minutes of her to win on handicap. Alas, we were nowhere near that!

It was a great week! Many thanks to Cameron, Capt. Michael, and Wilso for pulling together such a fun crew.

Now the race is over, we will spend a couple of weeks exploring all the bays and beaches of Antigua and Barbuda.

5 Responses to “Sailing the Most Beautiful Yachts in the World”

  • Connie Van Bussel:

    Wow! What an experience! That’s one you will still be reliving twenty years from now.

    • Noel:

      Hello Connie it’s great to hear from you. We miss you guys. And we miss the great laughs we used to have reading your blog posts. Time to start writting again. Where are you guys?

  • Roger Joseph:

    Well look to see what you two get up without me, even sailing a monohull! Great experience I’m sure. Nice pictures, took some time to tahe these – no wonder you didn’t do better in the regatta!

    • Noel:

      Yeah, Roger. And Noel was complaining I didn’t even get a picture of him working so hard. Sure honey, I happen to be very busy then too. At least I was awake while most were asleep. Ok, Roger that was just not any monohull….
      It was great fun, maybe you will be around next year for this fun event. Hope all is well and fun in Rhodes.

  • Lindsay:

    Wow, what a fantastic opportunity. That is an incredible boat. Good to see you two enjoying such amazing experiences.

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