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The first of Panerai’s Classic Yachts Challenge for 2017 got underway Wednesday on island time as final members of the fleet pulled in 15 minutes after the close of registration but with plenty of time to partake in Mount Gay’s infamous Red Hat Party.

With a backdrop of spectacular vessels flanking Nelson’s Dockyard – their international flags flapping in salute – long time friend of the Regatta, Helen Spooner, greeted almost 50 beauties and their faithful crew. She acknowledged the extreme efforts taken to join the 30th ACYR, praising “Some of you have beat a very long way to join us. We honour your commitment to your boat. We know what it takes to maintain a classic vessel and we salute your vision and enterprising spirit.”

Shiva Dance Troupe performs on Opening Night.

The Honourable Chet Greene, Sports and Culture Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, welcomed guests to a what he called ‘a must attend Regatta,’ and extended an invitation to return for the 31st.

Early risers Thursday applied last minute prep and polish for the Concours d’Elégance, a pageant for yachts with an emphasis on heart, soul, and a bit of Miss Congeniality. Judges, fueled by curiosity and a love of maritime tradition, spent hours probing the well- kept secrets of 19 yachts.

The beautiful Mariella at the Concours d’Elégance judging

Conditions of contestants were as varied as designs and rig. The 79’ Alfred Mylne yawl, Mariella, is pure elegance after an 18 month restoration in Italy. In contrast is the 1911, 57’ Harris gaff yawl, Anne Marie. Owner Simon Allan stated, “we recently saved her from a near-death experience.” She’s on her way to the UK for major surgery yet still charmed judges today with remnants from her storied past. Concours sponsor this year is the lovingly restored 62’ Herreschoff schooner, Mary Rose. Prizes will be awarded Saturday evening.

Close start of the Single-Handed Race – photo by Jan Hein

The weather smiled on the Single-Handed Race this afternoon, with ENE winds of 10-14 knots. Fifteen competitors sailed a course set for upwind tacking contests and a run downwind. The favourable conditions discouraged reefing, resulting in a strenuous workout for lone sailors. On Hera, a 43’ Abeking and Rasmussan yawl, owner Claas Lehmann ran a marathon while handling running backs, a jib pole and a full suit of sales.

One mishap occurred just before the start of the small boat class: Paloma, a 32’ J.M. Alfonso Allende sloop, lost her mast at the hounds. Skipper Jordi Agusti Arbosse and his observer were uninjured. Winners of the Single-Handed Race, over 45’ Saphaedra, and under 45’ Stiletto. Full race results can be seen on the website www.antiguaclassics.com

The crowd enjoyed a rummy Royal Naval Tot, followed by the Single Handed Race Prize Giving. The night continues with music by Stell and Snuggs and Friends.

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all-day St. Lucia Open Dinghy Championships @ Rodney Bay
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all-day Mott Memorial Hobie Cat Challenge @ Petite Calivigny Yacht Club (PCYC)
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all-day Culebra Cup @ Borinquen Islands Sailing Association
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Caribbean Sailing Association 2015