The final race of the 2023 Superyacht Challenge Antigua was held off the South Coast of Antigua on Sunday 12 March. The weather this year was more Mediterranean than Caribbean but the spirit of regatta was unchanged. Now in its 12th edition, the Superyacht Challenge Antigua is an exciting, friendly event, designed to be solely for the pleasure of superyacht owners, their guests and crew.
The Gosnell Trophy is awarded as the overall prize. Each yacht competing yachts, and the race committee, cast one vote for the yacht that has competed in the Spirit of the Regatta, both afloat and ashore. This year’s winner was John McMonigall’s Oyster 82 Zig Zag. Racing for the seventh regatta in a row, Zig Zag has now won the Gosnell Trophy on two occasions.
“I feel quite emotional to tell you the truth,” commented Zig Zag’s John McMonigall. “I thought winning it last time was emotional and that was it, but to win again with this lovely friendly crew when we are laughing non-stop is just fantastic. I am terribly flattered that the other teams have voted for us. We may not have won a race this year but on the Antigua Carnival Night we did out-party everybody! It has been a great regatta; I just love it. Up against these huge yachts, you can feel out of place but everybody wanted us to come back and I am so glad that we did in double-spades!”
Zig Zag was a big winner on the social scene, which all counts in respect of winning the Gosnell Trophy. Loudest Caribbean Ladies shirt was won by Zig Zag Bow, Grace Murray. Emma Abreu’s Banana Fritters from the Coal Pot got a special mention at The Famous Cook Off and by far the youngest crew at the regatta, Cameron Raynes, was awarded “Best Boat Captain”, a driftwood toy boat was donated by Catalina, much to his delight of the two year-old.
Scoring two race wins after ORCsy time correction, the Regatta Series Winner was the 121ft Dykstra sloop Action. The afterguard included two of Great Britain’s most decorated sailors Ian Walker and Shirley Robertson. Action also scored well at the social evening winning the Best Team Caribbean wear on the Caribbean Night and Action’s Chef Caroline Jörgenson, won best Caribbean Dish at the Famous Cook Off.
“We are pleased with how we sailed, we are a crew that’s largely been together since 2016 so we were not starting from the very beginning each time and we felt quite quickly we were in our stride,” commented Action’s Shirley Robertson. “Ian Walker is fantastic on Action, he really brings everyone together with an intensity and a marvellous sense of humour, Ian is our secret ingredient but everybody on board has to do their job or it doesn’t work. Action is a great boat but everything has to be orchestrated, so well done to the permanent crew. The preparation and the huge amount of work to race a boat like Action takes months of work. I think we didn’t make many mistakes, so we didn’t leave much out there. It was good racing; we were all pretty close together and the results were tight in the end. We thoroughly enjoyed the regatta and we can certainly feel ready to go next week to St Barth’s Bucket Regatta.”
The 112ft Sparkman & Stephens sloop Kawil was competing at their fifth regatta and has now been runner-up for two editions. Kawil was the quickest starter for the series and racing as ‘Special K’ won this year’s Stand Up Paddle Board Regatta in aid of the National Sailing Academy of Antigua. Allie Toppa was the quickest around the track. Kawil’s Tess was also given a special mention for her delicious Conch Curry at the Cook Off.
Since competing last year, Kawil has been exploring The Baltic Sea. “We visited Sweden, Denmark Estonia, Finland and then through the Kiel Canal to Hamburg and then Amsterdam,” commented Charlie Ross. “The racing here is very close, as the Boat Captain I stand back and let the racing crew get on with it. As long as they don’t break the boat, I am happy! This is a passionate regatta for our boss, he is really competitive. The boat handling is good and so is the atmosphere on board. Juggy Clougher chooses the race team and they are a super bunch, not just great sailors.”
After ORCsy time correction, the 148ft Dubois ketch Catalina won the last race of the SYCA Series to finish third by the narrowest of margins, beating Gitana on countback. This was Catalina’s second regatta but the beautiful ketch is a huge part of the history of the regatta. The ship’s bell as Timoneer is The Gosling Trophy. Catalina was also the winner of the Spirit of Tradition Trophy, donated by Rebecca and Pendennis Shipyard. Catalina’s chef Lisa Grimm also took first place in the Famous Cook Off and Catalina’s crew Murray Ford was the winner of Loudest Caribbean Men’s Shirt on Caribbean Night.
Boat Captain for the 148ft Dubois ketch Catalina is Sean Whitney. Since racing at the regatta in 2019, Catalina had sailed thousands of miles. “We went through the Panama Canal, spent a great couple of weeks in The Galapagos, then went to the Marquesas Islands and explored French Polynesia for quite a while before sailing to New Zealand. We have done a lot of miles, the owner looks after Catalina very well and for the last six years, it has been a labour of love for the crew. You always have your wits about you when you are sailing these boats. When racing you have to have an awareness for the course and make early calls on manoeuvres, it is a case of maximising the opportunities. Catalina is okay in light airs but if the boat speed goes, it takes a long time to build again, so there is constant concentration on trim and helm.”
Taking part in the first regatta was the 148ft Dubois sloop Gitana, as the fastest boat in the fleet, Gitana was always the last to get away in the Pursuit Starting Sequence. Gitana showed great speed and agility to pass every boat in every race to take a clean sweep of Line honours and elapsed time scores. Narrowly fourth after countback after ORCsy time correction.
“It was a tough regatta, this was the first racing event for Gitana in seven years and we were very happy with the way that we sailed the boat,” commented Gitana’s Chris Sherlock. “It’s a training regatta for St. Barths for us and the (SYCA) Committee did a great job getting all the races off bar one. I thought they managed the whole thing very well. The regatta served its purpose and we learned a lot, we’ve got a lot of low hanging fruit regarding the (ORCsy) rating to optimise the boat for future events. I was very fortunate that the owner and Jon Barrett asked me to help put the team together so we’ve got nine of the Leopard crew from the bow all the way to the back of the boat with Mitch Booth as tactician. This made our learning curve much, much quicker because we’ve all worked together for so long. We were very pleased with the way that we sailed the boat and the key instrument was having a race team that steps on ready to go complemented by the full time crew. Everybody got on well and hopefully this is the first event of many more for the owner who loves his boat.”
The Prize-Giving Ceremony was held in The Admiral’s Inn, and all of the social functions take place with the kind support of National Parks Authority in Nelson’s Dockyard, a World Heritage Site. The regatta is also supported by Terry Browne and Daniel Taddese at Island Provision. The Superyacht Challenge Antigua is the brain child of Paul Deeth and Stan Pearson who work tirelessly behind the scenes at every regatta. Congratulations should also go to Race Advisors Willii Gohl, Gordon Stredwick and their team for organising great racing in difficult conditions. The next edition of the Superyacht Challenge Antigua will take place in the second week of March 2024, a week before the 2024 St. Barths Bucket Regatta.