The Sweet Taste of Victory
During the last week of April, 2005, history was made at Antigua Sailing Week, one of the top five yacht racing venues in the world. For the first time an all female team won their division and won the prestigious overall fleet prize. A team of nine women (whose ages average 50 years!) sailing 'Seabiscuit', a ten-year-old Beneteau 445, had the fastest racing times in a fleet of 73 boats. No luck involved here - this was a group of very talented, very fit women who were sailing a fast, well prepared boat. Former sailing students of Captain Pat Nolan of Sistership Sailing School all have been bitten by the racing bug, thrive on the competition and the camaraderie of team racing and are willing to put in the work necessary to achieve the level of fitness required to finish at the top. And finish at the top they did. Considering the team only sails together once a year their accomplishment is significant.
Six days of racing, in typically heavy winds and big seas can take its toll on crews. This year saw lighter wind conditions than usual, which meant easier racing physically but much more difficult racing mentally. Three times more concentration and focus are required to keep a 20-ton boat moving in 6 knots of air than 26 knots. The legendary partying at ASW makes it even tougher for some crews to summon that concentration. We found this to be to our advantage!
By the end of Thursday, day four sailing in the very competitive, hotly contested bareboat division, the team had garnered two first place finishes and two seconds for a total of 6 points in our class, Bareboat V. Our closest competitor, Hans Petersohn from Germany, was close behind with 8 points. In third place was Phil Otis in a Beneteau 43, last yearís division and overall fleet winner with 13 points - not such a big threat as Hans but we all know the racing isnít over till itís over - anything can happen. In the fleet standings we stood in second place with 13 points, one point behind Beneteau 47 'Justice' in Bareboat Division V. The racing was close and there was no telling who would come out on top.
Friday morning dawned with fair weather. The course to be sailed was the 'Ocean Race' a mostly windward-leeward course with a few reaching legs thrown in for good measure. Conditions were near perfect for us 10-12 knots of wind, flat seas. We sailed a good race, finishing with a second place. KHP Bulle, the boat finishing first, committed a course foul and was bumped to 4th place. At the end of the day we had 8 points to Hansí 11 - enough to win our division. Lucky for us, our fleet competitor 'Justice' had his only second place finish of the week that day which gave him 23 fleet points to our 19. In yacht racing low points take the prize, which meant we were the fleet champions as well! You couldnít find a happier crew anywhere in Nelsonís Dockyard.
We had worked so hard during the week to achieve our success, but we couldnít pop the champagne corks yet as the racing still wasnít over for us. Two years ago Antigua introduced another race - the Bareboat Championship Race to be held on Saturday. Only the top three finishers in each of the five bareboat classes qualify to race. Conditions on Saturday morning were pitiful when the fifteen boats showed up at the start line. The wind was so light our course looked like a millpond. Sailing with all the top finishers, we were not surprised that our real competition was still our friend Hans. His light weight, fast and very well sailed Sun Fast 37 flew along in the light air. We finished the race second to his first. Third place was taken by Pereric Berggren in 'Fifty Feet Ahead' a Dufour 50 , sailed by his Swedish team.