Antigua Sailing Week 2001 has opened with two quite different races and a mixed bag of weather. One thing is certain though: this regatta is as popular as ever and, with the likes of the two maxis Morning Glory and Sagamore as well as the 147ft custom ketch Mari-Cha III, there is not only high quality sailing but an awesome spectacle as these yachts fight it out around this picturesque island.

Race one was certainly an opportunity for the big boys to spread there wings with one of the longer races of the week starting off Falmouth Harbour, then rounding a series of marks set to take the fleet west before heading north up the west coast to Dickenson Bay. The race started in 15-18 knots from the southeast and certainly had everyone thinking they were going to be drinking rum punches by early afternoon.

By the time the big boats had reached the southwest corner of the island, the top spots were being fought out between Hasso Plattner’s 80ft Reichel/Pugh flyer Morning Glory and Jim Dolan’s impressive 78ft maxi Sagamore. Watching these boats flying down wind with their huge asymmetric sails is truly inspirational.

The weather decided to throw up a couple of surprises once the fleet started heading north and, with torrential rain fall and the wind dropping to nothing, it was a challenging and tactical finish as we all picked our way through the holes in the wind. The breeze filled in from ahead allowing those at the front to make further gains.

It was not to be Bob Miller’s day on the water as Mari-Cha III finished in fourth place on corrected time. Mike Slade was another disappointed owner. He has been a regular here with his series of big Leopard boats but Leopard of London, his new water-ballasted 90ft Reichel/Pugh sled, was off the pace and finished down the order at the end of the day. It should be added that they are chartering for the week.

At the end of the day Morning Glory took the honours on corrected time, with Sagamore second and Doug Baker’s Andrews-designed 68ft Magnitude taking the final podium position.

For the second race, the organizers set an Olympic triangle course a couple of miles off Dickenson Bay. After the first day, everyone knew the maxis would be on the pace, but with Morning Glory and Sagamore trading punches around a short course, the likelihood was that they would certainly lap some of the smaller classes creating a potentially problematic situation.

Mari-Cha III and the 136ft Kokomo did get round without incident so I’m told, but they would not feature in the top few at the end of the day.

Yesterday, Sagamore got her revenge on Morning Glory, as both boats finished first and second again but this time with the order reversed. Third place went to the Swan 68 Defiance with Admiral’s and America’s cup regular Dee Smith on board calling the shots, but not without incident.

On the start line, Defiance was to leeward of Red Max, a Simonis 63, trying to break into clean air. She was climbing well but Red Max couldn’t quite point as high and her bow was soon dancing through the chop and over the stern of Defiance, giving everyone a fright. Fortunately there was no contact and the big Swan went on to have a good day.

I am racing on the Swan 56 Noonmark VI. We’ve also had some ding dong battles racing in Class 2 against some other Swan 56s. Our closest rival Lolita, an identical Swan 56, had got the better of us in race one when they capitalized on a mistake we had made during a spinnaker peel, but in race two the tables were turned when they incurred a penalty on the start line.

With Dave Bedford on the helm and some good crew work from the team we kept our noses in front and took the win. We are racing in a fleet of 13 but after a third place on the first day and a first on the second, we are looking to stay near the top of the leader board all week.