• close family • small boat • big world •

Antigua Classics 1999

April 30, 2015

by Greg
Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
"Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself." - George Matthew Adams

Greg on helm in Antigua Classics 1999. Tactician Brian of
aft. Nora had a tiller rather than a wheel.
Being here for Classics has me reminiscing about the last time we were here in 1999. As mentioned earlier, before kids Paula and I went sailing for two years in our 1960 wooden sailboat Nora. One of the highlights of that cruising was racing Nora in the '99 Antigua Classics.

But let me rewind a bit. The racing itself was a highlight, but the lead up to it almost drove me crazy. I was in NY. Earlier in our cruise, in the Dominican Republic, I had almost died of Type 1 diabetes, and the costs of flights to the states and medical treatment had depleted our cruising fund. To make up this shortfall, I would fly back to the states to teach C++ programming. In the weeks leading up to the regatta, I was in NY teaching. Paula was in Antigua, varnishing our boat and playing tennis with other sailors and locals. I would get faxes from her saying things like "hung out on Endeavor yesterday and got a nice tour" or "hanging out on Sumurun tonight with the crew."

Argh. As a long-time lover of classic yachts, I knew all of these boats, and I would have given my - well, a lot - to be hanging out on them instead of teaching C++ in NYC. (By the way, Paula faxed because there wasn't any internet down here then, so she would hand-write letters and then fax them. That was the quickest cheapest way to communicate.)

Sumurun is a 94' ketch "commissioned by a beautiful and flamboyant baroness as a gift to her husband and named for an exotic harem girl."  She was built (as a yawl) in 1914 in Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland by one of the greatest yacht designers of that day and ever,
William Fife III. Many of his designs from the early 20th century are still sailing.


Elizabeth Meyer (of the family that owned the Washington Post) started the resurgence of the 1920s-30s J Class by restoring Endeavor. In this 1999 Classics Regatta, Endeavor raced against her two sisters from the 1930s Velsheda and Shamrock V for the first time in 60 years! How cool is that.

The oldest boat that raced this year was a 28' 1890 gaff-rigged cutter Dunlin. The second oldest was Margarite T, a 53' gaff cutter built in 1893.

Another boat that was on the course then was the three-masted schooner Fleurtje, which at the time was the biggest sailing yacht we had ever seen. (She's big even by today's standards). (We hear that she belonged to the Dutch royal family.) She almost ran us down. She was overtaking us quickly in a place where she had no room to maneuver. We had a wrap on the jib sheet and couldn't tack, and we couldn't bear away because she seemed intent on coming just below us. OK, things probably would have been fine, but she's a lot of boat to see coming at you when you can't maneuver.

W-76 class White Wings
Another development in 1999 was that Donald Tofias was just launching a new one-design class of  76' wooden racing boats, the W Class. These were to be modern classics, modern in techniques and underbody but with sweet lines inspired by the J boats and NY 50s of the past. The first two builds, Wild Horses, and White Wings competed together here then. The W-Class was named after the boats' designer, Joel White, who died just before the first boat was launched.
The W-bag

The W class was a partial sponsor of the 1999 regatta, and they gave away very nice heavily stitched sailcloth bags with a large red W on the side to the owners. We are still using this bag today, but from the day that our 43rd president announced his candidacy, people thought we carried this bag to express our ardent support for George W Bush.

Ticonderoga, formerly Tioga, AKA "Big Ti"

This was also an exciting year because the beautiful 105' ketch Whitehawk (1978) was competing alongside her 85' inspiration, Ticonderoga (1936). Designed by L. Francis Herreshoff, Ticonderoga, (originally Tioga), surprised everybody by being incredibly fast, freakishly fast, some said. Whitehawk is every bit as fast and beautiful.

If I recall correctly, we took 5th overall in the racing, which pleased me, given our competition.

It's great to be back at the Antigua Classics, and here's to it not being another 16 years before our next.

Nora in Antigua in 1999