Antigua Sailing Week
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
After only ever UK sailing and racing in the bitter cold at times, I thought to myself...you know what I would absolutely love, doing all this but in shorts and a t-shirt, somewhere warm and being able to jump in the sea afterwards.. dreamy right! Where better than the Caribbean. It was also a bit of a milestone for me, over the past 4 years I have become quite 'obsessed' with sailing - I really don't think there is another word which sums up my passion quite as well.
I booked the trip 6 months prior to jetting off and it just couldn't come quick enough. The build up to the week ahead was so exciting, I was packing cute dresses, bikini's and some strappy sandal heels for nights out - turns out all you need is a pair of flip flops. I had my 30th birthday party the night before my trip which meant heading down to Gatwick airport and was a tiny bit worse for wear luckily my friend Chris drove me the 4 hours down. .. but this was it, I am going on my own to Antigua.
I arrived in Antigua a few days before the racing so I could take advantage of some beachy days and exploring! First on my list was Catherine's Cafe at Pidgeon beach not the cheapest but just look at that rum punch! I would also recommend the frozen Pina colada...just wow. I feel like I might use way too many exclamation marks in this post so my advanced apologies.
Pidgeon Beach is beautiful, oatmeal coloured sand and turquoise sparkling water that you just want to dip your toes into as soon as you arrive!
It was here I met my first Antigua friends Kayleigh, JP and Dan all deckhands from a motor yacht. They invited me out with them and suddenly all my worries about eating and being alone before meeting the crew dissipated. The first night out started in Bar -b's playing pool and then ended in goodness knows where - lesson learned be careful with the rum punch and fireball shots! I have a highlights reel for this on my Instagram if you want to nosey.
After a few days of exploring I also discovered Galleon beach, I managed to hitch a ride with a man who had a dinghy from one of the nearby yachts at Nelson's Dockyard and spent some time just lounging on the sand and swimming. I later met Mike and Henry founders at Kraken travel and friends we went for a few drinks and dinner at Trappas a bar and restaurant near the English Harbour, of course I had to go for the Antiguan jerk chicken. I would be sharing a dorm with Mike, Henry and the rest of the guys for most of the trip ... just do a quick google search of hotels in Antigua ...its expensive so we stayed at The Waterfront Inn which is in a great location and reasonably priced!
After a few days relaxing it was nearly time to meet the crew from the First 40 yacht Olympias Tigress skippered by Susan Glenny.
We started out with a training day, ran the lines 'sheets and guys etc'. I was on mid bow and squirreling the kites down the hatch ...re packing the kites at 29 degrees took some getting used to, my whole body was like a melting ice lolly, thank goodness for Gatorade! It was a great first day everyone worked really hard as a team and we ended up in a little café afterwards called seabreeze at Antigua Yacht club marina which is where I discovered the frozen mango smoothie such a dream after hot and sweaty racing! I must admit I saw Tom's (the first mate on the boat) and just had to order one.
The first few days of racing were great with a third place on one of the race days, followed by some fantastic socials ...it's safe to say Cloggy's bar has become a firm favourite of mine along with the espresso martini's at Skulduggery.
I made so many friends in such a short space of time and even met someone who was also from Manchester called George! Not what I expected in the Caribbean.
Things did however, take an unfortunate turn the day before lay day... early into the first race up on the bow we didn't hear a tack being called and as I turned my head sideways the clew of the jib hit me in my face and knocked me off my feet. I put my hand to my face and all I saw was just blood all over my hands so I think I went into a bit of shock. Tom took me down below and I laid down on a Spinnaker bag being comforted by Debs! Luckily the nosebleed stopped after 10 minutes and my face wasn't as bad as I thought! Sue arranged for me to be picked up off the boat and made sure I was ok whilst still carrying on with the race, I didn't want them to stop and once I saw I looked moderately ok with only a minor cut I felt more at ease.
You can see the minor bruising on my lip here a day later... but by the end of the week and returning home I was covered in bruises - lesson learned... no wearing shorts without knee pads on the bow but everyone needs a sailing injury at some point. Graham one of the crew members did post a 'how to prepare for a sailing season -pre season refresher course list' here are a few of the suggestions which given everyone's various injuries was hilarious.
Here is the list!
1.Go out get very drunk, sleep for 4 hours then stand on a rocking chair for 6 hours
2. Sit in front of a large industrial fan and have people throw large buckets of salt water at you.
3. Place sandpaper on your stairs, crawl up and down for several hours
4. Tie ropes to rear bumper of friends car hold on tightly but allow rope to slip through fingers as car drives away works best with nylon fibre ropes, lengths in excess of 50' ...
5. Apply sunscreen in streaks to your face and sit in front of a sun lamp for 2 hours....you get the gist!
Here is said zinc streaky sunscreen pictured left to right me, George and Craig! very much required but I definitely think we are rocking the smurf look.
I still managed to find my way to a bar (Cloggy's) after the injury and had a fairly relaxed evening which was needed.
Lay Day! The day we had all been waiting for
I woke up in the morning and went for a hike up the goat trail where there are some of the most incredible views over the English Harbour, it was roasting hot so best to do this in the morning or sunset. I also went to breakfast at at Pillars which has views of Nelsons Dockyard and is on the water a very peaceful and relaxed place. I also went snorkelling with my new friend George at Windward bay but unfortunately it was a bit choppy and we saw no turtles, I don't even think we saw a single fish but we did have to swim through wades of seaweed....lovely! After drying off we headed down to the beach to meet all the crew for Lay day.
Lay day was literally a lie on the beach day pretty self explanatory with Minute Rose wine, Rum Punch and snacks. I was very excited to go out dinghy sailing as soon as I saw them lined up on the beach! I went out in just a bikini and was one of the best parts of the trip for me...it was an epic day and a chance to recharge too.
I literally fell in love with Antigua and I am excited to return! The sailing was hard work but I learned a lot and being on a first 40 was perfect as the waves crashing over the bow were quite refreshing in the aggressive sun in the latter half of the week.
We also had a real MOB situation where a man had gone overboard during the race from another boat,we could barely see him at first in the waves. We dropped the jib quickly and used the active jib halyard to recover him - he had broken ribs but seemed ok, he got picked up by a safety rib and we finished the race and sailed back in. It wasn't an ideal situation to be in, but it was good to experience a real life scenario like that and how it's quite different than the MOB drills you do in your day skipper using a fender.
By the end of the trip the last thing I wanted to do was to leave, the leaving party was bitter sweet and I really felt that I could just stay there and live on a boat and sail all the time. These memories will last forever and I can't wait for my next epic adventure.
Here is a picture of Debs and I at the final Nelson's Dockyard party and Craig to the right photo bombing us! We made the most of our final night met some incredible sailors such as 'Alex Thompson' as well as friends and hopefully we will all bump into each other again around the world.
Antigua Sailing Week was my first overseas regatta and if I were to recommend doing a sailing regatta it would always be high on my list with it being a combination of day sailing and socialising its perfect for a combined sailing/holiday vibe if you want to find out more please drop me a message or let me know what I should do on my next adventure.
I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog post!