SAIL - - Cruising Under Sail -

Sail Cargo is a com­pany with one mission: build the world’s first “neg­a­tive emis­sions” cargo ship. Freight ship­ping has a huge im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, so Sail Cargo de­cided to look to the past for help. De­signer Pepijn van Schaik has drawn a gor­geous three-masted wooden cargo ves­sel that the com­pany describes as com­bin­ing “old-world ship build­ing tech­niques with avant-garde en­ergy and propul­sion sys­tems de­sign.” The ship, Ceiba, is still in the early stages of pro­duc­tion in Costa Rica, where Sail Cargo has also ini­ti­ated a re­for­esta­tion project to off­set the ma­te­ri­als used. Ad­di­tion­ally, so­lar and wind en­ergy will power the electric mo­tors on­board. It’s worth not­ing that some “emis­sion-free” sail­ing ships al­ready ex­ist. How­ever, Ceiba in­tends to be the first that will also off­set all its shipyard im­pacts and have a neg­a­tive car­bon foot­print. With a stead­fast com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity and a classic, beau­ti­ful de­sign who wouldn’t be ex­cited to see the suc­cess of this project? sail­cargo.org

I sup­pose judg­ing a “con­cours” of yachts is sim­ple when marks are purely for bright­work and paint. In An­tigua, how­ever, there’s more to it. How do you match up the 143ft replica of a 1923 Star­ling Burgess fish­ing schooner fit­ted out like a su­pery­acht with a 1957 Spark­man and Stephens rac­ing yawl, re­stored by Gan­non and Ben­jamin as a per­fect pe­riod piece? Not easy, huh? Add in a cou­ple of Car­ri­a­cou sloops, a fam­ily-run 32ft Span­ish ocean racer and the Hoek-de­signed Ata­lante, a bulb-keeled fast cruis­ing yacht with tra­di­tional lines above wa­ter. Now note that down the dock the burgees of the Mylne-de­signed Fife Mariella and the 103ft Aschanti snap­ping out stiffly in the trade wind. Like can’t pos­si­bly be com­pared with like here. The se­cret is to break the fleet into groups, then judge on cri­te­ria where var­nish and pol­ish are only one sec­tion. Keep­ing faith with the boat’s orig­i­nal ethos is equally im­por­tant. The only miss­ing box to check here is for “soul.”

Con­sid­er­ing that all th­ese boats had sailed long and hard to be in An­tigua, the gen­eral stan­dard of sparkle was re­mark­ably high, so dig­ging deeper to make judg­ments came nat­u­rally. Most of the larger yachts I’ve been aboard re­cently have been mod­ern craft with ac­com­mo­da­tions like high-end shore-side apart­ments. Clam­ber­ing down the 73ft Ti­con­deroga’s com­pan­ion­way into the sa­loon, there­fore, served up a con­trast that filled yours truly, in par­tic­u­lar, with joy. Sur­pris­ingly small, but flaw­lessly pro­por­tioned and fit­ted out in ageless good taste, it car­ried the day in style.

Mean­while, Ata­lante showed what a mod­ern yacht can do with an un­com­pro­mis­ing spirit of tradition, while the gutsy 60ft Rus­samee won hands down in the Arne Frizzell tro­phy for a sea­man­like op­er­a­tion, safe in any­thing the wind could throw at her.

Ul­ti­mately, it was also Rus­samee tak­ing a con­cours prize that truly en­cap­su­lated the spirit of the clas­sics. Her crew hadn’t in­tended to en­ter her be­cause she was salty from the ocean and never con­ceived to com­pete with gold-platers. Her decks were rough and ready, her awnings bleached by the sun, but when you noted the mast step, adzed from a mas­sive chunk of trop­i­cal hard­wood by her Bangkok builders, then moved on to check her frames and scant­lings, you knew that here was a boat that would sur­vive. She had soul by the shovel-full, and her peo­ple were justly proud of her. Many a fancy yacht show would have dis­counted her at sight, but not An­tigua. This is a land where boats are un­der­stood, the sea is all around and the blus­ter­ing tradewind takes no pris­on­ers.

Out on the wa­ter, the four race days pro­vided the an­tic­i­pated great sail­ing in hard winds and big seas. Cour­ses were laid so that every­one might be thrilled at the spec­ta­cle of the big boats tram­pling the waves and the lit­tle ones some­how cut­ting a path through. No mat­ter what the boat, the com­mon fac­tor was that all hands got soaked with warm trop­i­cal sea then washed off again by heavy squalls that roared through to keep us on the ball. In the evenings, Mount Gay en­sured that the rum never fal­tered and laugh­ter was all around. If you find your­self within a thou­sand miles of An­tigua at the right time next year, ease your sheets and get on down. It may take a week to re­cover, but the Clas­sics is unique and not to be missed.

For com­plete de­tails on both this year’s re­gatta and the up­com­ing 2019 An­tigua Classic Yacht Re­gatta, visit an­tigua­clas­sics.com. s

The sloop Ge­n­e­sis leads a trio of tra­di­tional work­boats on a reach­ing leg

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