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History comes to life at Nelson’s Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard appears to have stepped back in time. Three masted schooners, yawls, ketches, flags flying in Antigua’s usually reliable east winds, have replaced the modern boats and motor yachts. 

A sign that the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta has arrived. 

The classics regatta is often passed over for its more famous sister, Antigua Sailing Week, but this week 50 boats from around the world in different classics classes gather in Nelson’s Dockyard to celebrate the boats, to race, party and boast with tall (ships) stories! 

Events take place in the historic Dockyard, a classic location for a classic event. From the Dockyard’s 18th Century beginnings to the 21st Century thriving tourist and sailing community, the shades of sailors and men who worked and lived here float in every brick and every breeze. 

From the regatta’s opening party with the irresistible rhythms of Hell’s Gate pans, stilt walkers effortlessly defying physics and gorgeous dancers, to the glorious parade of sail following the final race, it’s a testament to the enduring allure of classic yachting. 

Skipper of the second oldest boat in the fleet, 1925 Adventurer, Alex, said “it’s not about the racing, it’s about getting the boats on the water and telling stories.” With an open mic night, Caribbean evening, crew events throughout the week, the racing somehow manages to fit in! 

The boats have stories to tell. The oldest in the fleet is Alvei, a 1920 three masted square topsail schooner. She has seen life as a herring drifter in Scotland, a mineSweeper in WWII, now the schooner that stands above the fleet today. 

1938 Nordwind was originally owned by the Nazi head of submarine fleet, now owned and loved by German industrialist Hans Brecht. 

If only the boats could talk. 

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From its early days as a race between friends from Antigua to Guadeloupe  as the original Sailing Week, the race has become a must-do regatta on the global calendar of sailing events.  Hundreds of tourists – with and without boats – sail or fly to Antigua’s shores to take part in the festivities, many staying to enjoy sailing week too.  

Sailing is more than just a pastime in Antigua; it’s ingrained in the very fabric of the island’s identity. Beyond the  pristine beaches and lush landscapes, the maritime tradition runs deep, fostering a thriving ecosystem of economic vitality. The influx of visitors drawn by regattas such as the Classics Regatta and Sailing Week injects a welcome boost to the local economy, buoying businesses from local eateries to bustling marinas. These events create a ripple effect, generating employment opportunities in hospitality, tourism and maritime services,  providing a livelihood for many Antiguans. Yet beyond the realm of commerce, sailing holds a deeper significance, embodying a sense of freedom and adventure that resonates with seafarers the world over. 

In Antigua, sailing is not merely a sport; it’s a way of life—one that continues to shape the island’s culture, economy and collective identity with each passing wave. Antigua classic Regatta says it all.

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