Most people buy an Oyster Yacht not because they want to race in regattas but because it’s a beautifully designed heavy displacement ocean going beast of a boat.
It’s most definitely THE boat that will look after you and your family for an around-the-world voyage.
Oysters are functional to the highest standard yet elegant and classy. They look stunning, are extremely comfortable and slice through sea effortlessly. From the side view, you’ll appreciate the Oysters wonderful lines, beautiful sails, and exceptional design. (Watch the video here: Racing An Oyster Yacht Video)
Interestingly, however, when an Oyster is approaching from behind, you’ll feel as if a sea creature has been unleashed by Neptune and is coming to swallow you up! Oysters cut through the waves forcing water in every direction – they are not pushed around nor are they slowed by big waves. They’re sleek, sexy and fast.
These boats are beasts AND they’re elegant. Two qualities that are often not experienced at the same time.
Another two characteristics that don’t often go together are cruisers and racers. Most cruisers don’t race their boats (homes) and most racers are not live aboard cruisers.
Oyster owners, however, are different.
Some are live-aboard cruisers, some use their boats periodically throughout the year, some sail around the world, some race their boat and some owners do all of the above!
In this year’s Oyster Antigua Regatta, the first place winner in Class 3 (our class) was Sea Flute, an Oyster 56’ who just finished the Oyster World Rally. Talk about ticking many boxes on a bucket list – A circumnavigation and a first place prize!
So what’s it like to attend an Oyster Regatta? Are the races difficult? Is the competition stiff? Are handicaps applied to make sure the racers all get an even chance at winning? Do you need to be very experienced? How many crew do you need? What about the parties?
What’s it feel like to attend an Oyster Regatta?
My husband, Simon, and I have attended three races thus far. One in Palma, Majorca (Spain) and two in Antigua (including this one) in the Caribbean. Both locations offer similarly amazing experiences.
Perhaps if I start from the beginning of the event it’s best?!
This year we offered four places on our 56’ Oyster for Britican Experience race crewing. I sent out an email to my email database offering the spots to people that knew how to sail, but not necessarily race, and with 24 hours all four spots were taken.
We had four gentlemen from America fly down – none of them knowing each other. Two had racing experience on smaller boats and two were ‘boat people,’ but not sailors (yet).
We also had our long-term crew member, Chiara, from Estonia. She’s new to boat life and has been helping us with deck jobs, cooking, cleaning, teaching Sienna and being an extra pair of hands.
Once the guys arrived, we all went out for a practice sail.
It’s always funny to see the faces of people that have never been on a big heavy boat in a big ocean with huge waves. The guys listened to Simon’s instructions and had a baptism of fire. I’m sure they all thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’
The power in the sails is a scary force. The timing necessary to tack needs to be executed with quite a bit of precision. Gybing carefully is a very serious business and trimming the sails to get a wee bit faster is a non-stop duty. All the while the sea spray is cooling your skin and the peaks and troughs of the waves are keeping your adrenaline flowing.
On our test sail, we only had one puker and smashed in our starboard side spray hood window. When tacking the guys didn’t let the line go in time nor pull it in quick enough and the result was a busted window. No big deal but it definitely demonstrated the power in the sails and sheets.
The following day we headed to one of the marina’s hosting the event.
This year all the Oyster Yachts arrived throughout the day at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor. There were a total of 17 Oysters competing this year including the 45’ up to an 82’ broken down into three classes. (Watch the video here: Racing An Oyster Yacht Video)
English Harbour is a natural harbour and settlement on the island of Antigua, in the south of the island. The settlement takes its name from the nearby harbour in which the Royal Navy established its base of operations for the area during the eighteenth century.
The Harbour is best known for Nelson’s Dockyard, a former British Navy base; it displays restored 18th and 19th-century buildings and other historical artifacts from the colonial period of the dockyard, especially the time it was commanded by Horatio Nelson.
The area is spectacularly beautiful.
Old British buildings peppered throughout a hilled valley with inlets, beautifully landscaped restaurants and manicured perfect palm trees and flowers of deep fuchsia, light orange and varying shades of yellow. The deep blues of the sea, green shades of grass and trees and then every color of flower imaginable. Every time I arrive in English Harbor my eye’s smile wide. It’s stunning.
Once we docked up, Simon booked us in with Oyster and received our welcome gifts and regatta T-shirts. This year we received a high-quality Musto small duffle bag and a small camera/wallet bag, a waterproof bag from Dolphin Sails, some hats and a zipped folder to hold all our important racing papers.
The t-shirts I ordered and paid for through Oyster prior to the race were well recieved. We have so many t-shirts on Britican so we surely don’t need more. HOWEVER, whenever we do an event I have to get one. When I put on my ARC Atlantic Crossing T-shirt, it brings back fond memories. The same goes for the regattas.
For me, I spend most of my money on creating opportunities for experiences…and when there’s a t-shirt that reminds me of how awesome my experience was, I get that too.
Around 4 pm, Simon and our new crew member, Charlie, attended the Captains Briefing where the Race Committee introduced themselves and discussed the type of courses – having different points of sail, making sure that everyone understood the rules and collision regulations. The committee explained what was going to happen throughout the week and the start times for each race.
And then at 6 pm, the first party started.
We gathered in the courtyard to complete a traditional reading of Maritime history followed by a shot of rum and a cheers to the Queen.
The kick-off event commemorated the boats that made it all away around the world on the Oyster World Rally (90 have made it thus far). Taking 2.5 years to circumnavigate all the way around the world is such an achievement.
It’s one thing to say that you want to circumnavigate.
It’s another to get a boat that will help you achieve the goal. But the big one is to actually get out there and do it. Simon and I keep talking about it but haven’t yet made the commitment to go for it – and we’ve done 30,000 miles already. One of these days… I keep telling everyone that we’re on the 20-year circumnavigation plan (as in it will take us 20 years to get around).
We enjoyed a prize giving to the rally participants, had some dancing entertainers and an incredible live band. There was a wonderful buffet with chicken, fish, steak, salads, and everything in-between. And I almost forgot the starters – Champagne, and canapés to start with a full open bar. I tried everything and it was all good.
On our table, we sat with another 56’ Oyster – Bliss. Hailing from Sweden, we enjoyed meeting Joakim and Cecilia. Simon tried to get me to get them drunk so they wouldn’t be able to compete against us but they were too smart for my trick! Hehehehe.
The night was full of great food, good drinks and a whole lot of big pre-race nerves.
I’m not sure if anyone slept well on Britican. One of our big issues is that we didn’t remember how to use our poles to pole out the Genoa or use with our spinnaker. Considering that the last time we raced was in 2016 our recollection on how things work wasn’t at the forefront of our minds.
Unbelievably, all of us sat around a table at a bar a couple of nights prior to watching a video I made about how to fly our Gennaker to see if we used our pole. How funny is that?! During our two practice runs, we couldn’t use the pole as the sea state was too rough and the wind to high.
Race day one finally arrived.
Simon, the four gentlemen, Chiara, and one other participant joined us – Simon Bowen from Pantaenius. Pantaenius is a sponsor for the regatta and Simon has joined us on every regatta we’ve done. We love having him on board – he feels like part of the family now.
To get a lowdown on how the races went, no one’s better than Oyster to give you the play by play. Check out the details of the course and where everyone placed here:
- Oyster Antigua Regatta 2019 Race Day 1
- Oyster Antigua Regatta 2019 Race Day 2
- Oyster Antigua Regatta 2019 Race Day 3
- Oyster Antigua Regatta 2019 Race Day 4
For the first day, it was nice for Britican to come in Second. For the prize giving, Simon and Sienna collected two beautiful crystal glasses that match the pair we won in 2016 – now we have a set of four. We also got a glass plaque. (Watch the video here: Racing An Oyster Yacht Video)
The prize giving was on the dock in English Harbor.
There was a cute pop-up street food booth offering food and further down the dock was a fully stocked open bar. We enjoyed checking out all the big Oysters, mingling with the participants and finally meeting Richard and Jenny Hadida, Oysters new owners.
Oyster went out of business over a year ago and thankfully Richard, an Oyster owner himself, stepped in to buy the business and build the company back up. It would have been an absolute travesty if Oyster wasn’t resurrected. It’s too much of a good thing to disappear.
And I have to say that both Richard and Jenny are amazing people. They’re ‘normal’. They’re down to earth, easy to talk to and interested in what you have to say. They have two lovely boys. The whole family comes across genuine, kind and eager to do the best they can for the Oyster owners, employees, sponsors and everyone associated with Oyster.
And as I’ve mentioned the Oyster staff…what an amazing group of people.
Molly, the lovely woman that organizes these events is AMAZING. I have no idea how she pulls it off. Every night there’s an amazing party at an incredible venue with outstanding food. Each experience is different from the last.
The organization of all the boats, the prizes, dealing with requests and making sure that the participants and suppliers are all happy must be incredibly difficult.
And then there’s Ben, the Race Officer who oozes such enthusiasm for his spreadsheet of boat handicaps, finish times, elapsed time, sails used, corrected time, rank and points. Ben’s spreadsheet also noted the boat in each class that crossed the start line first as a price was awarded for doing so. It was great to get the figures every evening and even better to listen to Ben’s thoughts about how the boats were doing.
All of the Oyster staff and the sponsors I met were incredibly kind, interesting and interested.
Then there are the other participants.
Oyster owners probably all have very similar values, likes and dislikes so it’s no surprise that we enjoyed meeting or reconnecting with the other owners and crew. Everyone is so supportive and out to have a great time. Surely different people have different experiences but I often couldn’t tell who was an owner and who was a crew member. Everyone seemed to mix, have fun and enjoy the time they had.
Amazingly, after the parties the night didn’t end – there are after-party parties. We enjoyed a few on the Pitanga a 745. Henrik, the owner is one of the kindest guys I’ve ever met. He invites everyone onto his boat, serves drinks and just wants people to have a good time. I certainly did! On the last day one boat couldn’t race so Henrik invited the owners and crew on his boat to go with him. Such a lovely guy – and all his crew and guests aboard Pitanga were incredibly kind.
One thing that really stood out for me…
And this was the icing on the cake, was that Oyster paid for an amazing professional photographer, Tim Wright, to take pictures of us on the boat racing and at the events. We then got the photo’s at no cost (well over 100 photo’s of Britican with full sails up!).
For me – the photo’s are similar to the t-shirts. It’s a record of our experience. It’s what gives us the fuzzy warm feeling of time spent well. It’s our memories.
Photos remind you of your experiences – they’re priceless.
In the last Oyster Regatta, we entered (2016), and under the old management, I absolutely fell in love with Tim’s photos but I couldn’t help but feel a bit sour that I had to pay for them. After paying for the entry fees, each crew member, dinners, t-shirts and so forth I felt like it was more money spent that I didn’t want to spend.
This year when Oyster made an arrangement to cover the costs of the photo’s I really felt like the brand is going to go from strength to strength. Yes, it’s a very small thing. And yes, I surely paid for the photo’s in the entry fees so it’s really a perception thing but it’s these small things that all add up to make something remarkable. (Watch the video here: Racing An Oyster Yacht Video)
In the end, after four long gruelingly exciting races Britican came in third place in class three.
The crew got up on stage and received a lovely award and hopefully a permanent memory of one heck of an experience (they also got the t-shirt and the photos to prove it!)
But what did the crew think of their Britican Experience at the Oyster Antigua Regatta?
From Charles Sade
My “take” on the 2019 Antigua Oyster Regatta.
The four days of racing and the practice days up to the start of the race put me in “my element”. I like big boats, I cannot lie. Britican is a great boat and I felt at ease from the moment I stepped aboard.
She is one of those boats that just speaks to you and makes you feel comfortable.
The race courses were not the best suited for us due to the fact that more than 60% of the courses’ length included tacking duels to windward. With our rookie crew, we were able to put Britican to windward at nearly 40 degrees apparent, but we were in a duel with competitors that were running staysails and 150% genoas; allowing them to point higher and reach faster.
Managing a 3rd overall shows the ability of Britican and Simon.
I found that most of the other crews were very friendly and I built friendships that will continue into my boating career. Kevin from Degree of Latitude, Pierre from Irish Blessing and Ed from Black Lion were very welcoming and confirmed what I already knew. Sailors like their rum!
So, what is my “take” from my Britican Experience? I have made new friends that I will cherish forever. Kim, Simon, and Sienna welcomed us into their home and showed us a brief glimpse into their lives. I will forever remember my conversations with Sienna about rutabagas (it is a long story) and her constant smile.
It was difficult for me to leave Antigua and the walk to the taxi stand was one of those walks that was a very sad moment for me; however, I have gained friends from all over the world and every walk of life. For that, I have to say “Thank You” to Kim, Simon, Sienna, and Chiara.
If you ever want to meet truly genuine and wonderful people, look for Britican and her crew at an anchorage in some of the most beautiful corners of the world.
Just remember, never say “Good-Bye” it is always, “See Ya’ Later”. Charlie
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A LIFE CHANGING WEEK-LONG LIVEABOARD EXPERIENCE|
|Spend one week with Britican to give the liveaboard life a test drive. Learn about sailing, anchoring, maneuvering in marina's, docking, provisioning, cooking, maintaining, troubleshooting AND checking out all the white sandy beaches, snorkeling over the fish-filled reef and testing out exotic tropical drinks. You create the itinerary. Discover how we can help you to get out sailing and enjoying the lifestyle sooner rather than later. Find out more here. Click here for more information.|
From Jan Reimers
After following you on YouTube for a couple of years, I never expected to actually see Britican in person, let along spend a week on board. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got your email and hesitated 12 hours before I even showed it to my wife.
When I did, she asked me, “Is this for real?” and then urged me to go. It was 3 days later that I was laid off and decided I was now retired. And so begins a big change in my life.
The trip was awesome!
The YouTubes I had seen did the boat justice. Britican was pretty much as I expected, but I have to say, you have taken very good care of her. Britican is in beautiful shape. The forward berth was very comfortable. The little fan and open hatch cooled things off nicely.
Britican reacts to wind very much like my smaller boats, with more heel than I expected from a boat that size. But the forces on the genoa sheets far exceeded what I expected. There were times when I was nervous about something tearing loose.
There were times when I was unable to hold it even with 4 wraps on the winch.
And as you know I discovered, the sheeting in took much more effort than I expected. Simon’s coaching one night helped a lot and changed the way I pulled in the sheet when tacking.
In my yacht club, all the marks on the race course can be seen. It was an interesting experience to have to navigate the course to the next mark when it was too far away to be visible. There’s a lot for me to learn about electronic navigation.
For a liveaboard cruising boat with an amateur crew, we did well.
We made mistakes but improved over the week. I’d like to think that if we were racing together another week we’d do even better, but then the other boats may have improved as well. Who knows? It was fun getting to know all the other crew members. I feel like we came together from a bunch of complete unknowns to a team that worked pretty well together by the end of the week.
The parties every night were varied and fun. The Oyster crew did a great job planning the events.
I have often wandered piers, looked at all the pretty boats and wondered what it would be like to own one.
It was a really nice experience to sit on Britican and feel like I belong to the “in crowd”, if only for a short time.
There was one story that Simon told about taking on a crew member in Sicily who was an Admiral, and someone making the comment that only Simon could make an Admiral work for a Private. The response from the fellow sailor was that “sailing is a great leveler”.
I found that very ironic since it is very few people who can afford a boat like Britican, or some of the even larger ones. Although I realize it has been choices you’ve made and that you’ve sacrificed in other ways, I hope you consider yourselves lucky to be living your lifestyle.
I enjoyed watching Sienna’s efforts to make friends with that little Swedish girl who knew no English.
It was touching to see her come to Britican in Jolly Harbor and ask, “Excuse me. Is Sienna home?”
Her parents must have coached her and she must have practiced that sentence a lot before coming over. She had a very little accent in that sentence, which made it all the more disconcerting when I realized she didn’t understand a word of my response.
I hope to see you again and look forward to seeing your future travels. Jan
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A LIFE CHANGING WEEK-LONG LIVEABOARD EXPERIENCE|
|Fitting into the cruising world is easy once you get a feel for it. Cruisers are wonderful people eager to help each other out. And there are no boundaries - it doesn't matter where you come from or what your background is. Come aboard Britican for a week and find out for yourself! Find out what it's like to be a liveaboard - experience other liveaboards, getting out to sea and trimming sails, practice anchoring and mooring balls, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean and more. Join us on Britican! Click here for more information.|
From Bob Michael
So where do I start? I suppose it would be 1:00 in the morning driving to the Boston airport, setting out for Antigua to mate on a sailboat in a regatta with seven complete strangers. Other than a few emails and a couple of phone calls from Simon and watching many hours of YouTube videos of Sailing Britican, I had no knowledge of what I was getting myself into. The adventure begins.
Upon arrival in Antigua and a 45-minute taxi ride on the wrong side of the road through what appeared to be a very third world country, I arrived at Catamaran Marina where immediately I spotted the blonde locks of my hostess Kim Brown and introduced myself.
At this point, all my conceived notions were erased and reality kicked in.
You know how that works, I’m sure. Kim was much taller than I thought and Britican was much beamier than I perceived from youtube videos. A beautiful 56 foot Oyster set up for liveaboard life and the floating home of my hosts. Imagine trying to cram a house full of life into a 13 x 56 space and then rearrange yourself to make room for 4 strangers to come aboard for 7 days. Mind-boggling.
As the other members of our crew trickled in over the next hours, it became apparent that instant camaraderie was kicking in and we all felt very comfortable with our new sail-mates. We had a sailing captain Charlie with much knowledge of sailing and racing tactics.
Jan, pronounced (Yawn), an avid racer in a sailing club in NH on a reservoir where you were not allowed to touch the water, go figure. Keith a sort of real estate mogul from South Florida with no sailing experience and me, the elder of the crew with limited sailing experience, and none on such a large boat in racing mode.
We knew that Britican had won the regatta in her previous showing in 2016 so we all had high hopes for keeping Britican in the winner’s circle.
After a couple of days of practice and moving to Nelson’s Dockyard where the first two days of racing were to commence we were joined by 20 or 25 more Oyster yachts of all shapes and sizes. Some of which had just completed an around the world cruise that started in 2017. These are some of the most beautiful sailing yachts one would ever see in one place at the same time.
As race day one started, it became apparent that the start of the race is contrived in timing, strategy, and fearlessness. As 7 boats in our class jockeyed for position to cross the starting line at just the precise moment, not wanting to hit before the starting horn and not wanting to be too far out either.
As we approached on that first-day race, Simon our fearless Captain at the helm, we were neck and neck or bow and bow with two other boats. So close you could almost reach out and shake hands with the other boat crew it seemed. The horn blows as we all reach the starting line. You have the right of way according to your position, up-wind or down, starboard tack or port.
In a millisecond of chaos, the boats in front tap each other, each veering off, we blast through space between, not more than a few feet between these 35-ton yachts moving at 8 knots or more and out into the lead.
I’m talking about a huge rush as we point for clean water and all the rest are behind.
No one says a word for a few seconds as the reality of what just happened sinks in and then we all hoop and holler at the thrill of the race. The adventure continues.
The race courses are set up by the race committee and include pretty much all of the various sailing modes, up-wind, downwind and reaches. The sails we use is up to us according to the wind, weather, and course. Thus the strategy is to pick sails according to the course and wind conditions. The wind always blows in Antigua. We rarely had winds under 20 knots and mostly in 30 and sometimes 40-knot range. The wind was indeed a blessing at the dock, mother nature’s air conditioning.
Flying a spinnaker is the most beautiful thing to see on another boat.
Giant colorful sails ballooned in the wind pulling the boat along downwind as fast as physics will allow. To put out a spinnaker on your own boat is somewhat of a daunting task. There are poles and lines and preventers and all need to be set-up, hooked-up and adjusted as quickly as possible in order to get the best possible racing edge on your competitors.
The whommmp you hear of a spinnaker filling with wind from another boat a quarter of a mile away is breathtaking. You could feel the air reverberate. I know now why we only used the spinnaker once during the race days and why Simon and Kim have not used it very much throughout there cruising history.
Lot of work LOL.
A cold beer was status quo for the motor into port after the race along with a sandwich made by our only female crew mate Chiara. Followed by a quick boat clean-up and relaxing after race afternoons enjoying the sights and sounds of our ports of call, English and Jolly Harbours.
The history and architecture of English are fascinating. Imagine the careening of a Clipper on its side at the dock to clean and repair the bottom. The homes perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean and the ginormous yachts lying at the dock at English and adjoining Falmouth Harbour.
Jolly Harbour with its docks filled with sailors on their boats from all over the world.
It’s entry, of quaint little houses and condo’s painted in tropical pastels. Sailboats at there moorings. A sleek golden sailboat from Brisbane and a bar in pretty much every corner at the dock. A cool dip in the swimming pool was a refreshing memory and a snorkel trip on a lay day was absolutely awesome.
Evenings were filled with good food, good drink, and good entertainment. It seemed Oyster spared no expense here. Dock party’s, buffet’s and sit down dinners were all unique and the venues were fabulous. Some on the docks and some with spectacular views overlooking the harbours. The food was to die for. From goat croquettes to beef tenderloin and everything in between. When the entertainment began the Oysterites were up and dancing the night away.
How the eight of us managed to maintain in such a small space was award-winning.
Of course, coming in third in our class with seven other competitors speaks for itself. Seasoned sailors and rookies came together with a competitive spirit and a love for sailing competing with world-class sailing crews to earn 5 minutes of fame on the podium. Well, it may have only been a minute, but it sure was a memorable one. LOL
Job well done!! Bob
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A LIFE CHANGING WEEK-LONG LIVEABOARD EXPERIENCE|
|Find out what amazing really means! Gain confidence about becoming a liveaboard cruiser - join Britican for a weeklong adventure in the Caribbean. Enjoy beautiful white sandy beaches, tropical fruits, and beverages with umbrella's and also learn what it takes to operate and maintain a sailing yacht. You decide upon your own itinerary - what do you need to know or what do you need to experience to help you make your dreams easier to achieve? Click here for more information.|
From Keith Black
The reason I went on this adventure was to justify buying a larger live-aboard sailboat. Then add a week-long regatta in the West Indies, I had to go. The first time seeing Britican, I was more impressed with her looks than any picture I had seen of her. Oyster Yachts make some of the best examples of true sailing yachts in the World and Britican is a perfect example of what a yacht should be.
Taking off from Ft. Lauderdale airport, I felt like a 6-year-old Christmas morning.
It was a long day of hopping flights/rides until I arrived at the Catamaran Marina docks, to meet Simon on the dock. I was the 3rd crew member to arrive at the boat. All the meals where great, food on the boat was delicious, the dinners/parties provided by Oyster Yachts and the other sponsors ROCKED.
I have been in a lot of marinas though out the Caribbean. The ones we stayed at on Antigua, felt very safe and clean without being over the top “stiff” or restricted. True, I spend most of my time in marinas dealing with fishing tournaments, working or just dreaming. Yet I have never seen so many sailboats in one area as there are on Antigua.
So I have to believe it’s the relaxing lifestyle of all those liveaboards that magically release the stress.
Everyone aboard Britican wanted the same thing – that we all have the story of a lifetime. I had a blast. Keith
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A LIFE CHANGING WEEK-LONG LIVEABOARD EXPERIENCE|
|Do you want to have a blast? Find out what it takes to own, operate and manage a sailboat as a liveaboard cruiser. You choose the itinerary, what you want to learn, where you want to sail and how best to gain greater confidence. The ultimate outcome is to help you/your family to take several steps forward on your plans to set sail. Imagine a combination of learning how to own/operate a boat AND explore beautiful destinations? It's a great opportunity to try-before-you-buy. Find out if the liveaboard life is for you and your family now! Click here for more information.|
Watch the video with all the crew in action here: Racing An Oyster Yacht Video
Racing with Britican
There are no definite plans yet to race Britican in next years Antigua Oyster Regatta or other regattas but due to the success of this past experience, we’re thinking of lining up more opportunities. If you’re interested in racing with us OR would like to get the opportunity to race with any boat in a regatta, fill out the form on our Britican Experience page and we’ll keep you posted if/when the next exciting opportunity comes up.
Any Questions, Comments or Feedback?
If you have any questions leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer them as soon as possible.
Photos in this post were taken by Tim Wright of PhotoAction.com