Yachting News » Events » Antigua Classics Welcomes Newcomers Columbia and El Oro

Antigua Classics Welcomes Newcomers Columbia and El Oro

Antigua Classics 2

The 2016 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club and sponsored by Panerai, is attracting a whole range of new competitors for its 29th annual Regatta from all corners of the globe and all classes of beautiful classic yachts.

For example, Columbia the impressive 141ft exacting replica of a Gloucester fishing schooner and the 68ft ketch, El Oro, crewed entirely by keen racers from Australia. Both of these fabulous yachts will be competing amongst dozens of other classics in Antigua’s steady tradewinds this April.

The original Columbia was built by Arthur Dana Story from the design of Starling Burgess in Essex, Massachusetts in 1923 and was the final development of the Gloucester fishing schooners which were famous for speed and seaworthiness. Fishermen who plied their trade on the Grand Bank raced these schooners, often in brutal conditions. Shortly after she was launched, Columbia challenged the Canadian legend Bluenose in the International Fishermen's Cup Races where Bluenose won by a slender margin. The original Columbia was lost with all hands in a hurricane off Nova Scotia in August 1927.


Brian D’Isernia, owner of the Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Florida, discovered the original hand-drawn lines plan of Columbia in the Shipbuilding Museum in Essex, Massachusetts where she was originally built. Attracted by her proud history and beauty, Brian began the journey of bringing Columbia back to life, using this as opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream of restoring a significant piece of maritime history back to the glory she deserved. The exact replica of Columbia, albeit now with a steel hull rather than wood, was launched by the Eastern Shipbuilding Group in 2014 and we are delighted she will race in our Regatta this April.

Commissioned by the co-founder of Bic pens, Baron Marcel Bich's, El Oro's design was based on the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race yacht, Kriter, which finished third in the first race. In 1974, El Oro, built of mahogany on oak frames, was launched in France and her lines are typical of the era with a French clipper bow as seen on Eric Tabarly's Pen Duick III. After a two-year restoration by the current owner, Tim Wilson, in Myanmar, she then cruised Thailand, Indonesia, Borneo and up to Hong Kong.

Plans to sail her to Europe through the Suez Canal last year were thwarted by the civil war in Yemen, so she was shipped to Denmark, cruised the Baltic, then sailed down through the Kiel Canal, English Channel to the Canary Islands. El Oro crossed the Atlantic with the ARC 2015 to Saint Lucia and we look forward to welcoming her in Antigua with her crew entirely from Australia.

“Having been restored, raced, and cruised for several years in Asia, the aspiration to enter El Oro in an eminent classics regatta has been on the owner's horizon ever since bringing the yacht to the northern hemisphere. The prospect and opportunity of competing in Antigua is just too special to miss.” commented Kent King, Skipper of El Oro. “All of the crew are from Sydney, and race predominantly on Tim Wilson's Ringle 39, Hanni, a classic daysailer. We have a body of crew who are very emblematic of yachting in Australia, with a blend of very experienced sailors and young successful 16ft skiff sailors. Neither the owner nor crew have ever raced in Antigua before. When you think of the major yachting centres of the world, invariably the names that come to mind are Cowes, Antigua, and Newport.

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There are many classic regattas and wooden boat festivals in Australia - generally the yachts are smaller than in the Northern Hemisphere regattas - more 'everyman' yachts in the 20 to 40 ft range, work boats or fishing yachts. The iconic Antipodean Skiff is itself a descendant of an early working yacht. As it is perhaps the oldest Classics regatta in the world, Australian yachtsman are well aware of Antigua Classics, and its significance. We thought that we may struggle to raise sufficient crew for Antigua. In fact, we could have filled another yacht. The possibility to compete in Antigua proved irresistible, even for those who have many regattas and accolades.

There is a fair degree of competitive spirit aboard El Oro, but Antigua Classics is all about enjoying the experience, and the privilege of sailing among some of the legendary beauties of yachting, with many fine sailors taking part. Shoreside, I am sure that the parties will be hugely distracting, and immensely enjoyable. The reputation of Antigua Classics must partly be due to the hospitality of the locals, as well as the resplendent trade winds. As good as Mount Gay tastes in Oz, it goes down even better in the Caribbean.”

The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta attracts and welcomes a huge variety of classic yachts from those built over 100 years ago to modern reproductions from around the world, big or small, professionally crewed or family live-aboards. Sponsored dockage is offered for the duration of the Regatta to all competitors, which creates a friendly community of classic boat enthusiasts.

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