Sixteen yachts descended on Anguilla during the weekend of May 12-14 to enjoy new courses, new party venues, and the age-old thrill of trying to win under wind. The fancy umbrella on this particular cocktail is the ‘Mix Up’ series, where local boats swap crews with visiting yachts for those who think a sail’s a sail.
Racing was divided into four classes: Open, Spinnaker, Non-Spinnaker and Mulithull, with notable entries including the St Maarten contingent of Bobby Velasquez’s L’Esperance, Ian Hope-Ross’s Kick ‘em Jenny, Philippe Herve’s Vanille, Frits Bus’s Carib Natufit and Robbie Ferron on Budget Marine, up against Anguillan entries Steve Donahue on Jaluca and Richard West on Charm III.
Last year’s round the island race was replaced with a more spectator-friendly race around marks set off Cap Juluca hotel. L’Esperance powered to line honors ahead of the entire fleet, putting one over on its local nemesis Vanille, while Frits Bus edged out Hope-Ross in Spinnaker. Steve Donahue completed the first half of a double in Open Class, while Garth Steyn was left to chase his shadow for the second year running as the sole entry in Multihull.
No shocks, then, on day one, but a whole can of worms on day two, with a start line set off Prickly Pear, an hour’s sail away from Sandy Ground. If Day One’s action had been an open house, then Day Two was behind closed doors. Matters weren’t helped by light winds, which caused courses to be shortened. Nevertheless, Kick ‘em Jenny held its nerve to exact revenge upon Carib Natufit, while Vanilla pipped L’Esperance on corrected time.
The Sir Bobby Velasquez race on Day Three once again saw L’Esperance dominate, but turnout was disappointing, with numerous boats opting to return to St Maarten, and expected local entries failing to materialize. Among the latter, De Tree beat UFO to take its share of $4,000-worth of prizes.
In contrast to last year’s regatta, Anguilla 2006 marked something of a downward shift. One St Maarten crewmember pointed to the lack of local interest in making the Mix-Up switch on Day Three, and labeled the Prickly Pear start ‘bizarre’.
Others were more easily pleased. Garth Steyn on Carib Cat got to keep his round the island record and the opportunity to walk off with the multihull title before setting foot on board. “Drinking champagne on the beach,” was more than enough motivation according to the skipper.
One year shy of its fifth anniversary, the Anguilla regatta is still open to tweaking. Nothing can disturb the excellent post-race beach parties that are a genuine highlight for sailors at the end of a long season, but sailors all over the islands are becoming more demanding. It is no longer enough for a regatta to be ‘fun’. Ask around and the recurring request from skippers is for serious on-the-water organization, challenging courses and a greater variety of competition within the classes. In the case of Anguilla, the organizing committee has impeccable credentials, but the Mix-Up element is finishing the weekend on an anticlimax, and entry numbers need to increase year-on-year.