Coming in the first week of May, Anguilla’s
Mix-Up Regatta made it the 15th island of the season to set out a course, stash
some beers in a cooler and pray to the wind gods.
Although late in the season, the regatta is turning into a bit of a
‘Must-do’, pulling in a respectable quorum of visiting boats. Admittedly, 21
entries over the three days isn’t going to worry the Heineken (whose core team
actually provide their services in Anguilla), but the numbers game doesn’t take
into account that locking horns with just one other boat over three days can be
more fun than leaving a fleet of 20+ for dust.
The regatta divides racing between the yachts and the local sailing
boats, with each taking crew from the other on the last day to make the
‘Mix-up’ element. Anguillan participation in the former category was
respectable – Richard West’s beautiful Charm III, Gianfranco
Comparetti’s Chico Chico, Steve Donahue’s Jaluca and Luke Thomas’
Argonauta were all in place to repel the St Maarten invasion.
But the Spinnaker Class was exclusively St Maarten, with the spotlight
on the two Melges 24, Frits Bus on 2ContactCarib/Buccaneer Bar sparring
with Sea Jet, masterminded by Sir Robbie Ferron and Dutch ace Gerard
Loos. While Bus took the Around the Island Race on Friday, in 4 hrs 20 minutes,
Sir Ferron was just three minutes behind and sailed a great weekend to come
back with victories on Saturday and Sunday to win the class overall.
In Non-Spinnaker, fellow St Maarten knight Sir Bobby Velasquez, aboard L’Esperance,
battled to keep another Beneteau, Vanille, skippered by Frenchman
Philippe Herve in check. While L’Esperance stormed home on Friday, as
expected, some twenty minutes ahead of the pack, Vanille‘s rating saw
her three minutes ahead on corrected time with Colin Percy’s Antares in
second. A similar winning margin on a shorter course on Saturday, however, and
another bullet on Sunday were enough to win the class overall for Velasquez,
tied with Herve on points, but winner through his two victories to the
Eddie Barreto’s Moonshadow snatched the Open Class without the
Antiguan entry winning a race. Three consistent second places put enough
distance on the leader board between the Hinckley 30 and the rest. Randy West’s
Lone Fox was a popular St Barth’s entrant in the class.
With Garth Steyn the only entrant in the Multihull Class, the regatta
was an ideal opportunity to try out his newly acquired Aquamania Carib Cat.
Steyn grabbed the Around the Island Record on Friday in 4 hours and 6 minutes,
taking just 45 minutes from Anguillita to the finish. Still getting used to the
boat, Steyn found himself lifted to 45 degrees by a rogue gust during the race.
The following day was his last, however – a blown sail forcing him to retire.
Saturday saw the popular battle of the banks, in which two island banks
race each other in a 12-Meter yacht on loan (with interest?) from St Maarten.
This year, National Bank of Anguilla on Stars & Stripes beat
Caribbean Commercial Bank on True North by 11 seconds.
On the same day, turnout for the Sir Robert Velasquez Trophy was no
better. Just two local boats, Miss Anguilla (1st) and Satellite
(2nd) participated, in the only dab squib to the weekend.
Sunday’s Mix-up race was shortened due to light winds, with some 20
local sailors joining visiting yachts in the morning races and six local boats
taking on crew in the afternoon. Satellite took victory this time,
beating off UFO into second.
Speaking after the first day’s racing, Frits Bus outlined why so many St
Maarteners were here, “they [the Anguilla Sailing Association] are trying to do
something, so we have to help, and it’s a regatta we like to support,” he said.
“But, it needs more local support.”
The focus this year was on some excellent battles between the visiting
boats, rather than on the drama and bravado of the local boats. But the unique
flavour of the regatta lies in the latter if things are to expand. Walking
along Sandy Ground beach, one can count dinghies, fishing boats, rowing boats
and buoys every few yards. In this respect, Anguilla has remained much closer
to the sea than a lot of Caribbean islands, and the regatta is a celebration of
In Peter Parles and Laurie Gumbs, the regatta has two dynamic, young
organisers determined to enlarge the local sailing base. Parles dropped a
career in New York City working for Nickelodeon to come to Anguilla in 1996 and
now runs the Straw Hat restaurant, whereas Gumbs, owner of The Pumphouse, is
the island-born son of Sir Emile and Janice Gumbs.
Both Peter and Laurie were founding members of the ASA in 2003. The
Association has so far raised funds to purchase 8 Optimist dinghies with a
youth sailing school planned for this summer. To this end, the Regatta is a
vital flagship and fundraising vehicle for the local sailing programme.