Just 10 boats made it to the start of the 3rd St Maarten-St Martin Classic Yacht Regatta for what turned out to be a thinned down event where the on-the-water racing took center stage. Gone was the lavish banquet of 2005. Absent was the local boat racing of 2006. Present and correct, however, was a satisfying mélange of Classic yachts crewed by genuine enthusiasts.
Racing was divided into three classes: Vintage, Classic and Classic Look. In the first, two-time winner Charm III from Anguilla enjoyed a one-sided contest against fellow schooner Passaat. This time round, Charm III skipper Richard West had favored youth over experience by blooding three teenage crew from the Anguilla Sailing Association: Kenny Richards (13), Noah Gumbs (12) and Starlin Rosario (13).
In the Classic Look Class, local boat Synergy was equally comfortable against Papillon from the US.
The stiffest competition was in the Classic Class, where last year’s star Kate from St Kitts would go up against a fleet that included Lone Fox and the beautiful Raindancer. The latter, a 76-foot staysail schooner, was virtually rebuilt after Hurricane Ivan by owner John Whitsett from San Francisco. Her impeccable Burmese Teak deck, Sitka Spruce masts and traditional rig are testament to an 18-month refit. Whitsett, who proudly sports a tattoo of a pig on his left foot, approached the racing with the bravado of a man for whom Neptune’s empire held no fear.
Not everything went to plan: Radha in the Classic class was struck by illness which forced her withdrawal from all but the first day’s racing, while Kate’s owner Philip Walwyn was forced to take her home on Sunday morning due to a shortage of crew. Once racing did get underway on Sunday, it was beneath seething, leaden skies and on water the color of Cornish slate. Squally but breezy, conditions seemed strangely incongruous with these elegant beauties.
Nevertheless, Lone Fox’s primed crew brought her home in style; first over the line but second yet again on corrected time to the nippy 37’ Tiger Maru, who would have won overall had it not been for an errant sixth place in the first race. Charm III’s magic, then, was broken: there would be no third consecutive victory. Congratulations, though, to organizer Jan Roosens and team, who continue to bring these stunning boats to the region. www.classicregatta.com
Nick Marshall is an English journalist living on St. Maarten who was consultant editor of All At Sea from 2003 to 2005.