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Maelia racing during the 9th Annual Coors Light Captain Oliver’s Regatta. Photo: Nataly Dannenberg
Maelia racing during the 9th Annual Coors Light Captain Oliver’s Regatta. Photo: Nataly Dannenberg

Coors Light Captain Oliver’s Regatta

The 9th edition of the Coors Light Captain Oliver’s Regatta held May 18-19 in St. Maarten was especially defined this year by outstanding racing in both the Cruiser Racing and Racing Classes under classic sunny and breezy sailing conditions.

Saturday’s around the island race called for an unusual reaching start that caught some boats off guard but the favoured end of the line was nailed perfectly by the Island Water World Melges 24 that shot into a big lead in Racing Class. Sunday’s courses in the St. Barths channel remained the same as last year, Cruiser Racers completing one circuit of a large triangle and Racing Class completing two races on a different course.

It was a fired-up fleet of Cruiser Racers who emerged as the stand-out performers with Maelia, an X Yachts 34 out of St. Barths, receiving the Most Worthy Performance accolade after posting a first on Saturday’s around the island race and a second in Sunday’s triangle races.

There was a comical ‘lost-in-translation’ moment when the crew had to be gently restrained from taking home the late Olivier Lange’s perpetual trophy at the prize giving.

Maelia trounced former winner and perennial local favourite Bobby Velasquez’s L’Esperance to win the class.

“We’re very happy”, said Raphael Magras who entrusted skipper duties to his sons. “We had a problem with the spinnaker in the first race, laying the boat right over, but we recovered and went on to win it.”

Veteran campaigner Velasquez settled for second overall in the nine-boat class after taking a third on Saturday and first on Sunday. Raymond Magras’s Dufour 34 Speedy Nemo from St. Barths was third overall.

The Cruiser Racer Class included an all-female crew, five from St. Barths and three from St. Maarten, pretty in pink on a J109 Albacor IV. They finished fifth overall behind fourth placed Vanille crewed by St. Maarten Sailing School students.

Racing Class produced another tightly fought duel between Budget Marine and Team Island Water World in a fleet of four Melges 24s and one 32. The overall win went to Budget Marine but not without controversy.

Given the intense rivalry and negligible difference in performance between these two Melges 24s and their experienced crews, any untoward manoeuvre can set off alarm bells.

In this instance Island Water World protested Budget Marine for altering course too close to them, executing a gybe that almost caused a collision about one minute from the finish of the first race on Sunday.

Island Water World skipper Frits Bus was disappointed at the decision to dismiss the protest and give the two boats equal points as his crew had already begun to celebrate winning the race. However, in good spirit there was no animosity between the two boats.

“Without Budget Marine on the water it would be very boring racing,” Bus said sportingly, shrugging off the incident at the prize giving.

Third place overall in Racing went to French Connection, the Melges 32 Kick em Jenny was fourth, and Boost N Sail, another Melges 24 that won Friday’s feeder race from St. Barths, came in fifth.

Despite fewer boats and no takers for the Corporate Challenge, the quality of the racing was still superb as Race Director Stuart Knaggs pointed out.

“The first seven boats were less than five minutes apart so they were racing hard,” he observed. “Racing boats overall were stronger than ever this year.”

Two days of parties, entertainment, delicious buffets, and great racing and camaraderie continue to make this personable regatta popular with the sailors.

Robert Luckock is a British journalist and freelance writer residing in St. Maarten. He is currently The Daily Herald’s correspondent for French St. Martin and was one of All At Sea’s very first contributors.

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