Organized by the St. Maarten Yacht Club (SMYC) for the first time in its nine year history, La Course de L’Alliance, sailed in late November, was an outstanding success and added one more regatta to the clubs already impressive list of sailing events.
The regatta is unique in that boats make overnight stops in St. Barths and Anguilla before racing back to Dutch St. Maarten.
Nineteen boats in three classes jockeyed for positions at the start of leg one in Simpson Bay as Race Officer Paul Miller got the regatta under way in light winds.
From the beginning, interest focused on the racing class where four Melges (three 24s and a 32) One Design sports boats went hull to hull. After three races the Melges 32 Kick em Jenny 2, owned by Sint Maarten Yacht Club Commodore Ian Hope-Ross, drove a wedge between the two Melges 24s of eventual class winner Frits Bus and Coors Light and third place finisher Andrea Scarabelli’s Team Budget Marine.
Still learning the ropes on his new Melges 32, Hope-Ross said conditions were light and variable but much better than predicted. “We were only becalmed once for less than ten minutes.” He added, “We were very pleased with the new boat, and realize that there is a long way to go to realize the speed potential, but we saw flashes of speed that encouraged us tremendously.”
With light winds on day two, the race officer decided to start the race from Isle Fourche. For the race to Anguilla, competitors were given the option of passing either side of St. Maarten.
Bus was one of the skippers who chose to sail east of the island, a move that paid off and saw Team Coors Light sipping drinks ashore long before the arrival of the next boat.
Explaining his choice of tactics, Bus said that in light air it is never very smart to pass under an island in the lee “as you have a very big chance of getting caught in areas of no wind.” He noted that from Isle Fourche they had a strong current running with them, and this was something they had worked out before the start.
In Cruising Class, veteran St. Maarten yachtsman Bobby Velasquez, sailing his Beneteau 45F5 L’Esperance, decided to take a gamble and pass St Maarten to the west. The decision put Velasquez more than eight minutes behind Saturday’s race winner (and eventual overall class winner) Bel Aurora, and possibly cost him the title.
Serious partying on Saturday night in Anguilla led to a slow start on Sunday. For this reason, the race officer put in a downwind start, using the red channel marker in Road Bay to make it easier for everyone.
Seven multihulls sped around the three courses. Predictably, the ultra fast, photogenic, ex Route de Rhum trimaran Dauphin Telecom took the overall class win, scoring two bullets and a third place. Petro Jonker’s catamaran, Quality Time and the trimaran Lagoonies Triumph finished second and third overall, respectively.
The SMYC are looking to build on this event. “This was a thoroughly enjoyable regatta that brought out the best in planning and co-operation between the volunteers and the associated yacht clubs in St. Maarten and St. Barth and the Anguilla Sailing Association,” Hope-Ross said.
Later, Bus shared his thought on the growing number of Melges 24s competing around the region. He said that now, with five Melges entering local regattas, we have a great field and this makes them like one-design regattas, which is the best racing. “I hope this initiative will attract other sailors and bring more Melges’ to the bigger regattas where the racing would be even more exciting. One-design is close racing that really shows who are the best sailors and teams.”
For full results, visit: www.coursedelalliance.com
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten, and the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information visit: garyebrown.net