In absolutely perfect Caribbean racing conditions, with steady trades pumping out of the east at anywhere from 12 to 25 knots, a solid fleet just shy of 200 boats—including a record-setting twenty catamarans and trimarans—set sail in early March in the waters off St. Maarten for the 32nd annual running of the sudsy St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.
The event’s motto—Serious Fun—once again held true, as the racers, competing in 16 separate classes, reveled by day in the pumping breeze and three to five-foot turquoise seas, and by night at the world-class parties that truly make the Heineken Regatta a one-of-a-kind event. When the final scores were tallied, however, no sailors had more fun than those aboard Richard Wesslund’s J/120, El Ocaso, which earned the prize for the regatta’s Most Worthy Performance Overall by virtue of winning the event’s most competitive class, CSA 4.
“This was our sixth year racing in St. Maarten,” said Wesslund. “We’ve won our division twice but never this prize. I want to thank my great team for all their hard work over the years. We’ll be back!”
El Ocasomay have been the regatta’s biggest winner, but the most photogenic—and historic—yacht in the field was Matt Brooks’ classic beauty Dorade, which topped a competitive CSA 7 division. Built in 1929 to a design by a young naval architect named Olin Stephens, Dorade launched the legendary designer’s career the next year when it won the 1930 Transatlantic Race. Brooks brought the refurbished 52-foot yawl to the islands in preparation for this year’s Newport-Bermuda Race, an event Dorade also won in 1932.
Doradewasn’t the only yacht, however, with a well-established record in international racing circles. Representing a more contemporary take on state-of-the-art offshore racers was Bill Alcott’s Farr-designed Transpac 65, Equation, which won the grueling Sydney-Hobart Race in 2007, when she was called Rosebud.
On the first day of racing, on March 1st, Equation and another ‘heavyweight contender’—Ernesto Corntina’s Volvo 70, Gran Jotiti, crewed by an all-star line-up of Spanish America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans—waged an epic duel in CSA 1 on the annual round-the-island race that kicks off the Heineken Regatta festivities. On elapsed time, Gran Jotiti won the battle in a time of 3: 03: 26 with Equation just four minutes in arrears. That was still quick enough to give Equation the victory on corrected time.
It set the stage for what appeared to be a weekend of close racing, but unfortunately, Equation broke a spreader falling off a steep wave on the second day of competition, and Gran Jotiti coasted to a class victory in CSA 1.
In Multihull 1, Peter Aschenbrenner’s graceful, bird-like Irens-designed 63-foot tri, Paradox, also parlayed a win in the opening round-the-island race (in a blistering time of 2: 48:19) into an easy overall victory in her division.
As in every St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, the fleet was represented by a broad cross-section of boats and competitors, not to mention a strong contingent of chartered bareboats. At the upper end of the scale was a pair of Swan 100s: Tomek Ulatowski’s Varsovie and Bill and Carolyn Titus’ Virago, the latter the winner of CSA 2.
On the ‘diminutive’ side of things was a trio of Melges 24s, including local St. Maarten boats sailed by Andrea Scarabelli (Budget Marine/Gill) and co-skippers Frits Bus and Peter Houtzager (Coors Light), who finished first and second, respectively, in CSA 3.
Sprinkled between those extremes were dozens of one-designs, custom boats and racer/cruisers. As always, local knowledge played a major role in the outcomes of several divisions. That was certainly the case in CSA 5, where Sir Robert Velasquez, at the helm of his well-known Beneteau 45F5, L’Esperance, drove to victory.
It was also the script in CSA 6, where Ian Hope-Ross, Commodore of the St. Maarten Yacht Club, claimed his familiar spot atop the standings on his well-sailed Beneteau First 36.7, Kick ‘em Jenny.
For a complete list of results, visit www.heinekenregatta.com
Heineken Regatta press writer Herb McCormick is the senior editor of Cruising World magazine and the author of ‘Gone to the Sea’, an anthology of his sea stories.