Former British PM Harold Wilson famously observed that, “A week is a long time in politics.” On the evidence of May’s 3rd Captain Oliver’s Carib Beer Regatta, sailing operates on a similarly ephemeral time span. On the 12th May, St. Maarten’s Budget Marine Too was on the wrong end of a three-boat collision in the Anguilla Regatta, sending boat and crew back to Simpson Bay for an ignominious early shower. A weekend later, the boat stormed to victory in the Monohull Racing Class of the Captain Oliver’s Regatta. This was a comeback set in the Tropical Depression era; our very own Caribbean Seabiscuit.
The Captain Oliver’s Carib Beer Regatta is Oyster Pond’s end-of-season bash, set against the opulent Gallic backdrop of Captain Oliver’s resort. During its first three years, the event has tried out more courses than Press at the restaurant’s legendary lunch buffet, but racing has always been restricted to the weekend only. With 27 boats turning up from St Maarten/St Martin and St Barths, it would appear that this is what participants want: with an anticlockwise round the island race on Saturday and a windward/leeward race to Table Rock off St Barths and back on Sunday. Competitors were divided into Beach Cat, Monohull Racing, Monohull Cruising, Multihull Racing, Multihull Cruising, and ‘Cool’ classes.
Traditionally, Frits Bus’s Melges 24 Carib HiHo has dominated its Racing class, and looked to have started where it left off last year with a well-fought win in the Round the Island Race, ahead of Budget Marine Too. However, an error at the start on day two and the ensuing penalty left Bus and crew with almost two minutes’ deficit to overcome, which proved to be too tall an order.
In Multihull Cruising, Bobby Velasquez’s L’Esperance completed a May to remember, getting the better of Ian Hope Ross’s Kick ‘em Jenny on points. This ongoing duel between two proud crews could go on longer than the Bush v Clinton White House tussle, and no one would complain.
Multihull Racing was confined to a contest between the port and starboard hulls of Pat Turner’s Tryst, with the single-boat class finishing in a dead heat. The lack of competition, however, took nothing away from Turner’s performance which was, quite frankly, fast. In Multihull Cruising, Jim Logan’s Candela had the temerity to trounce not only Arnand Grandclerc’s Wayayai, but also Captain Oliver’s FP Marquises 57 Muscade. The Captain was gracious in defeat, clearly delighted to have taken part in his own regatta.
The class that is increasingly putting its stamp on the weekend is the Beach Cats, largely made up of wiry St Barths sailors who ooze mystique, riding in over the horizon like a posse. Jeff Ledee and Vincent Jordil were this year’s Most Wanted, putting in an enormous performance to run off with both the Beach Cat and Overall Best Boat awards. Their Nacra F18 zipped round the island in a little under three hours on Saturday and completed the course on Sunday in 1 hr 50 mins. By sundown, they were gone.
Speaking after the awards ceremony, Budget Marine Too’s Andrea Scarabelli heaped praise on the event. While none of the boat’s crew had been in Anguilla the week before, it was the same crew who had raced in the Heineken, which helped when it came to the Round the Island Race.
Organizer Stuart Knaggs spoke with similar cheer, but refused to be complacent. “My main thing is that I want to keep it interesting,” he said. “I want to give the guys different courses every year, to throw something new at people every time. Hopefully I’ll never find my formula.”
Otherwise, the event was finally finding its character. “For me,” said Knaggs, “my goal is to have a major regional regatta that caters for the boats that live here. Of course, if ABN AMRO wants to come and race, I’m not going to turn them away, but I don’t want to be the Heineken or the BVI Spring Regatta. With my CSA Monohull Class, I had very close racing… The courses weren’t Melges-friendly. Sorry!”
With two entertaining, close races over two days, entries nudging the thirty-strong mark, and some fascinating local plot-lines in development, Captain Oliver’s Carib Beer Regatta is growing like a pearl in Oyster Pond.