A record 40 boats made it to the start of the 4th Captain Oliver’s Regatta, sponsored this year by Canal Sat Caraibes and held over the weekend of 17 and18 May. The regatta has a brilliantly simple format: just two races in two days—round the island anticlockwise on the Saturday, and out to St Barths’ Ile Fourche and back to Oyster Pond on Sunday—complemented by famous evening entertainment, or soirées as they are called around these parts. The third ace was added by Mother Nature herself; blazing May sunshine without a cloud in the sky, flat seas and up to 20 knots of breeze to play with by the end of day two.
Beyond the Captain himself, the regatta has already developed its own set of familiar faces. Although Pat Turner’s dismasted Tryst would be forced to give 2008 a miss and Philippe Hervé’s Vanille would not be present, Frits Bus was back on his Melges 24 Carib Beer Team, St Barths’ Jeff Ledee on his Nacra 18 beachcat, Jan Vanden Eynde on Panic Attack, and COYC Commodore Hervé Harrel on My Cat. The Moorings and Sunsail, the two resident charter companies on the marina, also entered a crew each.
Saturday’s racing began with a whimper, but built to a bang. Around seven knots only at the start meant crews would be working hard for advantage in sweltering heat. First off and first back was the Beachcat Class, with nine boats competing, mainly from St Barth and St Martin. Jeff Ledee picked up where he left off last year, winning leg one in an audacious 3 hrs 10 mins.
In Racing, three of the five competitors were Melges 24, yet with the pace being set by the Open 7.50 Panic Attack, who would finish in 4:13:33. On corrected time, however, honors went to Bus’s Carib Beer, just three minutes ahead of Didier Rouault’s French Connection over the line.
The Cruising Class had a punishing day, clocking up to seven hours on the water in some cases. Line honors and corrected time went to Ian Hope Ross’s Kick ‘em Jenny, well-challenged by Simon Manley’s J105 Team Scuba Shop and Raymond Magras’s Speedy Nemo.
Racing on a shortened course in the six-strong Cool Class, Mowgli Fox’s L’Ile comfortably got the better of Schtroumph, while the 11-strong Multihull Class – a remarkable figure – was claimed by Claude Considiere’s Sunsea Dauphin Telecom. Boats crewed by staff from a single company were also competing for the ‘Corporate Challenge’.
Day two started with stiffer breeze and the chance to dash upwind to Ile Fourche and back. In the race for gold, the Beach Cat Class again proved its mettle, with the first three boats returning within barely a minute of each other. This time, however, Olivier Bernaez’s Image Real Estate was the cat that got the cream, awarded the overall win by judges from a three-way tie.
In Racing, just thirty seconds were needed to separate the three Melges, but Bus would prevail on corrected time to finish the weekend with a perfect sheet and reclaim his dominance in the regatta. Bus’s Carib Beer Team were also awarded the weekend’s Most Worthy Performance, joining previous winners Jeff Ledee/Vincent Jordil, and Philippe Hervé in Oyster Pond folklore.
Team Scuba Shop posted a convincing win in Cruising, but Kick ‘em Jenny secured second, and the overall class win. In the Cool Class, Schtroumph came back strong, even though third to finish on elapsed time. A third place for Fox’s L’Ile meant that Valade took the class.
Finally, the multihull class was again dominated by Sunsea Dauphin Telecom, which also won the Corporate Challenge. Polo, a Cata 43, rose to second, while Harrel’s My Cat had to be content with third.
Hats off again to Captain Oliver, Harrel and Regatta Organizer Stuart Knaggs. Oyster Pond might be divided by the French/Dutch border, but this May regatta brings some great talent together.
Nick Marshall is an English journalist living on St. Maarten who was consultant editor of All At Sea from 2003 to 2005.