Sint Maarten’s infamous Simpson Bay Lagoon played host to Budget Marine’s 2nd Interlux Open Regatta on February 2-3, its notoriously shifting breezes creating the usual havoc among a skilled fleet of one design sailors.
This is a series that sends a hero to zero in the blink of an eye or lifts an unassuming weekend sailor to the head of the fleet for an ecstatic moment of glory. Tacticians have an unenviable task of reading the water and predicting shifts against the whims of nature, but it’s what makes this regatta challenging and appealing.
“No other island in the Caribbean has this same quality of one design sailing. We are ahead,” bragged Budget Marine CEO Robbie Ferron at Sunday’s prize giving.
Co-host Boca Marina Restaurant proved to be the ideal viewing platform to watch the action on the windward-leeward course, close up. A moderate breeze and sunny conditions greeted the 13 teams who rotated on eight Jeanneau Sunfast 20s over the weekend. Twelve races were sailed on Saturday and six on Sunday, the worst two of which could be discarded.
From the outset it was clear this would be another skirmish in the battle of the chandleries with Andrea Scarabelli’s Budget Marine/Gill team locking horns with Frits Bus’s Island Water World. These two foes are never far apart, whether facing off in the Melges 24s or Sunfast 20s.
Notwithstanding the skills and consistency of the above, depth and talent prevailed in the lower ranks, creating an open, competitive field where B teams had realistic chances in this ‘lottery’ of a regatta. Every race was marked by extremely tight racing and nail-biting starts.
That said, Scarabelli’s Team Budget Marine/Gill won the regatta after a late surge on Sunday to edge out overnight leader Frits Bus’s Island Water World who settled for second place, two points adrift.
Bus saw the writing was on the wall late Saturday afternoon, blaming the unpredictable shifts and the speed difference in the boats.
“The wind was more stable Saturday morning but in the afternoon it was more shifty, and even being on the faster boats the wind was coming from right and left,” he said Sunday morning while awaiting his turn to go out. “We lost points there.”
Jolyon Ferron helmed North Sails St. Maarten into third place, out sailing Robbie Ferron’s Pacifica Plus in fourth, while Guy Taylor-Smith, a newcomer to the one design series, steered AMCON 2 into fifth place, taking an impressive three bullets on Saturday and one on Sunday to boot. Roel ten Hoppen skippered IWW 2 to finish sixth.
John Gifford on AMCON 1 was pleased to win one race but neither he nor Team Luc Knol, who clinched three second places and one third, could get a handle on the conditions and ended up tied on points, finishing in eighth and ninth places respectively.
The wildly fluctuating shifts had Assistant Race Officer Andrew Rapley frequently scuttling out in a dinghy to adjust the course.
“I virtually had to go out every race. Between the last two races we moved the course around 30 to 40 degrees,” said Andrew. “But the sailors were very sporting about it. They know there’s not much you can do, yet the camaraderie has been fantastic.”
Race Officer Laurey-Ann Findlay agreed laying the course was very challenging.
“Luckily Andrew was so good at it that every race was fairly sailed,” she added. “Not a lot of over early starts but really good starts … everyone on the line just before the flag went down. Tremendous.”
For organiser Cary Byerley, the highlight was the participation of the Beckmann family from Mexico who participated in every race with their two little boys, aged four and five. They finished in seventh place overall. Carlos Beckman, a Laser sailor of repute, relocated with his family to St. Maarten from Miami last August.
“For such young children to be so involved for the whole regatta duration and so well behaved, I find it amazing,” remarked Cary who presented prizes to the two boys. “If they continue, they will be ones to watch.”
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.