For an event that was conceived on the spur of the moment
and planned at the speed of a shotgun wedding, an entry list of 34 boats in
five classes was a terrific delivery by the Captain Oliver’s team for May’s
Carib Beer Regatta.
In a matter of
mere months, the Oyster Pondsmen assembled a regatta team, found a sponsor, set
up a yacht club, cultivated the press and threw down the challenge to local and
regional sailors to attend.
Among those who
did, for some there was a chance to resume rivalry from the Anguilla Regatta a
week before, while for others this was their first racing run-out on another
island. Bus/Ferron in the Racing Class and Velasquez/Herve in the Cruising
Class fell into the former category, the three St Barths 7.50 Monotypes into
the latter. A last-minute addition was the Beach Cat Class. Racing Director
Stuart Knaggs had originally ruled the class out due to safety concerns, but a
change of heart allowed three Prindle 19s and a Nacara 18 to compete.
Racing began in
brisk winds on the first day, with the Racing Class on a windward/leeward
course best viewed from up on Crystal Mountain. The other classes set off in
the direction of Tintamarre, with a mark to be rounded eventually in Marigot.
Fittingly, it was
Bus’s Carib-sponsored Melges 24 2ContactCarib/Buccaneer Bar that crossed
the starting line first in the first race of the inaugural regatta. From up on
the hill, it looked as if the breeze was fairly uniform, but down on the water
there was no room for complacency as Bus, main rival Robbie Ferron on Sea
Jet (also a Melges) and the three 7.50s swapped long tacks upwind
throughout the three races of the day.
“The main thing
was good starts,” said Bus. “After that, there was a shifting wind with lots of
changes in air pressure.”
In dominant form,
Bus was able to reverse his loss to Ferron in Anguilla. The latter took a
fourth place in the final race behind 7.50 Pen Sardine to finish third
overall. With no wind at all on the Sunday, racing cancelled, and some boats
returning to the marina by paddle, spectators were denied the chance to see how
this three-way battle would have evolved.
In the Cruising
Class, Phillippe Herve’s Vanille got the better of Sir Bobby Velasquez’s
L’Esperance with the latter approaching the finish line hot on Vanille‘s
“He beat me a week
before in Anguilla, but in winds of 10 knots, we are very fast. Bobby needs
more wind to get going and should be a lot more ahead of us. As the wind picked
up at the finish, he came back at us,” said Herve.
A large Multihull
Class stacked with local French sailors saw victory for Les Deux Pigeons on
corrected time, despite Palm Palm hurtling home in under four hours.
While the Multihulls’ arrival was graceful, an element of chaos characterized
the Beach Cat finish – two of the four recording a DNF because they were not
aware of where the finish line was.
No such farce in
the ‘Cool’ Class, where the nippy H-boat No Stress came home ahead of 10
other competitors, enjoying relatively flat seas and a dying 10-knot breeze.
A lavish post-race
award ceremony capped three days of on-shore hospitality which saw many
well-know faces from across the island make the trip out to Captain Oliver’s
Speaking at the
prize giving, co-organiser Juul Hermsen praised “such enthusiasm at such short
notice,” noting that the regatta “happened so fast it made my head spin.”
Commodore Herve Harel gave a short but poignant speech in which he thanked St
Barths sailor Luc Poupon for bringing so many of the island’s boats over. “The
fact that we want to get in a boat is because of people like him,” he said.
announced that next year would see even greater involvement from the St Martin
Tourist Office, following a pledge by Romeo Flemming.
Despite the rain
and lack of wind on the second day, the first Captain Oliver’s Carib Beer
Regatta was well-received. “The idea is good,” commented Philippe Herve. “But
it’s a newborn one, so needs time to grow.”
The arrival of the
St Barths contingent was a vital ingredient. Speaking about the 7.50s, SBYC
sailor Julien Darmon explained that, “they’ve been on the island for a while
but we bought them in September and refitted them. A group from the yacht club
started racing them two times per month for an ongoing championship but this is
the first time they’ve sailed outside St Barths.”
Pond’s non-existent bus links to the outside world ruled out any speculative
spectators turning up to enjoy the regatta, many others made the effort to come
out and watch the action. To see the dockside buzzing with boats, sailors and
spectators once again is a reminder that while the Regatta was a great debut,
it was also a welcome return.