The Captain Oliver’s Carib Beer Regatta returned for its second edition over the weekend of May 20/21 with the pundits primed in anticipation. Last year’s event burst onto the sporting world like a young Mike Tyson – pummeling, jabbing and gnawing at the ear of a local sailing establishment unaccustomed to racing out of Oyster Pond and sumptuous post-race buffets.
Would the second regatta consolidate the good parts and eliminate the erreurs de jeunesse in order to lay the foundations for a regular event, or would it come back like a one-hit-wonder boy band – unprepared, already peaked, and bereft of new steps?
First of all, top marks to the organizing committee for tweaking the format. Out went the race round the north of the island, to be replaced by a 30NM slog to St Barths and back on Saturday and some round the rocks fun south to Proselyte Reef on the Sunday. The round the buoys series off Crystal Mountain for the Racing Class was included once again, although with only four boats competing in this class, numbers were down on last year. The St Barths 7.50 Monotypes that caused such a stir last year were unable rather than unwilling to come out and play.
Otherwise, a total of 31 boats competed in five classes, including seven Multihulls and four Beach Cats. The tightest competition was in the Cruising Class, which included Sir Bobby Velasquez’s L’Esperance, Philippe Herve’s Vanille, Jan Vanden Eynde’s Soca For Sale, and a boat each from Sunsail and The Moorings, who both have bases in Oyster Pond.
With the wind gusting to 20 knots on Saturday, the fleet set off to St Barths pounding the water like the whales that are often spotted in this area. First back was Vincent Jordil in the Beach Cat Class, aboard his Prindle 19 Latitudes. His time of four hours forty nine minutes wasn’t enough to take first place on corrected time, but it was an awesome performance. Pat Turner’s Tryst in Multihull also impressed, back in five hours forty and first on corrected time, too. Among the monohulls, Frits Bus’s Melges 24 Carib Natufit put in a typically imperious time of five hours eighteen, while L’Esperance, a Beneteau 45, thundered back in after five hours forty six minutes. However, it was rival boat Vanille, a Beneteau First 300 which won on corrected time.
As the afternoon progressed, the winds died, leaving nine boats bobbing back to Oyster Pond as a DNF. Too late for Happy Hour, but in perfect time for that evening’s party at Captain Oliver’s, where crews, press and local dignitaries gathered for another legendary soiree hosted by Oyster Pond’s very own Great Gatsby. While the Captain is not one to move anonymously through the glitterati who flock to nibble his hors d’oeuvres, these evenings nevertheless belong to a bygone age.
On Sunday morning, competitors breathed a sigh of relief that last year’s windless conditions had not returned. Out on the water, Bus again dominated the racing class, winning all three of his 20-minute races, although pushed all the way by Didier Rouault on Sam Jang. In Cruising, Philippe Herve did everything right to take first place yet again, edging out L’Esperance by less than a minute on corrected time. “We enjoyed a reaching course,” said Herve. “In heavier seas, he [Bobby] has more inertia.”
Vanille’s crew worked extra hard for this victory, and were rewarded with the overall Challenge Cup at the evening’s prize ceremony, where competitors were bombarded with gift certificates, free flights and beautiful model boats. Other class winners were Frits Bus in Racing, Palm Palm in Multihull, Eric Pagos and Ronan Guerin in Beach Cats and Soca Girl in Cool Class.
Overall, Captain Oliver’s Carib Regatta has found its formula. “The level is not too high and not too low,” said Philippe Herve, who comes, like many others, for the evening entertainment and change of scenery.
There were gripes. Not all competitors were enamoured of the St Barths race’s length and the starts and finishes still need work. One competitor in the Beach Cat class pointed out that Gallic appeals to have briefings in French fell on deaf ears, and that the Beach Cats have yet to be given the attention of the other classes.
Next year, Sunsail and The Moorings will join as partners, which should boost the bareboat entry, while the Tourist Offices on both sides of the island will return to guarantee that the regatta remains, in the words of Herve Harel, ‘Un weekend fun’.