When Annie Gardner showed up at the start line of the Golden Rock Regatta (GRR) wearing a pirate costume, it was clear she and her team The Rockstars hoped to plunder some booty during the five-day event.
The eighth annual Golden Rock Regatta saw 13 teams compete in the regatta which commemorates St. Eustatius Day. A combination of distance races taking in St. Maarten, St. Eustatius (Statia) and St. Barths, along with a day of buoy racing off Statia, were held in ideal conditions in mid-November.
When it was over, Gardner and crew had conquered the field of Bareboat and Open Class entrants in eight races, for the Statia Tourism Trophy and honors as overall winner of the regatta.
But it didn’t start out that way. The Rockstars, aboard the Moorings Beneteau 50.5 La Bête, finished last in the opener, a 26-mile circumnavigation of St. Maarten. That prize, the St. Rose Trophy, went to Siem Dijkshoorn and Team Statia.
“We had a great start and then continued to move backwards throughout the entire fleet,” Gardner quipped. Although born and raised in Miami, Gardner admits she’s unfamiliar with Caribbean wind and sea conditions. “It was extremely frustrating but a good shake-down for our crew, and a great way to form as a team.”
After their rocky start (and a hasty bottom cleaning at Bobby’s Marina) Gardner and crew went on to first-to-finish in the Day Two, 33 nautical mile pursuit race to Statia.
The following day, a series of four windward-leeward races was held in Statia’s Oranjestad Bay, taking advantage of brisk trade winds that twist and accelerate around the Quill. Perennial victor Bobby Velasquez, aboard his Beneteau 45F5 L’Esperance, aced that competition to win the Windward Island Bank First Salute Trophy.
But The Rockstars were nipping at his heels. Gardner, an America’s Cup veteran, Olympic medalist, and world champion, was in her element. “The whole fleet started together, which was thrilling and fun. I loved the action, but I confess: we ‘kissed’ (collisions – Ed) a few boats.” “Racing against Bobby Velasquez was challenging and an honor. He pushed us, and we pushed him a bit too.”
Afterwards racers enjoyed Statia Day festivities on the island, including a street fair, fireworks, music and dancing at the new dinghy dock and waterfront square.
The Rockstars also bagged the 30 nautical mile beat from Statia to St. Barths; while the final 18.5 mile return to St. Maarten, and Presidente Cup, was conquered by Klaas van Duuren’s Willow Real Estate.
Dutch Sailing Adventures triumphed in the Bareboat Two division; where Aquaholic was recognized with the Captain Oliver Memorial Trophy for the best performance by a first timer.
The Golden Rock Regatta is popular with visiting sailors who charter comfy cruising boats from The Moorings and Sunsail (replete with a handyman who traveled with the fleet, fixing our daily boo-boos); who inevitably return each year. Van Duuren has both sponsored and raced the event since its inception, enjoying a blend of camaraderie and competition in a relaxed setting. Henk Ligthart said he enters Funfactor each year to introduce friends and novices to the sport of sailing.
But participation in the Open Class has ebbed and flowed over the years. Organizers would like to see more local racers compete, so to spur interest Velasquez plans to introduce a feeder regatta in celebration of St. Maarten Day. The inaugural event is expected to commence November 11 2013 and will also commemorate the 45th anniversary of Bobby’s Marina.
And next year’s Golden Rock Regatta will include a stop in St. Kitts, according to Race Organizer Juul Hermsen of Windward-Adventures. “The competitors definitely like to mix it up, and get the most out of their charters with a full week of sailing to several exotic destinations. It’s a fun, friendly event with great competition, but not as costly or chaotic as some other Caribbean regattas.”
Gardner expects to return to defend her title, but added, “The people I sailed with were great sailors. I don’t take the credit for winning this regatta: it takes a team.”
“We were here to have a good time and sail fast, but didn’t keep track of our rating or scorecard. It was really a fun surprise to collect all this loot at the prize-giving,” she laughed. “It was unbelievable to see how well we had done and how beautiful the trophies are.”
“Now, if I can just learn the ins and outs enough to ace that around the island race …”
For full results, visit: goldenrockregatta.com
A longtime yachting journalist, Betsy Crowfoot sails the warm waters of the world with a pen in one hand, and winch handle in the other.