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More than 100 Bareboats on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Starting Line

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One of the fantastic things about the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta that’s been proven time and time again—and which the crews of over 100 boats will be demonstrating when racing for the 27th edition of the event begins this week—is that you don’t need to own your own boat to go yacht racing in paradise. All that’s required is a willing crew, a plane ticket, and a chartered bareboat. And on the many islands of the Caribbean, there’s no lack of opportunities to charter fast, comfortable sailboats.

“It’s easy,” said race chairman and co-founder Robbie Ferron, a point underscored by the fact that this running of the regatta has attracted 105 bareboat entrants who will compete in six separate bareboat-only divisions.  He added that the level of competition in the bareboat classes is often every bit as competitive as in the all-out racing divisions. “It varies across the board, of course,” said Ferron, “but there are some really, really good boats with some top sailors. Then again, everyone’s serious about the event, but for some of the other charterers the serious part is having fun.”

That would certainly seem to be the case aboard the Moorings 515 Grando Keukens, chartered by Dutch sailor Ivo van der Wyst and a crew of ten friends, who will sail in the 19-boat Bareboats 4 class. This is Ivo’s fourth St. Maarten Heineken Regatta; two years ago, he and his team took a fifth in their class but also had some moments of glory. “When you win a race, it makes the party that evening all the better,” he said.

Ivo and friend Wim Bogaerts, another regatta veteran, have high hopes for the event. “We have a new boat,” said Wim of their 51-footer. “I think our chances are very good. Yes, I think we’ll finish somewhere between first and fifth.”

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As registration continued today for the entire fleet of 264 boats that will compete in 20 classes, the crew of the German-flagged charter boat, Pearlwood, was getting plenty of attention (and laughter) for their team motto, which was emblazoned across the back of their t-shirts. “MSB,” said skipper Moog Heinrich, stands for Money, Sex and Boatspeed.

“These are the three things,” Moog said, “that men can’t get enough of.”

The 2007 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will be Moog’s eighth appearance, so clearly he enjoys the event. “I love the racing, the island, the local people and the parties,” he said. For this year’s event, he’s chartered a Dufour 455 from Sparkling Charters in Guadaloupe, and he and his six-man crew delivered the boat to St. Maarten as a shakedown prior to the racing.

And what does Moog hope for this week? “A lot of boatspeed, a lot of sex, and hopefully not losing too much money,” he said. Amen, Moog, amen.

Feltz van der Marnix was another Dutch sailor picking up his racing credentials and bow numbers this morning. He, too, is sailing with a group of friends who used to be students in Utrecht, hence the name of his Moorings 433: Utecht Adventure Team. Feltz is an experienced sailor who has crossed the Atlantic aboard a Fountaine-Pajot catamaran, but this is his first St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “I can’t wait for the sailing, the barbecues, the parties and the bonfires,” he said.

Of Feltz’s six-person crew, two will be sailing for the first time, and the regatta should certainly be a wonderful introduction to the sport. When asked how he thought they’d do, Feltz’s friend, Joost van Gelder, was quick to answer and not lacking in confidence. “I think we’ll finish somewhere between first and third,” he said, which would be a fine accomplishment in the 18-boat Bareboats 5 class, which includes yachts in the 40- to 43-foot range. Feltz looked at his mate and just laughed. “Actually,” said Joost, “we don’t have the slightest clue.”

The bareboat classes will have a day to relax and prepare on Thursday, though racing will begin for 64 boats in 7 divisions. Those spinnaker-flying race boats will be sailing a series of windward/leeward courses off Simpson Bay and competing for the Commodores Cup, sponsored by Budget Marine. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony and kick-off party scheduled for later that day at Port de Plaisance. As with all the St. Maarten Heinken Regatta parties scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, music and festivities will begin by 4 p.m.

The full slate of sailing, for the entire St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, is scheduled to begin on Friday with the challenging around-the-island race; post-race activities will take place in Philipsburg. Saturday’s racing will ultimately take the fleet on a point-to-point dash to Marigot and an evening of entertainment with a decidedly French flare. The racers will return to the Dutch side of the island on Sunday, and the grand finale for the 27th regatta, featuring headline performers Stephen Marley and Damian Marley, will take place on Kim Sha Beach.

Hoist the sails, slather on the sunscreen, and get the bottle openers ready: the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is about to begin!

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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