In a stunning preview of coming attractions, forty-five boats in four spinnaker-flying divisions set sail in the sparkling waters of St. Maarten to race in the Gill Commodore’s Cup, the tune-up event to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The traditional warm-up series is sponsored by Gill, the regatta’s official technical apparel supplier.
On a day that appeared to have been ordered up by the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau—with crystal clear skies and an ideal 10-12 knot east-southeast breeze—the race committee conducted three windward leeward races in the waters off the island’s southern shoreline. Some crews fared better than others, performing crisp spinnaker sets and douses and displaying excellent boat-handling skills. But there were also the usual gaffes and mistakes to be expected from other teams that are ramping-up programs after some time off the racecourse; those crews took advantage of the venue and the ideal conditions to get in a strong day of practice.
Among the boats that were in top form and served notice that they would be forces to be reckoned with in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and elsewhere this year were Jan Rupert’s sleek Tripp 75, Blackbird, and John Wilson’s 78-footer, Idea, in the Gill 1 class. In Gill 2, Greg Slyngstad’s J/125, Hamachi; perennial contender Sergio Sagramoso’s J/122, Lazy Dog; and Richard Wesslund’s J/120, El Ocaso, were all in fine fettle. Gill 3 standouts included Lawrence Aqui’s pretty blue Dufour 40, Wild T’ing, and Raphael Magras’s X-Yachts 34, Maelia. In Gill 4, all-star crews aboard a pair of Melges 32s, Mark Plaxton’s Team INTAC and Jaime Torres’s Smile and Wave waged a wicked duel.
When the preliminary scores were tallied, and the cream had risen to the top, Blackbird was the winner of Gill 1 with three consecutive first-place finishes.
The hard-fought Gill 2 was packed with the most competitive boats in the fleet and when the dust settled, Wesslund’s El Ocaso picked up where she left off at last year’s St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, when she won her class and the title of Most Worthy Performance Overall. El Ocaso was joined on the Gill Commodore’s Cup division 2 podium by Lazy Dog and Hamachi, respectively.
In Gill 3, Maelia nipped Wild T’ing by a single point to take top honors in the 16-boat class. And finally, in Gill 4, Team INTAC was the winner by virtue of three consecutive bullets, with Smile and Wave second. In third, Andrea Scarabelli’s Melges 24, Budget Marine/Gill, was the top finisher among the half dozen 24s in the field.
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