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Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta: Conditions Put Racers to the Test

The Caribbean-based J/122 El Ocaso continues her winning ways
The Caribbean-based J/122 El Ocaso continues her winning ways

An island that has experienced some serious winds conjured up light airs for most of the 38th Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta but this didn’t stop the enjoyment or prevent days of thrilling racing.

The four day event kicked off with the Gill Commodore’s Cup. In light but steady winds, 68 teams comprising Maxis, Ocean Racing, CSA and Bareboat Classes battled it out in a series of round-the-cans races off Simpson Bay.  

Three straight bullets in the fiercely competitive CSA 3 Class earned a delighted Sam Talbot and his team aboard the J/111 Spike the ‘Most Worthy Yacht’ trophy.

“We were up against a lot of very competitive boats that are well known on the Caribbean circuit, so we were excited with this outcome,” said Talbot whose team of U.S. and BVI sailors was probably one of the youngest crews competing, with the average age onboard being 30.

Sergio Sagramoso’s Melges 32, Lazy Dog, leads Antigua’s Taz away from the mark
Sergio Sagramoso’s Melges 32, Lazy Dog, leads Antigua’s Taz away from the mark

Eyes and ears focused on the race officer as Friday dawned with just light airs tickling the course and the regatta’s signature 26-mile Round the Island race under threat. Weighing up the options, they decided to send the Maxis, Offshore Racing and Multihull Classes on the long haul, while offering shorter courses to the other classes; and a wise decision it turned out to be. Light winds or not, the first boat to circumnavigate, the 65ft Brazilian Maxi Camiranga, impressed with a time of 3h 22m 41s. A good performance but not quite good enough to put them ahead of the legendary 1974 Sparkman & Stephens Classic Kiaola III, which beat them on corrected time.

Meanwhile, the CSA boats, Bareboats and Melges 24s that took off on 12 and 15 nautical mile courses from Simpson Bay to turning marks north of the island in the Anguilla Channel, were running into trouble.

The Polish team racing the Volvo Ocean 70 Green Dragon won their class in the Gill Commodores Cup and the Heineken Regatta
The Polish team racing the Volvo Ocean 70 Green Dragon won their class in the Gill Commodores Cup and the Heineken Regatta

“Conditions were a little chaotic and many boats got parked with no wind off Baie Longue” said Colin Symes, tactician aboard the J/111 Whistler, the day’s winner in CSA 3.

Saturday, the regatta’s penultimate day, saw many class leaders holding onto their positions by just a thread. Competing on a day “punctuated with abnormally light breeze” the 100-boat fleet took to the water for shorter buoy-to-buoy racing. All CSA Classes were able to get in two races, while the rest of the fleet had to make do with one.

In CSA 1, and pushing hard to win in his Melges 32, Lazy Dog, Puerto Rico’s Sergio Sagramoso, who has competed in 14 Heineken Regattas, started the day one point ahead of the local Melges 32 Kick ’em Jenny skippered by Ian Hope-Ross.

“We are really hoping to win out there tomorrow (Sunday), as last year we were winning the class but lost the lead in the final race of the regatta” said Sagramoso. “This year we really wanted to make sure to make it to the event because of course being from Puerto Rico, I know what the island of St. Maarten went through with the hurricane.”

While the big boys raced on the open sea, the new Island Time class sailed 12 inshore races with team Micron 99 clinching a decisive win. The third and fourth-placed boats were crewed by youngsters from St. Maarten’s Kidz at Sea foundation, which is helping to train and inspire the next generation of Caribbean sailors.
While the big boys raced on the open sea, the new Island Time class sailed 12 inshore races with team Micron 99 clinching a decisive win. The third and fourth-placed boats were crewed by youngsters from St. Maarten’s Kidz at Sea foundation, which is helping to train and inspire the next generation of Caribbean sailors.

Sunday brought wind, glorious wind and a not so glorious gut-churning westerly swell that played havoc with those suffering hangovers from Saturday night’s party. 

To capitalize on the 18-knot breeze, organizers sent Maxi and Ocean Racing Classes on a counter clockwise race around the island leaving the CSA, Ocean Racing, Bareboat and Melges 24 fleet to race a series of windward / leeward courses that culminated in winners being crowned in all 16 classes.

Having made it through the September hurricanes and now racing with a new owner, the Caribbean-based J/122 El Ocaso, continued to impress taking the overall win in the competitive CSA 3 Class.

“We had a really tough class, so for us to be on top means a lot,” said Bob Hillier who raced onboard with owner Chris Body. “There was no one dominant boat in the fleet, and taking the overall win came down to the last race.”

With six races and six bullets, Team Island Water World’s Melges 24 stormed across the finish winning their one-design class in style
With six races and six bullets, Team Island Water World’s Melges 24 stormed across the finish winning their one-design class in style

Having fought tooth and nail in Maxi Class, famed Kialoa III was able to pull ahead of Camiranga to take first place overall. “We had a great race going counter clockwise around the island, which was something I hadn’t seen before,” said navigator/skipper Stephen Stewart.

The Polish team racing the Volvo Ocean 70 Green Dragon and Chris Swallow’s team aboard the Pogo 12.50 Akouavi were able to hold on to their leads in the event’s two Ocean Racing Classes. 

“This was the first time in history for our club that we won both the Gill Commodore’s Cup and the Heineken Regatta,” said Green Dragon’s Przemyslaw Tarnacki. We are already looking forward to returning again next year.”

For full results, videos, photos and more visit: heinekenregatta.com and regattaguru.com

 

BACK WITH A BANG!
The coveted St. Maarten – St. Martin Cup for Most Worthy Performance Overall was awarded to Jan van den Eynde and his new Esse 850, Wanna B.

“We won this trophy in 1999, and it feels wonderful to do it again.” said van den Eynde who has raced in the Heineken Regatta since its inception in 1980 and lost his previous boat to hurricane Irma. He added that his new boat moved surprisingly well “and this was only the fourth time we had sailed it.”

 

Report courtesy of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Additional reporting by Gary Brown. Photos by OceanMedia.

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