Over an impeccably windy weekend in
early December, St. Maarten proved that it can reinvent itself more often than
Madonna by successfully hosting the first
St. Maarten Classic Yacht Regatta. While a field of just six entrants may
not have been a grand entrance organizers were hoping for back in summer, this
never felt like a debut.Instead
the participating boats buckled down to courses that looked like they had been
honed to perfection over the years and the shore side posse was kept busy with
parties that no greenhorn could ever have dreamt up.
The inaugural six boats were
Anguilla based Charm III, Irish owned Norvantes, St. Maarten’s Synergy, Equus, Apollonia, and another
local favorite Lord Sheffield.
Richard West’s 1928 Alden schooner Charm III took first place on
Saturday and a sepia tinted photo finish second on Sunday behind Norvantes,
skippered by Randy West to take overall honors. While Charm III is a regular campaigner
around these waters West was particularly delighted with the win and reserved
special praise for the organizers.
“Older boats like ours don’t go very well into the wind,”
he said.“So you need people
that understand that to make courses so that you can actually sail the course. We had about 22-25 knots which is a
reasonable startup wind for a decent schooner.”
During the awards ceremony hosted
by Ranchos Restaurant in La Palapa, West challenged
fellow schooners to take him on next year singling out those in
Massachusetts and Nova
Scotia in particular.
On Saturday Norvantes
without an engine had to be pulled off the mud near its dock by a launch from
FKG Rigging and missed the 8 AM bridge opening at Simpson Bay Lagoon.; But it was all water under the bridge by
Sunday when the Camper Nicholson 48 took second place overall.
Third place went to Synergy a Frers 49 owned by Lea de Haas. A former racing class winner in the
Heineken, Synergy was, like W46 Equus, one of the younger classics. “Nowadays you have to allow it
like in Antigua,” West commented,
“otherwise you don’t get any entries. The real ones are few and far between,
but everyone is rated so it doesn’t matter.”
took fourth, Apollonia fifth and 72’ Canadian Brigantine Lord Sheffield
brought up the rear chuntering behind an
ever-disappearing fleet, which earned it the perseverance award.
Off the water, the highlight of the
weekend was the magnificent buffet hosted by La Samanna
and the Cupecoy Yacht Club which drew dignitaries
from both sides of the island to rub shoulders with crew and press on a terrace
Bay where the fleet lay at anchor. This was far more than a fancy cookout
as a statement of intent the reception confirmed that St. Maarten has classic
blood running through its veins.
Organizer Jan Roosens
whose past exploits include organizing European rock concerts for 50,000 people
and 300 volunteers was delighted with his latest
venture.“There is a very
good possibility that we will return next year with 20 or so boats,” he
said. “We are not competition
for Antigua but there are not so many classic
boats out there.”Echoing
Richard West’s beliefs that this regatta
confirmed that one Canadian owner who came down just for the weekend to observe
had already committed to enter next year as had all many important sponsors.
It may take awhile before the J
Class and the tall ships turn up to St. Maarten in December but on the evidence
of this regatta this scene is already set.