Strong winds, sunshine, 2000 lusty sailors and the largest racing fleet in the Caribbean, gave the organizers of the 35th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta the opportunity to lay on a tremendous spectacle – and they didn’t fail.
In CSA1, Doug Baker’s Kernan 47, True won the last race to complete a clean sweep of bullets for the team from California in the big boat class. Bajan TP52 Conviction, skippered by Clint Brooks was runner up and Kip Curren’s Aragon third.
Five bullets in CSA 2 saw San Francisco’s Greg Slyngstad’s J/125, Hamachi on the winner’s podium. Behind Hamachi, the battle for second place went down to the wire with two Puerto Rican yachts slugging it out on the final day not only for second place but the honor of being top Melges 32. On the beat home Sergio Sagramoso’s Lazy Dog had the edge over Luis Juarbe’s Soca to guarantee second place overall and best Melges 32 on the water.
CSA 7 had everyone’s attention as two local knights, Sir Bobby Velasquez and Sir Robbie Ferron, jousted for top honors. Although the two highly-experienced sailors were closely matched, Velasquez’s Beneteau 45 L’Esperance unhorsed Ferron and his J/39 Budget Marine Aruba to win all four races. The competition was so intense that L’Esperance was awarded the coveted Most Worthy Performance trophy, which they received from Sint Maarten Prime Minister, the Honorable Marcel Gumbs, at the prize giving.
Jason Carroll’s gunboat 62, Elvis, won the five-way gunboat shoot out by just one point from Gunboat 62 Tribe, skippered by Spike Abram. The Gunboat 66, Coco de Mer, skippered by Angus Ball, finished third.
Elvis’ boat captain Scott Bradford spoke about his experiences. “We got ourselves behind the eight-ball on day one, we shredded our main in the pre-start and sailed the whole race with three reefs, but we saved two points by completing the race and that made the regatta, if we hadn’t done that we wouldn’t be up on the stage now.”
Erick Clement’s St. Martin crew racing Johnny Be Good won Multihull 2, having won three races after time correction. However, it was Lloyd Thornburg’s record breaking MOD 70, Phaedo3 that proved to be this year’s multihull class star attraction, setting a new record for the anti-clockwise course around the island.
“This week we hit a top speed of 36 knots coming back from Blowing Rock, which was amazing,” said Thornburg. “I am still racing my Gunboat but I decided to take racing to another level and that is why we now have the MOD 70. The boat is called Phaedo Cubed because she is three times faster than the Gunboat and capable of sailing twice as fast as the wind speed.”
In CSA 3, Alan Edwards vintage British Swan 65, Spirit scored three wins to take their class ahead of Per Arne Nilsen’s Norwegian x-55 Enigma VII and Colin Rath’s American Hanse 545, Persevere.
Philippe Charret’s brightly colored A40, S’investir en Guadeloupe LIPTON won the last race in CSA 4, finishing the regatta in style to win the class. Richard Wesslund’s J/122, El Ocaso was second, with French IMX-40 X-Files third.
The happy crew on Scarlet Oyster tossed skipper Ross Applebey over the side, after crossing the finish line of the last race, having secured the class win in CSA 5 ahead of Dutch Contest 42, Beluga 2 and Swan 51, Northern Child “I have been pushing the crew hard all week, so I suppose I deserved a dunking,” gurgled Ross Applebey, treading water beside Scarlet Oyster.
In the highly competitive Melges 24 One-Design Class, Andrea Scarabelli’s Budget Marine/Gill completed a magnificent performance, scoring their fourth victory in the last race to win by just two points from a crack Martinique team racing GFA Caraibes, skippered by Nicolas Gillet. John Gifford’s Blind Squirrel/ Amcon finished a creditable third ahead of Team Island Water World.
Three yachts from St. Barth occupied the podium in CSA 8 with Magras Raphael’s Maelia winning the class. Sophie Olivaud’s J/109, Albacor IV was second, one point ahead of Raymond Magras’ Dufour 34, Speedy Nemo.
The Catalina 36, Moondance raced by the St Maarten Sailing School was the winner of the St. Maarten Youth Challenge. “It is fantastic for the team to win the youth challenge but to see over 30 local kids sailing in this regatta on different boats is awesome,” said team coach Garth Steyn. “Their attitude is just fantastic, after racing hard all weekend, the whole crew helped me change all the sails and equipment for the cruising set up, so I can go back to work tomorrow, I am so very proud of them.”
A fleet of sixty-three boats filled the bareboat classes with the overall win going to Mike Cannon & Neil Harvey’s KHS&S Contractors.
MELGES 24S AT THE GILL COMMODORE’S CUP 2015:
While the other CSA classes went about their business in the 30 knot winds and breaking seas, this year’s adrenalin-pumping Gill Commodore’s Cup saw eight Melges 24s, often neither in or out of the water, fight for glory on the bone-jarring windward/leeward courses.
Budget Marine/Gill, with Andrea Scarabelli on the helm, made a magnificent comeback in the first race to win the two-hour bruiser by just over two minutes from Nicolas Gillet’s GFA Caraibes.
In the final race of the day, GFA Caraibes secured the class win for the team from Martinique, by a single point from Budget Marine/Gill.
Team Island Water World, skippered by Frits Bus, finished in third place for the class.
Class winners of The Gill Commodore’s Cup were awarded clothing and accessories from title sponsor Gill North America.
Reports by Louay Habib and Gary Brown