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The Life and Times of a Caribbean One Design Fleet – St. Maarten’s Jeanneau 20’s

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Back in the 1990s, a leading charter company set up a small boat sailing experience in Antigua. It was very successful, but the property lease was eventually terminated. Among the equipment were ten Jeanneau 20’s in various states of repair. They were scattered all over Antigua with only two still in sailing condition.

“This was in 2004,” says Robbie Ferron, avid sailor and founder of the Budget Marine Group. “By a wide range of methods we managed to get the boats to St. Maarten. “A couple were sailed, some went on friendly large vessel decks, and most were towed. Once they were all in sailing condition, we rented them to tourists and also started racing them. Great racing happened over the next fifteen years.”

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Everyone wants to sail one-designs, but usually, Caribbean buyers’ choices don’t result in a single vessel type, Ferron adds. “When you do manage to get that boat consistency right, the one design magic happens.”

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The Jeanneaus were used for a range of competitive events including women’s regattas, match racing, weekend racing, and special events racing. The boats have swing keels with internal ballast which makes it possible to haul them on a trailer, but this does not affect their sailing performance. They are not planing race boats, so they are not ‘downwind flyers’. They do have a good ‘rocker’ so they tack very easily, which explains why they were perfect for high-level match racing. 

“The boats were taken over by a foundation aimed at youth training but it ran into problems and as of June, sold 5 of the boats to private owners. The owners are all well-established sailing families and all six have agreed to keep the boats in their one-design configuration. So, the stage is set for a repeat of the long era of tight, competitive one-design racing combined with youth and adult training,” says Ferron. 

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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