On the first day of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, 164 yachts experienced strong trade winds and four metre seas on the windward side of the island.
The Round St. Maarten Race produced a new record, a full on foam up, and sailors grinning like Cheshire cats at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.
Lionel Pean’s SFS II broke the Round St. Maarten Race record, blasting around the course in 02 Hours 10 min and 37 seconds. The French Volvo 70 shaved two minutes and five seconds off the monohull race record set last year.
“We had a fairly good start but the real excitement was on the windward side of St. Maarten.” smiled SFS II skipper, Lionel Pean. “Our class was one of the last to start, and on the windward side, we experienced the conditions that a Volvo 70 is made for; four metre seas and strong breeze. We were smoking past boats at over 20 knots of boat speed and surfing at 24 knots. We had guests from our sponsors SFS on board and two of them had never seen anything like that before, so we are all really happy. However, we will not be celebrating too much tonight, we will keep that for Sunday, if we win our class.”
SFS II corrected out to win the Ocean Racing Class, Przemyslaw Tarnacki’s Lithuanian Volvo 60 Ambersail was second with Chris Stanmore-Major’s British Whitbread 60 in third.
With an enormous fleet of yachts taking part in the Round St. Maarten Race, and the breeze pumping up to over 20 knots, safety was of paramount concern. Race Director, Paul Miller meticulously analyzed the various speeds of the classes to avoid overcrowding on the course at crucial areas. The math worked out with the fleet evenly spread out around the race course, but less than an hour separated the first and last finishers.
Melges 24 Class
A pack of six Melges 24 were first away, Fritz Bus Team Island Water World showed the starting strategy that was copied by many of the fleet. At the pin end Team Island Water World approached the line without hoisting their spinnaker, allowing the team to stay high and in control of the yachts below them. Having nailed the start, Island Water World soaked down across the fleet, to take up a great position. However, Andrea Scarabelli’s Gill Race Team fought back and on the windward side of the island, showed their prowess in big breeze to take the lead and win the class by just over 2 minutes from Island Water World. GFA Caraibes was just 49 seconds behind in third.
The largest yachts competing at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta produced a fantastic spectacle at the start of the Round St. Maarten Race. Swan 100, Varsovie looked to take the best start until the snuffer retaining their massive spinnaker released too early. The crew did a magnificent job of ‘gorillaring’ down the huge spinnaker but the start was not their best.
Kip Curren’s Swan 68 Simple Harmony got a great start, as did Michael Teuteberg’s CnB 76 Sapphire. However, the big boat class was won by Nico Cortlever’s x-612 Nix from St. Maarten by under five minutes from Simple Harmony. Tony McBride’s Antiguan Farr 65 Spirit of Juno was third.
The two Swan 100s racing, Varsovie, skippered by Tomek Ulatowski and Muzuni, skippered by Miquel Huma, had a tremendous match race to the finish. The two magnificent Swans swapped six tacks, and after a fair but highly competitive match along the south coast of St. Maarten, Muzuni crossed the finish line just nine seconds in front. However, after CSA time correction Varsovie was the winner of the duel.
After over three and a half hours of racing, Ross Applebey’s British Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster won a cracking battle, winning on corrected time by 39 seconds, from Jack Desmonds’ American Swan 48 Affinity. Andy Middleton’s British First 47.7 EH01 was third.
Sergio Sagramoso’s Puerto Rican Melges 32 Lazy Dog went for a bold start but their early spinnaker hoist didn’t pay off, with the Puerto Rican team broaching just as they were about to take the lead. Sir Richard Matthews Humphreys 39 Oystercatcher XXXI, with Olympic Gold medalist Saskia Clarke calling tactics, stayed in control and took the lead. An epic duel between the two ended with Lazy Dog crossing the finish line just 31 seconds ahead of Oystercatcher XXXI, to take the class. Bernie Evan Wong’s Antiguan RP37 Taz, took third, just ahead of Ian Hope-Ross racing St. Maarten Melges 32, Kick ’em Jenny 2.
El Ocaso crossed the line just five seconds ahead to win the class on corrected time. Spike was second after time correction, ahead of Philippe Charret’s team from Guadeloupe, racing A40 Sonadio III. The 15-strong class of evenly matched race boats produced the most competitive start of the Round St. Maarten Race. Jan van den Eynde’s Open 7.50 Panic Attack, screamed off the line, like a scolded cat, to take the lead. However, J/122 El Ocaso, skippered by Bob Hillier was the first to cross the line in a dramatic finish with Sam Talbot’s J/111 Spike.
The Godfather of Antiguan sailing, Sir Hugh Bailey, will be celebrating tonight, his team racing Farr 45 Rebel, took class line honors and the win on corrected time from John Streicker’s American NY40 Defiant. Robbie Ferron’s St. Maarten J/39 Micron 99 was third.
Peter Lewis’ Bajan J/105 Whistler followed up on their narrow win in yesterday’s Gill Commodore’s Cup with another close encounter in today’s Round St. Maarten Race with one of St. Barth’s most famous sailing families. Whistler took the win on corrected time by just 29 seconds from Raphaël Magras’ x-34 Maëlia. Dufour 34 Speedy Nemo, skippered by Raymond Magras, was just 11 seconds behind his brother in third.
Rick Gormley’s First 38 Elethea has been trying to win class at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta for years, and the Antiguan team opened their account with a win to much jubilation. Fellow Antiguan competitor, Sandy Mare, racing First 35 Cricket, was second by less than a minute. Tanner and Shari Jones’ J/30 Caribbean Alliance Insurance, complete an all-Antiguan podium in third.
Shaun Carroll’s Modified Australian Sea Cart Morticia was fully launched today taking Line Honors in Bareboat One, but Alain Corbin’s 16 metre St. Martin catamaran Arawak corrected out to win the class. Sergei Kischilov’s Selika was the victor in Multihull 2 and Andrey Arbuzov Laguna 380 platin was the winner in Multihull 3. The fastest elapsed time in the race was posted by Greg Slyngstad’s Beiker 53 Fujin, completing the 26-mile course in just over two hours.
Less than ten minutes separated the top five boats after well over four hours of racing in Bareboat 1. American Ty Mcaden, racing Texas 2 Step, was the winner, ahead of John Jan Worwag’s Sea Otter 2 from Poland. Oren Larsen’s Cracker Jack from Denmark was third. Jan Soderberg’s Flying Swedes were the victors in Bareboat 2, ahead of Jim Roland’s American team racing Dilligaf. Jacques Pijenburg’s Dutch team racing Sitting Duck was third. In Bareboat 3, KHS&S Contractors, skippered by Mike Cannon and Neil Harvey, took an impressive win, ahead of Aleksei Brunov’s Russian Breeze Club, Sergei Musikhin’s Russian United Region Boys was third.
The famous party atmosphere at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta continues tonight with the St. Maarten by Sea Event at The Boardwalk, Phillipsburg. The sounds of the Island’s best musicians including Xplosion Band and Exodus band from Anguilla will be featured along with local artisans, groups and organizations who will showcase and sell their work at the Boardwalk Market.
Racing at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta continues Saturday March 3, with three races scheduled for all classes, for more information visit website.
by Louay Habib