Gunboat Class St Maarten Heineken Regatta – The third straight day of picture-perfect weather set the stage for Sunday’s finale – a single, three hour race from Simpson Bay to the Northeast tip of St Maarten and back – perhaps the most picturesque race track of the entire 35th anniversary.
Short tacking the shore, working with the big bullets of wind coming down from the high mountains; it was tough sailing against a beautiful backdrop,’ said Gunboat 55 co-owner Chris Groobey, who finished fifth for the week. ‘But running down the bay at 22 knots was an absolute joy, and it was a great way to finish our first Heineken Regatta, he said.
With Jason Carroll’s Elvis and Spike Abram’s Tribe tied on points going into the final race, the faster-rated Tribe would need to start strong and stretch her legs to escape the seasoned champions aboard Elvis. Just one point behind, Coco De Mer showed no signs of letting the leaders battle it out alone. As Elvis charged towards the starting line unabated, Coco and Tribe fought for room just inches apart, their battle slowing both boats down while Carroll and his crew had their best start of the week.
The heavier Coco De Mer fell behind the leaders in the moderate wind, and as the fleet rounded Plum Point and began the long upwind leg to the turning mark at Happy Cove, Tribe’s advantage in sail area began to show. With a handicap rating deficit to overcome, Tribe would need to pass Elvis quickly and pull out a decent lead, or the regatta would be over.
Despite Elvis’ tight cover over their sistership, Dutch sailing star Mischa Heemskerk said the newly modified Tribe was up to the challenge. ‘The boat was extremely balanced and Elvis’s bad air didn’t affect us nearly as much as I expected, thanks to the large sail plan,’ said Heemskerk, whose crew went on to pass Carroll halfway up the beat when Elvis lost a jib control block in a brief but intense squall. We weren’t sure what happened to them, but we were already busy looking for the top mark – there’s not a lot of time for spectating,’ said Heemskerk. Elvis bow crew Jim Condon and Dave Allen jumped into action, rigging a fix in under a minute – but still leaving ample time for Tribe to pull ahead and begin building their lead.
In the meantime, the long beat allowed the longer Gunboat 66s Tiger Lily and Coco De Mer to close some distance to the leaders, while the Gunboat 55 Toccata showed her stuff in what owner Carolyn Groobey called ‘our kind of day,’ though ultimately none of the three would be a factor in the leading duo’s fight to the finish.
Hitting speeds in the low 20s, Tribe tore down the bay, peeling to a code zero sail with Elvis following suit five minutes later. The boats raced through the next sail change for the final beat to the finish, with crews straining against the clock and one another. Around the final mark, up into Simpson Bay, and it was Tribe who crossed the line first to cheers from the spectator fleet. As valiant as their effort was, it would fall just short; when the handicap results came up, it was Elvis that had secured first in the race to take overall gold again in St Maarten on handicap score – by a narrow margin of just two minutes!
We left a little bit of time on the course, but overall we’re very happy with how today went, said Carroll. ‘The crew were always on top of the situation, and it was great to come back and win this one after a tough start to the regatta.
Coco De Mer took third over the line and the final podium position for the regatta, while Tiger Lily and Toccatarounded out the fleet, crossing the line a few minutes later. They’d each take home prizes too – Michael Sonnenfeldt’s distinctive and beautiful Lily won the Gunboat Prix D’Elegance for the most graceful and polished look, while Chris and Carolyn Groobey’s Toccata won the Gunboat Spirit Award for rising to the challenge of a brand new boat, a tight delivery time frame, and several teething issues on their way to finishing their first-ever Heineken Regatta.
full results here