Simpson Bay - March 10, 2015. With big breeze, sunshine and probably the largest racing fleet in the Caribbean this season, the 35th St.Maarten Heineken Regatta was a roaring success. The raw ingredients of fantastic sailing conditions and intense competition gave the regatta organizers the opportunity to lay on a tremendous spectacle - they didn't fail. Of the 2000 sailors taking part, many competitors showed their appreciation for the courses, sailing instructions and format of the regatta.
Sir Bobby Velasquez's is a famous figure in St.Maarten and his team on Beneteau 45 L'Esperance had a titanic struggle with St.Maarten Heineken Regatta founder, Robbie Ferron's J/39 Budget Marine Aruba in CSA 7. The two highly experienced sailors were closely matched on the water but L'Esperance won all four races. The competition was so intense that L'Esperance was awarded the Most Worthy Performance at the 35th St.Maarten Heineken Regatta. Prime Minister of St. Maarten, the Honorable Marcel Gumbs, awarded the trophy to L'Esperance and spoke about his friendship with Bobby Velasquez. "The name L'Esperance comes from Bobby's grandfather, many years ago that boat used to take water to Oyster Pond when there was none. I congratulate Bobby on winning this prestigious trophy and to remind you that we share the same birthday and on that day, we should also celebrate your great win. Many congratulations to Bobby and all the crew and the St.Maarten Heineken Regatta for organizing such a successful and enjoyable event.
San Francisco's Greg Slyngstad's J/125, Hamachi won the last race in CSA 2, completing a clean sweep of five straight bullets in the class. Two Puerto Rican yachts went into today's race scrapping for second place and the honour of top Melges 32 at the St.Maarten Heineken Regatta. Sergio Sagramoso crew held off Luis Juarbe's Soca as the pair blasted past Plum Beach to lead for the beat back to Simpson Bay to win the last battle by under 3 minutes and secure top place for the Melges 32s.
Greg Slyngstad commented "Hamachi goes really well in big breeze and we love big breeze it is what we are used to in San Francisco. All of us have had a great time, we loved it. We have been sailing together for years, the weather was perfect for us and we have been tuning up the boat for two years and when the wind blows hard we know we can do well. Today's my birthday, so it was a great present to go up on stage and take the trophy."
Hamachi's tactician, Johnathan McGee. "Hamachi is not a one man show, all of the crew are great sailors and we are all from the same area, so we are a Californian team that have come a long way to compete here and it is great to get such a good result. The courses here are great, windward-leeward, point to point and round the island. That is the stuff we love and the format is a big part of why we are here."
New Yorker, Jason Carroll's Gunboat 62, Elvis won the five-way Gunboat shoot out on the very last race of the regatta by the narrowest of margins. Gunboat 62 Tribe, skippered by Spike Abram, was just a point behind the winner with Gunboat 66, Coco de Mer, skippered by Angus Ball in third.
Elvis' boat captain, Scott Bradford spoke about the intense competition in the Gunboat Class. "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. Every Gunboat racing this year has improved and there are more coming, so we are going to have to step it up for next year, I think you will see a turbo-ed Elvis next year."
Photo credits to Laurens Morel
In CSA1, Doug Baker's SoCal crew racing Kernan 47, True won the last race by less than three minutes to complete a clean sweep of bullets for the team from Southern California in the big boat class. Bajan TP52 Conviction, skippered by Clint Brooks was also runner up for the class and Kip Curren's Aragon third.
Erick Clement's St.Martin crew racing Johnny Be Good won Multihull 2, having won three races after time correction. However, Lloyd Thornburg's record breaking MOD 70, Phaedo3 has been a star attraction at this year's St.Maarten Heineken Regatta, setting a new record for the anti-clockwise course around St.Maarten, Tintamarre and Blowing Rock. Lloyd Thornburg spoke after the prize giving.
"This week we hit a top speed of 36 knots coming back from Blowing Rock, which was amazing. 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. Brian Thompson had been telling me some amazing things about the MOD 70 and they are all true. We will definitely be back here next year with Phaedo3 and hope to beat the course record for Round St.Maarten."
In CSA 3, Alan Edwards vintage British Swan 65, Spirit scored their third win of the regatta to win the class. Per Arne Nilsen's Norwegian x-55 Enigma VII was second with Colin Rath's American Hanse 545, Persevere third.
In CSA 4, Philippe Charret's A40, S'investir en Guadeloupe LIPTON won the last race, finishing the regatta in style to win the class. Richard Wesslund's J/122, El Ocaso was second for the class with French IMX-40 X-Files third.
In CSA 5, the happy crew on Scarlet Oyster threw their skipper, Ross Applebey over the side, shortly after crossing the finish line of the last race, having secured the class win ahead of Dutch Contest 42, Beluga 2 and Swan 51, Northern Child sailed by Acheron Racing.
"I have been pushing the crew hard all week, so I suppose I deserved a dunking" gurgled Ross Applebey, treading water beside Scarlet Oyster. "We have sailed hard, hiked hard and we intend to party hard at tonight's prize giving. This completes a hatrick of class wins for Scarlet Oyster; the ARC, RORC Caribbean 600 and now St.Maarten Heineken Regatta, it feels so good as this is first time I have won class and I have been coming here for 12 years."
In the Melges 24 Class, Andrea Scarabelli's Budget Marine/Gill completed a magnificent performance, scoring their fourth win in the last race to win in a highly competitive one design fleet. Winning the class by just two points from a crack Martinique team racing GFA Caraibes, skippered by Nicolas Gillet, Scarabelli was a happy man at the prize giving ceremony.
"It was a great regatta for us, with really awesome competition, racing as seven identical boats. In heavy conditions, with a small fast boat, control is the key. You can reach very high speeds but one broach and you are out of the race. Going into the last race, winning was not the goal, we knew we just had to beat GFA Caraibes. Metre by metre, we managed to get ahead on the first beat and then it was all about staying in control and we did that well and just kept extending."
Three yachts from St.Barths occupied the podium for the class, Magras Raphael's team racing Maelia won the class. Sophie Olivaud's J/109, Albacor IV was second, just one point ahead of Raymond Magras' Dufour 34, Speedy Nemo.
Photo credits to Laurens Morel
Catalina 36, Moondance raced by the St Maarten Sailing School was the winner of the St.Maarten Youth Challenge, team coach Garth Steyn was very proud of the young crew. "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. 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."
63 Bareboats raced in the 35th St.Maarten Heineken Regatta, the overall bareboat winner was Mike Cannon & Neil Harvey's KHS&S Contractors. Mike Cannon from Clearwater Beach, Florida was smiling from ear to ear at the prize giving. "This is a great place to race, we have a great crew and lots of friends here in St.Maarten, this is just an incredible regatta - awesome serious fun! If you are reading this up in Florida, I recommend this regatta to everybody."
Wayne Zittel's J World West Coast from San Francisco scored straight bullets in Bareboat 1. "What's not to like here? This regatta is fantastic; an enthusiastic crowd of people at an incredible venue. We have had fantastic wind all week and I have absolutely loved the event. This is our first time here and my first impression is that it is all aces; the race committee did a fantastic job showing great patience and also giving clear instructions to everybody and the courses were beautiful, I couldn't have asked for anything better, we will definitely be back."
After five years as the Regatta Director for the St.Maarten Heineken Regatta, this year will be the last for Michele Korteweg. Working tirelessly day and night, at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club for more than five years, Michele hopes to be actually racing next year!
"I am very happy that this year has gone so well." commented Michele. "It feels a bit weird to be at my last prize giving but I feel so happy to see so many sailors enjoying the regatta. It has been a fantastic few years, the best years I can remember. I was an intern when I first worked for the St.Maarten Heineken Regatta and it has been the best learning experience imaginable. I have met some great people and I have also learnt to sail so I hope to be taking part for the first time next year. I hope that the event will continue to develop and change to meet the needs of the sailors and I hope that this 'train' that we are on will continue to progress and keep bringing the sailors to St.Maarten and the rest of the Caribbean."
The 36th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will take place March 3 - 6, 2016. We hope to see you then!