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7 March 2005, 10:17 am
Some You Win, Some You Lose
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St Maarten Heineken Regatta
St Maarten

After some sleepless nights for the St Maarten Heineken Regatta Race Committee as they kept hopping out of bed to look at limp flags and motionless palm trees, and after Principal Race Officer Tony BLACHFORD sporting a very red nose thanks to the relentless sunshine here in the Caribbean had ordered a 60 minute postponement, racing got under way on shortened courses for all classes.
How often do you hear the locals wherever you are saying: 'It's not usually like this.' Or: 'It never blows from this direction.' Well, it's been like that all regatta.

Today the wind was south westerly: unheard of!

Spinnakers going the wrong way down the Anguilla Channel; spinnakers coming in to the finish in Simpson Bay; courses changed to shorter ones for some classes, shortened at early marks for others. Unheard of!

Except for this year.

Looking out from the top of Fort Louis in Marigot at the programmed start time, it was clear that the Anguilla Channel was covered in a lacework of dark lines, the small rivers of wind that wrapped themselves around the shiny silver of the calms. Thankfully the silver shrank, the dark took over, and eventually a shifty and a patchy five to eight knots settled in.

One problem for PRO Blachford was that, with a fixed course structure because the wind always blows from the North East, it was a running start. Heavy pin bias also played a part, but as always the race committee was on a hiding to nothing on a day like this. If the line had been shifted, the wind would have veered a moment later. So fun and games were to be expected at the pin end and getting the start right would be an art. After all, there was only one place to be and every boat in the class (should have) wanted it.

The racing multis led off and as usual Tryst stuck in a killer start. The little trimaran's speed off the line was little short of surprising, but soon the bigger boats swallowed her up though she slaughtered the opposition on corrected time by an amazing 19 minutes. Unsurprisingly Tryst won the class overall with a string of bullets interrupted by a DNF for being out of time yesterday. At The St Maarten Heineken regatta, a no throw-out series a DNF scores one point more than the last finisher which prevents something like that one dodgy race ruining the series. Triple Jack followed Tryst with straight deuces and a DNF. Free Air Racing Team, Charis T, would have probably been third of even better had they been able to get to the island in time for the first race. Bet they buy an engine next year.

Tom HILL'S Titan 12 and Joseph DOCKERY's Carrera have dominated spinnaker 1, but Carrera could only manage the one bullet, second race yesterday, and again she was the bridesmaid. Bill ALCOTT's Equation started well today which is more than can be said for Titan 12 and hung on for a well deserved third, but Stuart ROBINSON's Stay Calm did enough overall to take third place by just a point.

Plenty had spoiled her clean run of first places with a second yesterday, but she made no mistake today and therefore won her class with half the points of Vixen in second. Caribbean-built Storm managed a second today, but it couldn¹t improve her fourth overall behind Hissar. Swans in all three top slots.

Nick JONES and the Tarka team on their Caribbean holiday in their First 40.7 had an up and down regatta, but did enough today with a third to take third overall. Puerto Rico¹s Sergio SAGRAMOSO sailing the First 40.7 Lazy Dog took the race and the class overall. Interestingly, second in the race and second overall was and old IOR Frers 45, a complete contrast to the modern 40.7s.

After yesterday¹s animosity between Frits Bus and Jamie DOBBS in Spinnaker 5, when Jamie luffed Frits over the line at the start, battle was joined again, but with the aid of a magnificent start, Frits won by three minutes and took the class, only dropping one point. Jamie was second, with a less consistent scoreline, but the two were well clear of Morgan DALE's Sorceress.

Interesting scorelines were the order of the day in Spinnaker 6, with the top two boats having the same points totals. The split was made on numbers of first places to give the win to Geoff PIDDUCK's modified six-Metre, Trouble. Trouble didn¹t enjoy the light downwind sailing today, dropping to third as her heavy displacement left her at the mercy of the lighter boats. Tony MAIDMENT's Budget Marine won, which gave her a total of six points too, but the one win wasn¹t enough to take the class.

Bobby VELASQUEZ continued his run on wins in Non-Spinnaker 1, but in a sense the victory was a hollow one as Bobby's great rival Hugh BAILEY wasn¹t around to give Bobby some competition. Jeff KENT did as well as he could in Kaimana, with a straight run of second places, but though sometimes close on the water, the corrected time differences were, like today's 25 minutes, on the generous side. Bernie Evan WONG blotted his copybook today with a 45 second second place in Non-Spinnaker 2 with Huey Too, but though he was beaten by the boat that took second overall, local sailor Allen RIOUALLEC and Bachi-Bauzouk, Bernie will sail home to Antigua tonight with the class trophy stashed in Huey¹s ageing bilges.

We haven't said a lot about the Multihull Cruising class this regatta, but 13 boats have been having fun and protesting too. The point of contention was whether spinnakers were allowed in the class. The Sailing Instructions said nothing about it, though the Race Committee thought that the aim was to not have them used. After a protest during the first race, an amendment to the Sailing Instructions was penned by head jury honcho John DOERR, an amendment that seemed not to have been read by the class. During the second race more boats sprouted spinnakers, but amazingly there were no protests. For the final race all were good boys and girls, and while they no doubt would have liked to use spinnakers on a fairly long, downwind race, they didn't. Palm Palm, Jean FRANCOIS from the French side, won easily from Carlos PERIS from Spain in a charter cat, followed by E. W. van der LEE in a Lagoon 41. The overall positions were the same as the day's result.

The Race Committee took the decision so shorten all the classes from Non-Spinnaker 2 to the end of the list at Buoy 10 in the Angiuilla Channel, giving all the Bareboat classes a short course in miles, but some of the smaller ones took over four hours to cover the trip.

Stand out performances in the Bareboats included Jean-Marie de WACHTER of St Martin, the French bit, sailing Bye Bye, a performance that also netted him the Columbus Cup for the top Bareboat overall.

Dougie BROOKES in Island Flyer has had an unusually erratic regatta this year, banging in a resounding 18 on the first day, making amends with a win on Saturday, but the old Brookes heart must have been fluttering when he looked at the results and saw a DNS on the score sheet. In fact he had finished second and was fifth overall, not so good for the man who won with a full set of bullets last year. Dougie is off island most of the time at the moment, down in Grenada working to repair the sizeable number of boats wrecked there in the last hurricane season. Mind you he will be coming home in May to get married.

Justin BARTON kept up his winning ways today, coming out on top in Bareboat 3 and flying the Stars and Stripes over the class on the final scoresheet. His fellow American survived a plummet down the results sheet today to hang on to second overall, chased hard by Fortis Bank I and Fortis Bank II who managed to tidily finish in the correct order. In this class a boat called Rabbit Chase was attracting a lot of attention. The crew were all girl students from Amsterdam, sponsored by Playboy Magazine in Holland. They will be starring in a 12-page Playboy feature in a month or two, which will be popular with their fellow sailors who will be surely reading for sailing tips.

In Bareboat 4, the boat with the Royal connections, Prince MAURITS was sailing aboard Scarlet Oger, just missed out on a podium place, coming equal on points with Team Hameeteman, both boats counting a DNF, a third and a fourth. In this case the count back split the boats by the last race score and in was no chocolates for the Prince.

Zeilen, the Dutch sailing magazine had entered three boats, two in Bareboat 5, one in Bareboat 6. It will be interesting to read the subsequent article as the best they could manage was fourth overall for Zeilen III in Bareboat 5, while Zeilen II was 14 or last but two and Zeilen I was only fifth in Bareboat 6. Perhaps they are a cruising magazine.

The Open Class is the one where the handicap changes day by day to try to ensure that there is a good shuffle of places each race, but this year the handicapper must have slipped up or the skipper got wise to the trick of beating him - as one boat managed a third and two wins to take the class overall. This was Stuart ARMSTRONG's Sara, a Dufour 43. It is good to see growing support for this class as it enables you to have a race in any boat regardless of measurement. Just fill in a few details on a form and have a go.

And finally, we come to the Beach Cats. They had a torrid time in the sun and the light winds meant that there was no cooling spray to take off the edge of the heat. Pascal MARCHAIS from Guadeloupe sneaked the win in Quicksilver-Snickers-Blandin with complete dominance of the others.

There is no overall regatta winner at the St Maarten Heineken. Instead the Race Committee fight and argue sorry, rationally discuss and analyse the relative performance of the class winners, looking for one that won in a very hotly contested class. For the three days of the 2005 St Maarten Heineken Regatta that class has been Spinnaker 3 and so the trophy went to Sergio SAGRAMOSO with the First 40.7 Lazy Dog.

The Xerox Obersi Spirit and Style prize by went to Trey FITZGIBBONS and Mischievous for their fortitude in coming to St Maarten for the past ten years with a pretty boat that has an impossible rating and manages to finish just about last every time. To most people that might be an indication that it is time for a new boat, but Trey seems attached to his.

Well, that's it, Robbie FERRON has finished his marathon prize giving on the big stage at Kim Sha beach and the first of the night's bands is in full swing. Jimmy CLIFF is waiting in the wings to come on and close the whole event, thousands of cans of Heineken have been taken from the cold stores and put in bins of ice. Everything is ready for the entire fleet of sailors and just about the whole population of Sint Maarten and St Martin to get down and dirty on the sand.

Here¹s to the 26th year and all we need to change is the wind but it is GUARANTEED that it will be north easterly, 12 to 18 knots. Or will it?

Full results are available on the event website via the link below.

Dick Johnson (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Event Media
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