While the major interest in the Racing division is focussed on the head-to-head battle between the two MaxZ86's, Roy DISNEY'S Pyewacket and Dr Hasso PLATTNER'S Morning Glory, the class of the rest of the boats in the racing division shouldn't be ignored.
Titan 12, Tom HILL'S latest big boat, a Reichel/Pugh 75, should bring the America's Cup skills of the Caribbean's own Peter HOLMBERG to the start line, where he will be looking to see if he can show the Z86's the way on handicap. Clay DEUTCH'S Swan 68 Chippewa is always there or thereabouts and seems to get better year on year. 2004 sees the return of the green-hulled Donnybrook, a Santa Cruz 72, and back come Equation, the Andrews 68 turbo, and Mischievous, the Meritan 65. Joining them is the latest Highland Fling, a Carroll Marine 60 in fine racing form.
Down among the smaller boats, well known and feared in the Caribbean is the Trinidadian boat Crash Test Dummies, but while the boat herself isn't showing this year, the crew is, led by Tim Kempton aboard a new contender, Guardian Star. No doubt they are looking to spread their blanket of success further north in the Caribbean area. Local sailor Frits Bus in his Melges 24 and Antigua's Jamie DOBBS with the venerable but always explosive Olson 30 Lost Horizon II, will be holding up the reputation of the northern Islands, along with Antigua's highly competitive dentist Bernie Evan WONG, who has forsaken his Melges 24 for his positively ancient Cal 40 Huey Too. Bernie and Huey have topped the prize lists of Caribbean regattas before and can do so again. These smaller boats can show the way on handicap to the big boys: given some luck, good sailing and the right conditions.
In the huge bareboat classes - which make up the about half the regatta fleet of 226 at the time of writing - local teams vie for the prizes with many from Holland, boats chartered to sailors from Great Britain, the USA, Germany, three teams from Spain and even a crew from Japan. Many of the teams are making repeat appearances, using the regatta as a good tune-up as well as a good excuse for a party.
If you are looking for something a little more unusual, then the racing classes include two Volvo Open 60s, Venom and Spirit, the Open 50 Top 50 and just for some contrast to the brutal shapes of the water-ballasted Open boats, there are the long, classic overhangs of the 76ft White Wings to bring a touch of classic elegance to the proceedings.
You just have time to jump on a plane and make it to the regatta that proudly professes to make sailing "Serious Fun!" and join the rest of the crews at the 2004 St Maarten Heineken Regatta.