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6 March 2005, 09:00 am
Racing to Marigot - Regatta Goes French
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St Maarten Heineken Regatta
St Maarten

Day two of the St Maarten Heineken Regatta defied the forecast light to nonexistent winds to bring a sparkling morning with little white, fluffy clouds dotting a blue sky and a nice breeze of eight to ten knots.
What was interesting, however, was the direction, which was clocking round towards the south with every moment. Principal race Officer Tony BLATCHFORD had to shuffle his line after just about every start and later in the day there was the unusual sight of boats sailing north eastwards up the Anguilla Channel under spinnaker rather than being hard on the wind.

Today's course takes the boats on the first part of the round the island course, but then they double back down the Anguilla Channel before returning to the finish in Marigot bay. After racing the party starts on the waterside of this charming Gallic transplant to the Caribbean.

First class to start were the racing Multihulls. The spinnaker boats used to be first away, but when Steve FOSSETT's 120ft cat Cheyenne came here three years ago and arrived at the first mark with a flock of 60 footers under her stems, it was deemed better to let the multis get away first and nothing has changed. The two red trimarans in the fleet, Tryst and Restorante Plaisancier decided to start at opposite ends of the line, Tryst right up the shore at the pin end, and the other boat close to the committee boat. Tryst got the better of the deal, carving out a handsome lead on the first leg and only being overtaken by Triple Jack and Charis T on the reach to the second buoy. For the record, Charis T, sailing as Free Air Sailing Team, should have been racing yesterday, but they only arrived from St Croix last night after a 40 hour passage on a trip that normally would be less than half that.

As usual Triple Jack and Tryst fought over the first places, with Tryst again coming out as victor, Triple Jack second and a sleepy crew aboard Charis T happily in third. Paragon finished dead last on corrected time and was even beaten over the line on the water by Triple Jack and Charis T, as well as line honours boat Restorante Plaisancier, but she had suffered a problem with her reacher at the beginning of the first downwind leg so that¹s some excuse.

As predicted, last night's birthday celebrations seem to have got the better of Stuart ROBINSON's crew as they dropped from yesterday's second to a distant fourth. Joseph DOCKERY's rock stars seem to have got Carrera going a little better today. They were still beaten on the water and on handicap by the smaller and lower rating Titan 12, but this time the difference was a far more respectable minute and a bit on the water and five minutes on corrected time. Third was Bill ALCOTT¹s Equation, some consolation for her trashing a light spinnaker on their first hoist when a small tear suddenly turned into a major liberation of the cloth from the tapes.

In Spinnaker 3 the press is studiously trying to avoid hounding the First 40.7 Scarlet Oger, which has Prince MAURITS, nephew of the Queen of the Netherlands, aboard. In most places in the world the poor chap would be hounded by paparazzi, but St Maarten seems to have imbued everyone with a laid back spirit so much so that he can join in the parties just like any other sailor which is not to say that we saw him face down in the sand at the end of last nights bash on the Boardwalk in Philipsburg.

Talking about the party, it was the first time for years that the regatta has returned to the centre of Philipsburg and by taking over the new
Boardwalk along the beachfront, erecting a number of stages and having four different bands on the go at any one time, it seemed that everyone was happy. Local people mingled with the sailors as everyone promenaded up and down, stopping to listen a band here, buy a drink there. A good time was had by all.

The long range war between Antigua and St Maarten that is being fought out by Bobby VELASQUEZ in L¹Esperance in Non-Spinnaker 1 and Bernie Evan WONG sailing Huey Too in Non-Spinnaker 2 is all square so far. Both have won both their races and both have won by handsome amounts. Perhaps Bernie has a slight edge as he won by ten minutes today, Bobby only triumphed by eight.

A wee bit of animosity crept into the start of Spinnaker 5's morning race when Jamie DODDS from Antigua used his Olsen 30 Lost Horizon to luff a whole gaggle of boats over the line his particular focus of attention being Frits Bus and his impossibly named 2ContactCarib/Buccaneer Bar. Interestingly enough, Frits went back and restarted, coming through the fleet to record another win, but Jamie was recorded as OCS a premature starter as he failed to return and restart properly. The computer timings show that anyway, Lost Horizon would have only been fourth had he started properly. This result, as you might imagine, could be subject to protest. And the result of the protest promoted Lost Horizon to a finishing position second.

On Saturday in St Maarten the Bareboats, Non-spinnaker classes, cruising multihulls and the Open Class only have one race which as it happens was lucky as some of them were still finishing their first race when the Spinnaker classes were finishing their second.

This business of a second race seems to have slipped the mind of the crew of Richard WEST's Alden 50 schooner Charm III. She was heading for her finish on port and wandered into the path of Spinnaker 2 who were all on starboard waiting for an imminent gun to start them on their way. Unfortunately a collision ensued between the schooner and Edgar CATO's Swan 56 Hissar. Hopefully neither of the combatants has been badly wounded. Considering their ages, Mr Cato in his 80s and Charm III about the same, we suspect some
raised heart rates aboard both boats.

In Bareboat 2, the man who swept the board last year, Douggie BROOKS from St Maarten, came to the front for the first time this regatta after a dismal day yesterday. Bruce OGDEN from the USA is performing best in the class adding another second to his one from yesterday. Those pesky sailors from the USA are also doing well in Bareboat 3 where last years overall Bareboat winner Mark DURANTY is leading the class with countryman Justin BARTON holding down second.

While the Bareboats were still on their first races, the Spinnaker and racing classes were started on their second races as soon as possible after their finishes.

Spinnaker One went back up to Tintamarre on what should, under normal conditions be a windward leg, but this time thanks to the odd conditions, was virtually a run. On the return journey that was to take them south west down the Anguilla Channel and then to the finish off Marigot, a substantial wind shift hit them again, giving poor Sojana a slap in the face as she had gone to the Anguilla shore to look for accelerated wind. All she achieved was a tight windward leg down the channel, whereas those who had gone more for the middle of the channel were freed. The shifts also worked against Titan 12 who for the first time finished behind Carrera on the water as well as on corrected time. Stay Calm was third.

Our friends from St Croix in Charis T were one of only two racing multihulls to finish inside the time limit; Anne CASENEUVE¹s 50ft tri was the other one. This result makes the remaining race an interesting one as now Tryst is counting two wins and a DNF while Charis T has one win and a DNC. The boys from St Croix must be ruing that lack of an engine that meant that they arrived at the regatta a day late.

The time limit caught out a lot of the smaller spinnaker boats, the whole of Spinnaker six for instance being scored DNF. Jamie DOBBS turned the tables on Frits Bus in Spinnaker 5, winning by a scant six seconds.

Another close finish was recorded in Spinnaker 4 where the two Swan 56s chartered through the new Nautor Swan facility in Guadeloupe, one sailed by a team from Nautor Swan Benelux and the other by a team of Norwegians augmented by Claude THELLIER, probably one of the Caribbean¹s best sailors. These two were just 27 seconds apart as they sailed through the finish line under matching white asymmetrics.

Edgar CATO and Hissar seemed to have suffered no ill effects from the collision with Charm III on the start line, winning Spinnaker 2 on the water and on corrected time from the Swan 45 twins, still in their usual order of Plenty followed by Vixen, but for once second and third.

The party has started here in Marigot, with the bands busy making the ground shake with heavy bass. The rum and the Heineken are flowing and there is a whole flock of chickens smoking away on hundreds of barbecues. It¹s St Maarten Heineken Regatta and all's right with he world just here.
Dick Johnson (As Amended by ISAF) Image: © Tim Wright/Photo Action.com
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