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4 March 2006, 08:16 am
Regatta Founder Saves The Day
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St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 2006
St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

Today's racing went off in virtually perfect sailing conditions. The wind was from the east at about 15 knots, the sun shone in an azure sky and a slight swell was just enough to cause a little spray to cool the forward-most of the crews on the rail. For the later running boats, however, the wind did take a siesta in the afternoon causing a number of boats to fail to finish.
While most of today's racing went off without a hitch on the first day of the 2006 St Maarten Heineken Regatta, on the bareboat course, there was a minor drama when Team Griffin, a Beneteau 50 in Bareboat Class 1, sailed by Phil HEWES from the USA, failed to make Mark 7, the first mark of their course, and hit the inflatable tetrahedron.

That wasn't too much of a problem, except for Team Griffin who would have to do a 360 degree turn, but on their second try they hit the mark again in exactly the same fashion; only this time they hooked it with their rudder and started to tow it away. Again not a real problem, except that the massed ranks of Bareboat 3 were charging towards them, all concentrating on rounding the buoy in best America's Cup fashion. Team Griffin executed a textbook racing manoeuvre - they dropped the sails in double quick time - and all looked over the stern to try to clear the mooring warp wrapped neatly round their rudder by force of personality. They weren't getting on very well, so Robbie FERRON, doyen of Caribbean yachting and one of the founders of the regatta some 26 years ago, stripped to his natty gents Y-Fronts and dived to the rescue.

Robbie was instantly successful, releasing the buoy and Team Griffin, but in the process becoming a part of Mark 7 himself - or according to the boats still trying to round he was. Thankfully Mr FERRON is blessed with a Mark SPITZ turn of speed in the water and quickly got back to the safety of his boat. Team Griffin executed their turns and went on to finish ninth in class, Bareboat 3 all rounded without incident and Robbie FERRON is now the toast of the regatta.

Today was round the island day for most of the classes.

Big Names Do Battle

Spinnaker Class 1, the top racing boats, was led by Tom HILL'S Titan and by the time the fleet had done the short windward leg and the first reach, her spinnaker popped open with the long red boat well in the lead. The Farr 60 Numbers, without the promised Brad BUTTERWORTH, but still with four members of the Alinghi America's Cup team aboard, looked good at the start and finished third on the water, but dropped to fourth on corrected time. Titan 12 won by four minutes from the TP52 Rosebud, Roger STURGEON, who is missing the class champs for the sun and fun of St Maarten. Third was very pretty Bella Mente of Hap FAUTH, the Judel and Vrolich 66 that first came to this island under the name of Sotto Voce.

Spinnaker 2's stand out boat, the silver blue Wally 77 Carrera owned by Alex JACKSON, had a cracking start and with her crew perched on the beautiful teak decks, sailed away from the fleet, finishing first by over 27 minutes, but dropping to fourth on handicap. Winner was Frank SAVAGE'S Swan 56 Lolita, followed by Clay DEUTSCH'S Chippewa and the IY60 Belle owned by George GAMBLE.

Hot Racing

This year there are three non-spinnaker classes, once the mainstay of Caribbean racing, but now the spinnaker classes have taken over. The 22 boat Non-Spinnaker Class 1 gave some hot racing, but at the front of the fleet the usual battle between St Maarten's Bobby VELASQUEZ and Antigua's Hugh BAILEY was eclipsed. Usually these two are scrapping so hard they run away from the rest of the boats, but this time they let someone in under the radar. Christopher LLOYD'S Three Harkoms from the British Virgin Islands nipped in very handily and beat Bobby by three and a half minutes. At least Bobby had some consolation by beating his old adversary by five minutes and 17 seconds, with Walter WELLER'S Spirit of Venus in fourth.

If Non-Spinnaker 1 went the way of the St Maarten boats over the Antiguan, Non-Spinnaker 2 was an Antiguan benefit, with the top four boats coming from that island. Hans LAMMERS' Rhodes Bounty won by six minutes from Lawrie MAY'S J30 Blue Peter, followed another five minutes later by Rick GORMLEY and his Beneteau 38 Elethea. Another Antiguan, dentist Bernie Evan WONG was in fourth.

On paper Spinnaker 3 looked like one of the most hotly contested classes, and the racing was tight throughout. It might have been a Swan 45 benefit, with three of the well sailed one designs in the class, and could so nearly have been if it was not for Les CROUCH'S Storm, the Caribbean-built boat that finished third behind Danilo SALSI'S DSK Comifin and Alex ROEPERS' Plenty. The other Swan 45, Devocean was fourth. In this class the time between fourth and ninth was less than two and a half minutes.

The first class away on the fast boats' line was Multihull 1, the racing boats, and while Tryst, the aging Newick of Patrick TURNER had probably the best start, it was the power and speed of the grey Formula 40 Soma, owned by Nils ERICKSON, that soon came to the front. Llewellyn WESTERMAN and his friends aboard Free Air Racing Team, a Mongoose 37 of deceptive speed, sailed from St Croix only last night, came in second on corrected time, with the Tortola-based Triple Jack in third.

Usual Suspects

Of the five Bareboat classes the usual suspects seem to be coming to the top as usual. We hesitate to say that cream rises, but something like that.

Messers OTIS and DURANTY, last year in competition with each other, managed second in Bareboat 1 to Van der VALK Hotels - all of them? In Bareboat 2, Cees-Jan BAARTMANS, a perennial success, topped the 20 boat class, while the much fancied Duggie BROOKES - fancied for success of course - managed only seventh. Our famous regatta management program Winscore, has a team in this class too, but in order to avoid any suggestions of complicity in success, they were last to finish in 18, the other two retiring just so that they would make Winscore Dream Team look better. . .

In Bareboat 5 the two boats from Zeilen magazine from Holland did better than they did last year, finishing two and a half minutes apart in third and fourth, though we make no apology for only having eyes for the team aboard Sail and the City who came seventh. This all girl team. . . Need we say more, though we should mention that two of the team are TV presenters in Holland.

Tonight's party is on the boardwalk in Phillipsburg where the local population and the sailors join forces to have a good time. The bands play, the Heineken and the rum flow and all the stories of the day are told and re-told, especially the one about how Robbie FERRON saved the day.

Dick JOHNSON (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Day One Action © Tim Wright, www.photoaction.com
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