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5 March 2006, 09:16 am
Winds, Wins and Windward/Leewards
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St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 2006
St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

Saturday, second day of the regatta, first day for a morning of windward leeward courses for the seven spinnaker classes. The day's forecast was for lighter winds than Friday, but the dawn brought limp flags and shiny water. Lighter, OK, but none! No Thanks!
Usually the regatta format is that the boats all sail courses of varying lengths from Pillipsburg, capital of the Dutch side of this dual nationality island, to Marigot, the capital of the French side. Then, in the afternoon, the racing classes normally finish their lunches and sail out into the Anguilla Channel between St Martin (French side) and the lovely island of Anguilla itself for another race. This year, however, the seven spinnaker classes had back-to-back windward leeward races off Phillipsburg before setting off to rendezvous with the night's party on the Marigot waterfront. For the rest of the boats it was business as usual with a race to Marigot, anchor or berth in the marina as soon as you finish and repair ashore in double quick time to start the party. Tonight the highlight will be Trinidadian sensation Destra so if the report is shorter than usual you must forgive me.

After last night's party on the Boardwalk in Phillipsburg, when the bands played into the night and the Heineken flowed for as long as there were people there to pick up the green cans, it was understandable that there were some late starts in the morning's racing, but the fact that one of the fleets top boats - crewed by those annoying, healthy and fit people who never seem to drink a drop of anything other than water - was almost five minutes late for a start; more later.

By 0800, however, there was a light wind and by start time, 0900, the wind has settled to a comfortable ten to 12 knots from the southeast. The Principle Race Officer, Andrew Rapley from St Maarten in charge of a major regatta for the first time, set a course of about two miles on a leg, three rounds for the biggest, down to one for the smallest.

Spinnaker 1 came to the line, with Tom HILL'S Titan 12 the boat to beat after yesterday's performance. It has to be said that the brains trust aboard didn't do too good a job, as the long skinny red boat was way back at the start. James MULDOON'S Donnybrook was over at the gun and wheeled round to return, leaving Bill ALCOTT'S Equation to have the best of the start. Even the Alinghi rock stars aboard couldn't help Numbers, Daniel MEYERS' Frers 60 make up for another tardy beginning.

Soon after the start Titan 12 and Rosebud tacked offshore looking for something to help their causes, coincidentally at almost the same moment that Equation locked into a big lift off the shore. Donnybrook took the lift too, and the boats closest inshore started to look good against those offshore in more wind at a better angle.

At the first mark Titan 12 was leading, but not by as much as Tom HILL would have liked, and Equation was close behind, Donnybrook not looking too shabby either. At the end of the three lapper, Titan 12 won, but by the amazingly small margin of just one second on corrected time.

In race two it was Titan 12 again, but this time Rosebud forgot to come to the line in time and started with an instant five minute handicap. According to their claim for redress they thought that PRO Andrew RAPLEY, who was wearing a yellow shirt, was the flag that indicated that there was to be no more racing on the windward/leeward course; Mr RAPLEY might be so thin that he has to run around in the shower to get wet, but he is no flag pole. Their claim for redress was unlucky, as you might expect. Good try though.

In the afternoon they raced to Marigot for the party; result as expected. Titan 12 winning, Rosebud second by about a minute and a half. It was a light and shifty afternoon for the big boats, but Bill ALCOTT'S Equation recorded a good third in the afternoon's race, and two fourths in the morning.

Back on the line with Spinnaker 2, Team Atlantic had the best start, making up a little for the disappointment of yesterday when they had to retire and call up the Sea Rescue to take off an injured team member. Boat Captain, let's call him Roger for sake of argument, Roger had been making sure that the less experienced people aboard were taking care to avoid the boom when the big Swan 60 was gybing, but forgot to duck himself. A big bump on the back of the head, five stitches and a reported dent in the boom were the result. Today, though, they were looking sharp.

In Spinnaker 2 with Team Atlantic, Peter HARRISON'S Sojana, the 115ft ketch with Geoff MEEK on the wheel, was a trifle early at the gun and looked for a moment as though she would take out the Committee Boat, but luffed clear in time. The 77ft Wally, Carrera was fourth off the line behind the Swan 56 Lolita, her crew sweating over the power winch buttons as they trimmed the non-overlapping headsail. By the finish it was Lolita in top spot, Chippewa second and Team Atlantic third. By the time the second race was over Team Atlantic had come to the top followed by Belle and then Lolita. For the afternoon race the big, heavy Swan 68 Chippewa won again, this time with the Wally 77 Carrera second and Belle third. The afterguard on the Wally performed true to their name as they missed the second windward/leeward by disappearing off into the distance and didn't get back in time for the start. Wallys!

By the start of Spinnaker 3 the wind was lighter by a good three knots, but it didn't faze Carlo FALCONE at the helm of Caccia Alla Volpe, an avowed heaver air boat, who got a great start, on the button, in clear air and at speed. The stand out boat in this class is the Italian Swan 45 DSK Comifin sailed by Salsi DANILO and his team. They had a good start and half a mile into the first leg were already three boat lengths in front of the nearest opposition. Peter BAILLE'S Enzyme, Jeff ECKHARD'S Exabyte 3, a long way from her usual stamping grounds in the Solent, and Les CROUCH'S Storm were having a no quarters battle after a Committee Boat end start with the Henderson 35 Enzyme, fighting to sail high to stop the 44ft Storm and the 45ft Exabyte from rolling over the top of her - and achieving success judging by the shouting.

Another boat from the Solent, looking as though she was out in the Caribbean on a family holiday, is Incisor, the Corby 45 which never seems to manage to perform to her potential. Being OCS doesn't help.

At the end of the first race it was Alex ROEPERS Swan 45 Plenty who had done enough to pull back DSK Comifin and to win by a minute with Windsong, Matt TRAUTMAN'S Heineken Cape Town to Bahia race winner in third. In the second race DSK Comifin, the Italian boat, won by almost five minutes from Trinidad's Enzyme and Jeff ECKHARD'S Exabyte 3 sailing with a core crew from the UK and a number of guests. In the afternoon Plenty won again by a scant ten seconds from CDK Comifin with Dave WEST'S Farr 395 Chippewa 39 in third. Coming through into fourth, having a good sail in the beautifully painted Slippery When Wet, another Trini boat.

While we are on the subject of Peter PEAKE'S Slippery When Wet we must mention the boat's paint scheme. This boat has the most marvellous, deep blue hull overlaid with yellow and blue lines and swirly bits. The little Trinidadian Henderson 30 also sports what were describes by one crew member as yellow on all the bits that stick up and out. The mast, boom and spinnaker pole are yellow, the keel and rudder are too - so are the crew tee shirts. . .

In Spinnaker 5 the Puerto Rican Lazy Dog, Sergio SAGRAMOSO, the man who took home the top boat prize last year, looks to be heading in the right direction to repeat the performance is his boat speed and impeccable boat handling is anything to go by. A win yesterday and three wins today seem to be reinforcing the position. This Beneteau 40.7 has an excellent suit of high tech sails, but the winning factor is just that the boat is sailed well.

The unusually named No Rubber, No Glory from Holland, a J105 sailed by Rene BULTENA, had a great start in Spinnaker 6 but the little, garish Melges 24 Carib Nautifit, Frits Bus, a perennial competitor at the St Maarten Heineken regatta, sneaked a fine start in space and clear air, while Donald STOLLMEYER'S Beneteau First Class 10 blotted its copybook by being over the line at the start. This little Beneteau, joined by two other hull sisters, has an unusual paint scheme, muddy red metallic one side, muddy green metallic the other - not the most attractive.

Today the class expert was Jamie DOBBS in the Olson 30 Lost Horizon II who managed two bullets and a second - to Carib Nautifit. Barbados's Bruggudung sailed by Paul JOHNSON and a team of Bajans managed one second in the second windward/leeward, but aren't having too flashy a regatta.

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© Bob Grieser
Down among the bareboats the Principal Race Officer was Lymington's own Tony BLACHFORD who, though well sunned this year, has refrained from going for the full Rudolph nose thanks to judicious application of sun block. But controversy reigned when a fair chunk of Bareboats 4 and 5 sailed one course, while the remainder sailed another. It seems as though one chunk had read a Sailing Instruction amendment, the other hadn't. The protest to find out which chunk was in the right and which in the wrong was to be a long one, but as this essay came to a close the result was announced - that the first five to finish in Bareboat 5 and the first nine in Bareboat 4 were flicked. Long day, no result - for some of the top boats yesterday too.

In Bareboats 1 and 2 yesterday's winners stayed in the top three today, interestingly enough with under 30 seconds between first and second in both classes, while yesterday's top dog in Bareboat 3, Leo LIGHTHART'S Oyster Pond Pirates, plummeted to eleventh in the 13 boat class - oops. It was charity fund raisers Team Golden Dog, raising money for canine charities, who certainly weren't dogs in their nine minute win in the class.

Tonight the party is buzzing in Marigot, the sound systems vibrate the very fabric of the town, the warm night embraces the sailors, lots of girls embrace the sailors too. The night is young.

Tomorrow the forecast is for lighter conditions still for the race from Marigot to Simpson Bay. Then the final party is on Kim Sha Beach where Ozomatli will bring proceedings to a climax.

But tonight it's Destra, excuse me if I leave for the arena in front of the stage.

Dick JOHNSON (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Carrera © Bob Grieser
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