One great thing about St Maarten's three day regatta format is that you can just about - if you are little younger than your reporter - race your ears off all day and party all night for the whole three days.
But I suggest that, if you try it next year, and you should, you should go into serious training. Your musculature needs honing to the normally accepted athletic standards for sailing, as the winds are always moderate to fresh, but most of all, the liver needs careful nurturing to the normally accepted standards of the trainee dipsomaniac, as the partying is always storm to hurricane force.
Of course the bareboat classes, the major partying classes, are given the longest recovery time each morning, with Bareboat 1 starting after 10 am. Today, like every other day, Bareboat 1 came to the line with the enthusiasm of Labrador puppies and about the same knowledge of the racing rules. The classic barging start - from outside the Committee boat on a reach - is apparently the generally accepted form of start in Bareboat 1 and I have to offer my sincere congratulations to Mr Jaap Koomen for the best example of the genre that I have ever seen. He came in at speed with his crew yelling for the other boats to get out of the way. And they did!
At the end of the race Douggie Brookes slotted in another win with Island Flyer which gives him two wins and a 2nd - and the coveted overall prize. Our friends in Heart for Kids dropped back from the dizzy heights of a 13th yesterday to their regular 17th - they did that Friday too. But despite their position, they were still happily raising money for the local hospital and anyone who wants to contribute can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pin end starts were the order of the day as for a change the committee had biased the line that way, and a good example came from Coor van Aanholt at the helm of the Melges 24 Slam in Spinnaker 5. Slam crossed the fleet and ran away into the distance, winning by almost 12 minutes. She won by over 11 minutes on corrected time from Jamie Dobbs' Lost Horizon and trousered the class overall.
Another port tack starter was Claude Thelier in the pocket rocket in Multihull 1, the CDK28 catamaran An Nou Ay. They crossed the fleet with masses of room - even with PlayStation coming down the line on starboard at speed. The Newick 36 Tryst was overtaken to leeward by PlayStation, and for a moment it looked as though Steve Fossett was playing with a little red bath toy alongside his big cat.
Bharlin Blue has been having a good regatta and today put the icing on the cake with a charging start and an even better win. That put her on top of Spinnaker 2 overall too by just one point from Alex Thomson at the helm of Formula 1 Sailing's Spirit of Juno. Early class leader, Justin Heap's Tazani, had to count a retirement yesterday afternoon, which ruined her chances overall, despite a 2nd today.
Throughout the week the Turner 56 Entrada, sailed by John Thompson from Canage has been attracting attention, if only for the fact that they seem to sail with just four crew - unless there's a crowd below that come on deck when they are out of sight of the press. Racing in Non-Spinnaker class 1, Entrada has had a bit of an up and down regatta in terms of results, but won on the first and last days, though their poor mid day result gave them only 3rd overall.
Local wonderboat Synergy, a Frers 49 resurrected from a hurricane wreck by Carl Vaughan at his St Maarten Shipyard, sneaked in another win in Spinnaker 3, giving them a 1, 2, 1, 1, series and, unsurprisingly the overall title. Pity poor Peter von Danzig, she recorded an OCS on the first race yesterday, dropping them to 6th overall when they might have recorded 2nd. The French Open 50 ketch from Martinique, Florys, under the command of Luc Coquelin, is not entirely suited to this round the buoys racing, she looked as though she was always about to fall over every time she essayed a windward leg, but put together a reasonable series to finish 5th overall.
Richard Matthews must leapt out of bed with a light heart this morning, thinking that he was only a race away from a class win in his 50 footer Flirt. But as is always the case in sailing, it ain't over 'till the fat lady sings and this time the song she sung was for Graham Smith's Vellamo 2. Vellamo 2, a Swan 56, held out Carlo Falcone's Caccia Alla Volpe, Jean-Marie Vidal's IMX 40 Near Miss and Flirt today, dropping the British boat to 2nd overall, two points behind Vellamo 2 and two ahead of Caccia.
A slightly more convincing win was in Spinnaker 6, where Tony Maidment's Dehler 34 Tango Mike posted another win to add to her tally of three, a clean sheet marred only by a 2nd on the first day. Interestingly, Tony is a CSA measurer and measurers always have an eye for a fast sailing and faster rating boat; the Dehler is clearly that. Visitor ARC-Belgium, Diederik Demesel led Tango Mike home on the water, but slipped to 2nd by 2 minutes, though held on to 2nd overall by just a point from Phillipe Herve's Beneteau 30 Vanille.
Yesterday, we reported a protest between two top boats in Bareboat 2, Kipling and Brinks Movin' Money, a protest that resulted in a slightly less than happy Kipling adding a DSQ to their tally. Today, still spitting tacks in all directions, they won their class by three minutes on the water and by almost six on corrected time, a result that availed them little overall.
Mark Duranty has been conducting the Beneteau 460 Carnival around the course to great effect, getting a five minute win today in Bareboat 3, a win that almost but not quite got them the overall prize in the Bareboat class. This prize, on cumulative corrected time, went to Jan Soderberg in Lofoten 1 from Bareboat 4, but interestingly, all three of the top boats were sailed by sailors from the USA, despite being outnumbered to a vest scale by the Dutch.
International relations between Antigua and St Maarten might plunge to almost USA/Iraq levels in the near future thanks to Hugh Bailey winning the battle of the marina owners between himself and Bobby Velasquez. Bobby, from St Maarten, won today in L'Esperance, with Hugh 2nd ahead of his Antigua playmate Bernie Evan-Wong in Huey Too, but Hugh's previous wins gave him the overall win. Bobby shouldn't be too upset though, his new boat seems to be going well and his skills, and those of his crew, seem to be getting better too. Just don't wait until the first day of the regatta in 2003 to go sailing for the next time Bobby.
As just one final footnote to the regatta, Steve Fossett agreed to have an attempt on a proper round the island record after today's racing. A special line was set up as a transit due south from Pelican Rock, on the east side of Great Bay. PlayStation wound up for the run after lunch and shot off into the distance. Two hours, 4 minutes and 36 seconds later she crossed the line again, not quite breaking the two hour barrier thanks to the dying wind down the east coast. It's there for the taking if anyone else fancies a go.
So to the finale of the regatta, the prize giving and tonight's party, is all that remains before some 2,000 and more sailors, and hundreds more friends and family, go back to their normal lives, left with just a glowing memory of a great regatta sailed in a fine spirit - and an even finer beer.
Tonight's headline band is Carlos Santana's backing band, Puro Bandido, keenly awaited by just about the whole Island population it seems. The venue is the new cruise ship pier at the eastern end of Great Bay. There are still thousands of cans of Heineken waiting to be consumed and just as many tall tales to be told before the curtain finally comes down on a great regatta.