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8 March 2003, 10:29 am
All eyes on PlayStation
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Playstation2 © Tim Wright/PhotoAction

St Maarten Heineken Regatta
St Maarten

Ok! Ok! So yesterday I said that PlayStation would be battling it out with Paragon and taking it easy at the start, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong on both counts.
Sadly, her little - if a 60ft trimaran can be considered little, but she is, relative to PlayStation - playmate didn't make it today, her owner having to attend to business in the US, but that didn't stop the big cat. She came to the line, by luck or good judgement, right on the gun and, despite a flapping staysail still being winched home, zipped up to speed and disappeared into the distance. By the first mark she was 300m in front of the fleet and she managed the round the island course in exactly 2 hours,36 minutes and 2 seconds leaving everything in her wake. Just a stroll in the park for Mr Fossett, who was accompanied by his ballooning rival Sir Richard Branson. According to Steve Fossett, he had the boss of Virgin everything sweating it out on the grinders - believe that if you will.

What a day to be on the water! You would have thought that you had died and gone to heaven: 18 knots of warm Caribbean wind, blue sky with a few of those pretty, fluffy white clouds, the odd white horse on a deep blue sea - for the 203 boats in the 23rd St Maarten Heineken regatta it was just what the doctor ordered.

Scores of identical bareboats came to the line in Simpson's Bay. Class 1 for instance having 27 identical 50ft Beneteaus, though there was one boat that stood out from the crowd - the one with the all girl crew of course. Strange how all the photographers homed in on that one. In Bareboat 1 the winner was the man from St Kits, Douggie Brookes, who took a hotly contested class by a minute and a half.

With the bareboats starting in Simpson's Bay, the more racy boats came to a line just a mile to the east. After the excitements of multihull 1 and PlayStation, the next attraction was Spinnaker 1, the class that includes the brand new Sotto Voce II, built by Cooksons in New Zealand and rigged with a carbon mast from Southern Spars - you know them, the team that built and rigged Team New Zealand. . . Yes, well, at least Sotto Voce II seems to have stayed in one piece so far. In fact it all stayed together so well that Sotto Voce II romped home with a six minute lead on the water over Bill Alcott's Equation, a Santa Cruz 70. On corrected time, Sotto Voce II came out at the top of the fleet by over six minutes from the 68ft Swan Chippewa.

Bharlin Blue, Kees Jan Kuyf's stunning new boat from Hoek Design - pencil pushers better known for their classic-lined craft - is the biggie in Spinnaker 2 and true to form stormed off the line to came home in front on the water. Bearing in mind that this boat, racy though she looks, is no lightweight - she displaces 40 tons and has a ritzy fit-out below her flush decks - she is no slouch in these superb conditions and looked to be enjoying every moment. Mr Kuyf almost had to exercise his cheque book this afternoon, however, as his lovely blue asymmetric spinnaker let go from the head with a bang like a a rifle shot - just 50m from the finish, luckily though it was just a strop that parted and not the sail, sighs of relief all round. Bharlin Blue managed 2nd in class, behind the Swan Tazani which numbered Lisa McDonald, women's team skipper from the Volvo Ocean Race, among her crew.

Back to multihulls for a moment, the corrected time winner in Multihull 1 was the Formula 28 An Nou Ay, sailed with great verve by Claude Theiler and his crew who finished 3rd on the water to PlayStation, and then won on corrected time by a very healthy 16 minutes. PlayStation finished 6th, correcting out to almost an hour after the winner.

The International battle between Hugh Bailey from Antigua and Bobby Velasquez from St Maarten, which it has to be said Bobby thought he would win, went to Mr Bailey today and Bobby didn't even manage 2nd, being beaten home by the venerable Cal 40 Huey Too, sailed by Bernie Evan Wong from Antigua.
Dick Johnson/ISAF News Editor
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