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5 March 2005, 08:47 am
Big Wins On A Slow Day One
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St Maarten Heineken Regatta
St Maarten

Early risers for the first day of the 25th St Maarten Heineken regatta­ or perhaps those coming home very late from last night¹s party - would have looked out to sea with some trepidation this morning. The water was very, very shiny. Little or no wind was in evidence and the forecast ten to 12 knots seemed unlikely to materialise.
By start time at 09:00, however, eight knots or so had made an appearance and Principal Race Officer Tony BLACHFORD was able to get the first of the racing classes away in good order, though he must have wondered if a shortened course might be indicated somewhere in his horoscope as the round the island course for most classes looked a trifle ambitious given the breeze, or lack of it.

The multihull racing class were first off, though the two big trimarans in the fleet, Lars SVENSSEN's Laurus Roc and Anne CASENEUVE's Restourante Plaisancier, were struggling in the light breeze. In fact the smaller boats were handling the conditions much better, with even the venerable Tryst not too far behind. In the end though, it was the usual battle between Tryst and Triple Jack for the corrected time win, with Tryst coming out on top despite her 36 years, a healthy 25 minutes in front of Triple Jack. The two big tris didn¹t have a good day, bringing up the rear and with Anne's corrected time ending up at more than ten hours!

Right behind the multis came the big racing boats in Spinnaker 1, with Tom HILL's Titan12 and Joseph DOCKERY's Carrera crossing swords for the first time. On first glance, the two boats seemed evenly matched, though Titan gives away nine feet in overall length to Carrera. Stuart ROBINSON, celebrating his birthday today, would have been pleased with the initial progress of his Swan 70 Stay Calm, well up with the leaders in the class after the first two legs.

After a short windward leg and a reach to a mark off Proselyte reef, the boats headed clockwise around the island. From the western tip at Basse Terre to the top of the island is a long beat and received knowledge says that you get in to the island shore as soon as you can and work the favourable lifts. Spinnaker 1's course takes them outside the white coral island of Tintamarre and at this point the wind took a holiday.

Nevertheless, Titan 12 (left) was showing the rest of the fleet the way, Tom HILL's many previous Heineken regattas paying off with a lot of local knowledge and some awesome (relative) boat speed. In fact, by the time the finish line was reached, Titan 12 was 33 minutes and one second ahead of Carrera on the water and corrected out to be the winner by 42 minutes and 12 seconds, in front of birthday boy Stuart ROBINSON aboard Stay Calm. Tom HILL will be a happy man this evening, Stuart will have a horrible hangover tomorrow morning and Joseph DOCKERY and his team of rock stars will be wondering what went so badly wrong.

Spinnaker 2 turned out to be a Swan benefit, with the 45 twins Vixen and Plenty in front, followed by the 56 Hissar. The Kerr 11.3 oceanready.com, who had been lobbying the organizers to let them drop a class to race with the smaller boats, was tail end Charlie in the fleet, but it might be the way they sail more than their rating which was responsible for that.

Nick JONES in the Beneteau 40.7 Tarka, on a sabbatical from UK racing, took Spinnaker 3 by storm, over 12 minutes in front of the second place boat on corrected time and third on the water to the two Swan 56s, Nautor¹s Swan Benelux conducted by a Low Countries team led by Paul DELEMANS and Deneb sailed by a team of Norwegians.

Down in Spinnaker 6, as predicted, Trouble, the modified Six Metre with the 'interesting' rating, rose to the top, beating her ex- owner Tony MAIDMENT in the Dehler 34 Budget Marine by a minute and a couple of seconds. Tony can hardly complain about Trouble¹s rating though; after all, he is the Antigua measurer.

In the massive Bareboat fleet there was a healthy drop out rate. The time limit caught out a lot of boats in Bareboat 5 and 6 in fact, only two finished in both classes, but at least their chances are still alive for the overall Bareboat prize. In the one-design Bareboat 2 class 27 identical Beneteau 50 footers there was a surprisingly large winning margin of over five minutes for Frank VAN KEMPEN (NED) over the USA¹s Bruce OGDEN, who
was a further six minutes in front of his fellow countryman Daniel WALSH. In fact the Yanks did quite well in the Bareboat classes, taking the top two places in Bareboat 3 and second and last in Bareboat 6.

The light conditions weren¹t to the liking of many competitors, but they look set to stay the same for the rest of the regatta, with a shift to the south and winds staying in single figures. It is a regatta of sun block and a floppy hat or, in the case of many of the bareboats, unroll the Bimini top and to hell with the aerodynamics.

Dick Johnson (As Amended by ISAF), Images © Bob Greiser/Heineken Regatta 2005
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