The cream of the Caribbean racing crop have descended on St Maarten this weekend (June 26/27) to compete in the annual North Sails Regatta, the Caribbean One Design Keelboat Championship.
Fourteen top calibre teams from throughout the Caribbean will be racing in the fleet of one design Jeanneau Sun Fast 20s. In the case of most Caribbean regattas the likely winners can be counted on one hand, but this event could prove a little more difficult to predict; for this year's North Sails Regatta another hand and perhaps even a foot may be needed.
The top four finishers last year are returning this year and are all in contention. Last year's winners, the Hirst brothers hailing from the British Virgin Islands, will be looking to keep their crown while Mike GREEN from St Lucia will planning to reverse their tiebreak win last year and plant the crown firmly on his own head. However Chris ROSENBERG from the USVI is also in the running having placed third last year, a mere point behind the Hirsts and Green.]
Efrain "Fraito" LUGO from Puerto Rico competes for the first time this year and will be an interesting addition to the mix. Not only does he have an unmatched record in winning Caribbean regattas, he also has vast small boat experience in the likes of the Melges 24 and the J/24 and a polished, regular crew. Most recently he was the overall winner at the Coors Light Sundance regatta in Puerto Rico and won the J/24 class at the International Rolex Regatta.
Also competing in this event for the first time is the USVI's John HOLMBERG, master when light winds and tactics are in play. He recently won the IC/24 class at the BVI Spring Regatta sailing against the Hirst brothers amongst others in light winds. He has collected five International Rolex Regatta class wins over the years as well as a Prindle 19 US national championship and a bronze medal in the Pan Am games.
Eight teams from St Maarten competed for four slots open to local teams last weekend. Shifty winds kept the race committee and competitors on their toes where big advantages were gained on single tacks and the leader board changed with every race. After eight close races Frits BUS took the first place spot with Bernard Sillem in second.
Frits BUS is unable to compete this weekend so Bernard SILLEM will go forward as first qualifier. The other teams representing St. Maarten/St Martin this weekend will be Simon MANLEY, Luc KNOL and Shag MORTON/TeamFKG. Garth STEYN and Vassil BEYAZOV, both from St Maarten, are last minute entries to fill slots left by Paul AMON from Trinidad and Luc POUPON from St Barths who are now unable to attend.