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28 June 2004, 01:45 pm
Tight Caribbean Finish
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North Sails Regatta
St. Maarten

It came down to the last boat lengths of the last leg of the last day of the Caribbean One Design Keelboat Championship held this weekend in St Maarten; four boats were in contention to win with myriad permutations for winning.
The USVI's John HOLMBERG crossed the line finish line first but it was Antiguan Karl JAMES' second place and Rosenberg's third place that secured his overall win by putting two places between Holmberg and Green. Excruciatingly, Green had been second to Holmberg around the course until the last seconds of the race. The USVI's Chris ROSENBERG needed the same permutation as Holmberg to win. The BVI's Robbie Hirst needed a win and two boats between him and Green. Green needed a second place to win overall. However, Green did claim second overall and Rosenberg was third. Last year's winner, Robbie HIRST, was fourth having been "punished by some silly mistakes" particularly on the first day.

Green, the favourite coming into the second day having notched up three first on the first day saw what some thought was an assured victory start to erode with a fifth place finish on the first race of the day after a bad start. "If you get a bad start in this fleet you just get buried very quickly," lamented Green. A third, followed by a victory-killing seventh place, broke the field wide open. Having taken the left side of the course, which as a rule was the right move to make throughout the weekend, Green was shut out at the windward mark coming in on port. "It was one of those horrible situations where you just get stuck. I should have not taken the risk, gone behind everybody and settled for fourth place. It would have saved me three points," said Green.

However in the crucial final race, Green once again headed deep left chasing some breeze on the first beat while Holmberg shadowed him closer to the middle of the course. This move put Green in second place at the mark. On the second beat it was James going left that brought him out of nowhere to come in under the wire for second while Holmberg, Green and Rosenberg tussled on the right hand side of the course. James' move gave Holmberg the place separation that he needed to win the regatta.

"I just got on my knees and prayed a moment ago for first and someone between me and Mike Green," said Holmberg before the last race and that's exactly what he got. "It was one of the most competitive regattas I've been in for a while," said Holmberg on his victory. "Actively disengaging" was the Holmberg team game plan for the day. "Anytime we saw a situation approaching with two or three or four [boats] together we were actually disengaging and sailing clear and fast because you can win a spot on a mark rounding or lose four. So it's better to come around and keep your position on the rounding and make your passes on the long legs up and downwind where you're not liable to get penalized."

Although his skills were not so evident on the second day, Green was credited with having an uncanny knack for spotting shifts that others don't. "I spend a lot of time looking outside the boat not inside the boat especially on this piece of water where the shifts that are coming look like a lift and then are not a lift as they are coming all over the place around the mountains. So it's very critical looking not at the one you're on but what's coming after that and even two and three shifts ahead because you can see where they're coming from up the course"

Fourteen teams from throughout the Caribbean battled it out for the silverware at the third annual North Sails Regatta, the Caribbean One Design Keelboat Championship, which started Saturday morning with a sudden death best of three races to decide the Gold and Silver fleets.

The big news of the first day was Puerto Rico's Efrain "Fraito" Lugo's failure to qualify for the Gold fleet. At the end of the three-race shootout John HOLMBERG, Mike GREEN, Chris ROSENBERG, Robbie HIRST, Bernard SILLEM, Karl JAMES and Shag MORTON were Gold fleet. Fraito LUGO, Claude THELIER, Luc KNOL, Carlos SKOV, Garth STEYN, Simon MANLEY and Vassil BEYAZOV made up the silver fleet. Despite his surprise at being in the Silver fleet, Fraito racked up three firsts in the fleet and won by seven points over second-placer Claude Thelier who won on a tiebreak over Luc Knol, third. "I'll be back next year," said Fraito even before his last race of the regatta.

The shifty winds in the 10-20 knot range proved challenging where oscillations could be as much as 25 degrees. After a dismasting in the last race of the first day and with the spare boat called into action, reefs were the order of the second day which were shaken out for the Gold fleet's last race.

No recent Caribbean regatta has pitted so much Caribbean-wide sailing talent against each other since the inception of this one-design event three years ago. The racing, in the Jeanneau Sun Fast 20s supplied by Lagoon Sailboat Rental, was fast and furious off Uncle Harry's Bar on Simpson Bay lagoon where spectators could touch the boats as they headed upwind with the start line off the bar's deck.

"It was an excellent weekend with excellent racing," enthused race director Robbie FERRON. "This regatta is about bringing all the best sailors of the Caribbean together without them having to ship equipment and still with a level playing field. We were very pleased with the field we were able to bring together and pleasantly shocked at the intense competiton."

North Sails Regatta, Final Results

Gold Fleet

1. John Holmberg, Claims Paid, USVI, 3,3,2,4,5,2 - 20
2. Mike Green, Lucians, St Lucia, 1,1,1,5,3,7,4 - 22
3. Chris Rosenberg, Micro W"nkers, USVI, 5,4,5,3,1,1,3 - 22
4. Robbie Hirst, HIHO, BVI, 2,6,6,1,2,3,5 - 25
5. Bernard Sillem, L.ile Marine, St Martin, 7,2,3,2,7,4,7 - 32
6. Karl James, Budget Marine, Antigua, 6,5,4,6,4,5,2 - 32
7. Shag Morton, FKG, St Maarten, 4,7,7,7,6,6,6 - 43

Silver Fleet

1. Fraito Lugo, Orion, Puerto Rico, 2,1,3,3,1,1,4 - 15
2. Claude Thelier, Gwada Team, Guadeloupe, 4,4,2,1,6,4,1 - 22
3. Luc Knol, Knol/Bernaz, St Maarten, 3,2,4,4,4,3,2 - 22
4. Carlos Skov, Cruzans, USVI, 1,3,6,2,3,2,6 - 23
5. Garth Steyn, Buccaneer Bar Pirates, St Maarten, 5,5,1,6,5,6,5 - 33
6. Simon Manley, Scuba/Sunsail, St Martin, 7,7,5,5,2,5,3 - 34
7. Vassil Beyazov, Gerena, St Maarten, 6,6,7,7,7,7,7 - 47
Alistair Abrehart (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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