Amazing, best day ever, champagne sailing, and wow, just wow, what a day – just some of the words used to describe today’s Round the Island Race at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. For some it was serious sailing, and for others “Serious Fun”; but every sailor coming ashore after this epic race had a different story to tell, an unforgettable experience to recount, and a memory to savour forever.
The Round the Island Race is one of the highlights of the four-day St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. For many, this race offers the first time to see the whole island from the unique perspective of the sea. For those who have sailed here many times before, they know the excitement of a reaching start, the long beat up the channel between St. Maarten and Anguilla, and the challenges of the big Atlantic swell and choppy seas past Pelikan rocks before the final leg to the Heineken finish.
It’s a game of catch up, with the slowest boats starting first, while the super-fast Maxis and Ocean Racing class start last. With at least 25 nautical miles ahead, not counting the extra distance required as boats zig zag up the beat, for many boats it was going to be an exhilarating, action packed ride, while for others it was a chance to relax, enjoy the sights and top up the tan. Even when racing hard, the crew on Aquis Granis had time to practice their Mexican Wave technique from the rail.
For the three Melges, the close racing started right from the start to the first turning mark off Pointe Basse D’terre. It was Island Water World Too who just nipped inside at the mark, hiking hard to maintain their lead up the beat. For this youth crew, the youngest only 10 years old, this was going to be white knuckle sailing all the way round.
Despite nearly two hours between the first and last start, it wasn’t long before the mighty Maxis hove into view, closely followed by the Ocean Racing class, with the three Volvo Opens – Volvo 70 I Love Poland, Volvo 65 Sailing Poland, and Volvo 65 Ambersail 2 – staying in close contact through Marigot Bay, heading towards the north of the island.
Meanwhile in the Bareboat classes, there was still “friendly but fierce” competition to be the fastest round the island. Dmytro Potosky, of Marinero Sailing School of Ukraine, explained that despite breaking their vang just before the start, and managing to fix it with a towel, they had neck to neck racing all the way round with bareboat crews from Semper Pro Gradiens from the Netherlands, and Lascaris from Russia. “After all that way, we finished within 10 meters of each,” he said. Crew member Alex Yezril agreed, “It was great close racing, and great competition all the way round. Racing bareboats is like one design racing, just great.”
On KHS&S Contractors, youth sailors Cansu Kilic and Summer Morton, both aged 15, were excited to be taking part with legendary sailors Mike Canon and Neil Harvey, along with Brad Kendall, Olympic Silver Medallist in the 2016 Paraplygic Olympics in Rio. “I’m looking forward to hiking all the time,” said Cansu, while Summer added: “It’s just fun being out on the water.”
After heading round the north side of the island, the fleet turned the most northerly mark, and headed south back towards Pelikan Point. With choppy waves kicking up an unpredictable swell, many boats hoisted their kites for the final 6 mile leg to the Heineken finish.
While close racing was the order of the day for many, Class 40 Made in Midi stormed around the course, taking line honours with an elapsed time of 3 hours, 8 minutes and 1 second. Also sailing apart from his class for much of the race was Peter Lewis and his crew on J105 Whistler, who won CSA Class 4. “We got the best start, sped off, and never saw the others in our fleet again,” he said.
It was a day for records as Fling 16 won the fastest monohull with spinnaker; Ineffable was the fastest multihull; Lascaris was the fastest bareboat and Eliza Vastgoed reportedly the fastest non-spinnaker sailboat.
For Ross Appelby and his crew on Scarlet Oyster in CSA Class 3, their win today will almost certainly see them with taking a podium place on Sunday. “It was excellent champagne sailing,” said Ross. “We broke the hook on the spinnaker pole, but did repairs while sailing. We got ahead, stayed ahead and managed to get another bullet.”
In the Maxi class, Selene’s win nudges her ahead of Fling 16, while in the Maxi 2 class Eliza Vastgoed is in a comfortable place with two wins. In the Ocean Racing class, I Love Poland achieved a comfortable first, with rival Ambersail 2 posting a 4thplace. Rumours round the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Village queried what happened to Ambersail 2, seen approaching the finish from the wrong direction. It appeared that the boat, while completing the course correctly, did not in fact sail all the way round the island. A text message from the crew confirmed this: “We were bold, and we lost.” A tactical decision which may be explained better after a few more Heinekens!
In Ocean Racing Class 2, Made in Midi’s win puts her ahead of 2nd place EH01; while in ORC Performance category Lady Mariposa Racing continues her clean sweep of wins, staying ahead of second place rival Aquis Granus.
In CSA 1, Kick ‘em Jenny’s first place leaves them just one point behind Lazy Dog, in CSA 2 Dauntless maintained her clean sweep of first places. The Melges in CSA 5 was won by Team Island Water World. KHS&S Contractors have also maintained their winning form now with three bullets.
In the Offshore Multihull Class Team Brasil’s win keeps them ahead of Ineffable; Tryst’s second place today keeps her ahead of Enola, and in Multihull 2, Spellboundtook first place.
The only boats, other than Ambersail 2, not to sail all the way round the island were the Island Time Class. This group of mostly cruising sailors, brought together by Hank Schmitt to sail and party together, raced across the Anguilla Sound and back, and this race was won by Oyster 54 Balance, with Hank and his crew in Avocationsecond.
Find out more about the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, St. Maarten and island life here: www.heinekenregatta.com.
Tickets for the regatta parties can be purchased from the St. Maarten Yacht Club.