When a young person first learns to sail, they rarely imagine that one day they will end up racing on one of the largest, and undeniably most beautiful, yachts taking part in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, Varsovie.
For local St. Maarten sailors Nina Manley, 21, and Maike van ‘t Laar, 23 their dream came true today as they were invited to become crew on 100 foot Swan Varsovie. Their sailing career started in the same way as many youngsters on the beautiful island of St. Maarten. The girls – through youth sailing programmes run by St. Maarten Yacht Club and Kidz at Sea Foundation – moved from the dinghy programme into the racing yachts taking part in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “In 2014, I helmed Sail Holiday, a Beneteau First Class 10 and won our class,” said Nina. “And I was second in Vanille a First Sport 31,” chips in Maike.
This year the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta sees the next generation of youngsters enjoying their own class of competitive racing in the lagoon, as part of the Inshore Class. Racing in identically matched Jeanneau 20’s fifteen youngsters are fighting it out with up to five short races each day, organised by Kidz at Sea Founder Garth Steyn and Robbie Ferron, one of the team who originally set up the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “The Sunfast 20s, or LSR’s as they are locally known, are one designs and the best way to teach youngsters how to be competitive. When you’re learning to sail, racing in a handicap fleet makes it hard as the fastest on the water is not necessarily the winner.”
Neil Maher, sailing on J105 Solstice, was youth sailing manager and coach for St Maarten Yacht Club from 2013-2017. He says, “For youngsters including Nina and Maike, we teach them to love sailing first. Then they learn to become great crew and many of them can be found today racing on boats where their local knowledge, youth and enthusiasm makes them invaluable, especially those from abroad and who may have not sailed here before.”
Nina and Maike had “the most amazing day” racing as part of the Varsovie’s crew. “We had a great start,” said Nina, “and chose to head close to the shore to beat up to the first mark. It was fantastic on board, especially running the long distances along the deck.” Henry Harris, Bowman and Mate on Varsovie complemented them on their enthusiasm. “They were really eager to get involved and always smiling,” he said.
Saturday’s racing at the St Maarten Heineken Regatta saw one of the most exciting starts and closely fought first beats for the Maxi class, with the massive maxis close tacking along the shoreline before heading off on a 10 mile beat to Mancel. The fleet were then sent north to Le Tintamarre rounding the island anticlockwise. “With a more easterly wind forecast today, it’s a great opportunity to give the Maxis a long race, but we’ll still aim to get them finishing at the same time as the rest of the fleet at the Heineken finish mark,” said Race Officer Paul Miller. Little did he realise how accurate that prediction would be.
While the Maxis had one long race, the ORC Performance, CSA 1, CSA 2, and CSA 3 fleets had two shorter races, setting off from Simpson Bay to beat up to a windward mark set just off Fort Willem. In the ORC Performance class Lady Mariposa suffered an individual recall for being OCS, but recovered exceptionally well to be back in the lead by the second mark, resulting in a well-earned first place. She was to repeat her stunning form in the second race of the day, giving her just five points after five races, and in an unassailable lead over Godspeed, who achieved two second places, putting her now in 2nd place overall with 12 points.
In the Ocean Racing Class, some punchy pre-start manoeuvres saw both I Love Poland and Ambersail 2 recalled for being OCS. I Love Poland executed a swift turn to get back over the line and restart, leaving Ambersail 2 lagging well behind. After around 29 miles of hard and fast racing, it was I Love Poland who took the bullet with Ambersail 2 second and Sailing Poland third. With I Love Poland counting just three points after three races, today’s result puts Ambersail 2 and Sailing Poland on equal points going into the last day.
Yesterday’s heroes Made in Midi found themselves pipped today by EH01. This win puts EH01 just two points behind Made in Midi, leaving all to play for tomorrow.
Some of the most exciting sailing for the many spectators enthralled by the sparkling conditions and the mass of sails, was from the CSA classes. In Class 1 the fleet arrived within seconds of each other at the Fort Willem mark. But it was Lazy Dog who maintained the lead getting two wins from today’s racing. A retirement from Kick ‘em Jenny in the last race now puts them in close third place overall with 15 points, just behind Taz with 13 points in second place overall.
In Class 2 Dauntless, with Regatta Director Michele Korteweg as guest crew on board, continued her winning streak with yet another first place. Her total point score of five puts her six points ahead of Sonrisa, now sitting in second place overall.
The excitement continues to build in the CSA 3 fleet, with Touch2Play getting a first and second today, putting her just ahead of rival Scarlet Oyster, who was not on her best form today, coming second in race one, and third in race two. Liquid stormed into the lead in the second race, giving her 12 points overall, just behind Scarlet Oyster with 10 points and Touch2Play on nine points.
In the Melges, where many of St Maarten’s youth sailors are battling it out, resulting in only one race counting as the three boats sailed the incorrect course in race one. All three boats decided to retire, a move which ensured that the final races remain just as competitive! In the second race, it was F.K.G who took the gun, with Team Island Water World in second, and Island Water World Too in third. Tomorrow will be an exciting day, with F.K.G and Team Island Water World on equal points.
The Offshore Multihull class is set to see some of the closest racing going into the last day. R-Six Team took first place today, with Ineffable in second and Team Brasil third. After today’s races, Team Brasil remains just in the lead, one point ahead of Ineffable, just one point ahead of R-Six Team! A class to watch tomorrow in the final day’s racing.
Meanwhile, from Committee Boat B, located in the South West corner of Simpson Bay, the Bareboat fleets saw yet more close and competitive sailing. Race Officer Rob Rowlands, who has more than 10 years of experience as both race officer and judge, managed the fleets exceptionally well, calmly and patiently answering queries on the VHF from the fleet about mark locations and start times. The Bareboat fleet sees some of the most varied of talents, across the fleet, from highly experiences racers to those new to competitive sailing. Rob says, “By and large, the two Bareboat classes have exceptional sailors with many experienced racers on board. The standard of the charter boats is usually really good. Their bottoms are clean and sails are new.”
The second race of the day saw the bareboat fleets on a fantastic course, with a tight reach taking them right across the bows of the second longest motor yacht in the world, M/Y Eclipse, giving the crews the opportunity to spot her amazing features which include an on-board mini submarine.
The tight racing between the Bareboat 1 fleet resulted in a multitude of protests being lodged over the VHF, so the results have not yet been posted. In Bareboat Class 2, it was left to KHS&S Contractors to continue their clean sweep with another win, putting them ten points ahead of Breeze Club with 15 points overall and About Time on 20 points.
Multihull Tryst won her race, with Spellbound maintaining her clean sweep of firsts, putting her well ahead of Arbuzov-VPM and Sweet Spot, who go into the last day on equal points. In the Island Time Class, it was Altair who took the winning place from Avocation in second and Balance third, putting Avocation just one place ahead of Balance in the final rankings with all to play for tomorrow. In the 12m class, Stars & Stripes maintains her lead over Canada II.
But the winner of the day award must go to Principal Race Officer Paul Miller, who after running 16 classes of boats, across a variety of courses, with start times spread over more than an hour and a half, achieved his desire to have the majority of boats finishing at the same time at the famous Heineken mark. For the crew of Incisor, who came fifth in Class 2, the last half mile to the finish line was particularly hair raising, as she was chased down by the leading Maxi Fling 16, closely followed by Selene. With the Swan 80’s massive blue spinnaker totally dwarfing the Corby 45 as she screamed past, narrowly avoiding the Incisor, it was left to crew member Sandra Saunders to say, “Well, it did feel a bit a bit worrying, but they’re professionals, aren’t they?”
Selene’s outstanding pace at the finish saw her achieve a well-deserved first place, leaving her narrowly ahead by one point from Fling 16, while in the Maxi 2 class Spirit of Juno’s first place over Eliza Vastgoed leaves just one point between them.
The final day’s racing leaves so much to play for in many classes! The final day will see a new and unique race format, ensuring a totally memorable final day of serious sailing for the 39th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.
All results are posted on www.heinkenenregatta.com