St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Day 1 - Ideal conditions

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 2012
An impressive fleet of 202 yachts in 15 separate divisions hoisted sail this morning to commence the 32nd edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

Day 1 was a glorious, sun-splashed day with solid easterly tradewinds coursing over the deep blue seas surrounding the Friendly Island of St. Maarten.

Race officials on two separate starting circles off the southern coast of St. Maarten sent their respective fleets on the traditional clockwise round-the-island race that regularly commences the regatta, winds and weather permitting. The 'A' Fleet contained the CSA 1-6 divisions, as well as the Multihull 1 racing class. After a short windward leg, the 'big boats' in Multihull 1 and CSA 1 and 2 commenced on a 32-nautical mile jaunt that included a rounding of the rugged island of Tintamarre off the northeast coast of St. Maarten. The CSA 3-6 divisions sailed a slightly shorter course of 29-nautical miles that cut inside Tintamarre.

Race officer David Campbell James, orchestrating the racing for the Grand Prix yachts racing from the A circle, recorded a top wind speed of 18 knots during the starting sequences. 'The weather was absolutely superb,' he said. 'You couldn’t ask for better conditions.'

Campbell James set a generous 400-meter starting line, but temporarily second-guessed himself later when one of the 100-foot Swans in CSA 2 came power reaching down the line. 'I did have second thoughts,' he laughed. 'But there were really great starts across the board.'

The Multihull 1 class was first off the line, with the silver Irens 63 trimaran Paradox seemingly skipping atop the whitecaps. However, it was another tri from a different generation—Patrick Turner’s bright red, 43-year-old Tryst, a two-time class winner in past St. Maarten Heineken Regattas—that nipped Paradox to take the start. It was a visually arresting sight, the past and present of cutting-edge multihull design in the same frame.

Next up were the powerhouses in the four-boat CSA 1 class, namely the big Farr-designed racing yachts with the towering square-topped mainsails: the Volvo 70 Gran Jotiti and the Transpac 65 Equation. 'Of all the starts, that was the highlight for me,' said Campbell James. 'To see those two boats hit the line at speed, together, was just great.'

CSA 2 was the class of the giants, including two hundred-foot Swans—Varsovie and Virago—and a Swan 90, Nefertiti, as well as another nine yachts over 56-feet, including the Swan 65 The Solden Kings, which, as King’s Legend, was second in the 1977-78 Whitbread Round the World Race.

On the short windward leg before the A fleet eased sheets to set spinnakers and begin the circuit around St. Maarten, there was drama aboard Jaime Torres’s Beneteau First 40 Smile and Wave when the lifelines parted and three crewmembers were nearly tossed overboard, but through quick action no one landed in the drink. Later, Jan vanden Eynde’s CSA 3 entry, the Open 750Panic Attack, was forced to retire when one of the boat’s twin rudders was lost, but the lightweight flyer was able to return to Philipsburg without assistance.

The Division B competitors—including CSA 7, Multihull 2, the Bareboat divisions, and the Lottery Class—sailed a slightly shorter course around the island than their counterparts in the A fleet. All eyes, seemingly, were on Dorade, which executed a rare port-tack start in CSA 7 before bearing away shortly thereafter to set her downwind sails. On Dorade, this included no less than five sails: spinnaker, staysail, mainsail, mizzen staysail, and mizzen. The classic beauty, built in 1931, appeared to be from another era, right down to the windsock she flew from her masthead in lieu of a modern windex.

After a short spinnaker run, the fleet once again came hard on the breeze off Basse Terre on the westernmost end of the island. From there, it was a long beat to weather up the Anguilla Channel to Tintamarre. Once past the course’s northernmost mark, the fleet cracked sheets slightly for a close reach down the eastern edge of St. Maarten; a few boats even managed to once again set spinnakers. The final stretch was a short weather leg to the finish line in Great Bay.

When all was said and done, Bill Alcott’sEquation managed to hold off Ernesto Cortina’s Gran Jotiti on corrected time as the big sloops registered a first and second, respectively, in CSA 1. On elapsed time, Gran Jotiti was the quickest spinnaker-flying multihull around the island with a time of 3h, 3m, 26s; Equation was a little less than four minutes in arrears.

In CSA 2, despite having the best start in the class, Tomek Ulatowski’s Varsovie fell to second behind another Swan 100, Bill and Carolyn Titus’s Virago, which also recorded the fastest non-spinnaker spin around the island: 3h, 22m, 38s.

In CSA 3, as so often is the case, the top places belonged to a pair of Melges 24s, with Frits Bus’s Coors Light drawing first blood by topping Andrea Scarabelli’s Budget Marine/Gill, which finished second. Before the racing began, many observers felt the closest competition would be in CSA 4, and after the first day of racing, that certainly appeared to be the case, with Rich Wesslund’s J/120,El Ocaso, registering first place ahead of a pair of J/122s, James Dobbs’s perennial contender,Lost Horizon, and Sergio Sagramoso’s Puerto Rican entry, Lazy Dog.

In CSA 5, another Swan, Jack Desmond’s 48-foot Affinity topped the leader board after Day 1, as did Magras Raphael’s X-34, Maelia, in CSA 6. And in CSA 7, Matt Brooks’s pristine Sparkman and Stephens yawl,Dorade, not only looked terrific, she was also extremely well sailed, and was rewarded with a Day 1 win.

In Multihull 1, Peter Aschenbrenner’s Paradox capitalized on her solid start by topping the eight-boat fleet while also recording the time for fastest multihull around the island, with a time of 2h, 48m, 19s. Dave Nelson’s Catana 471, Pas de Deux, was the winner of Multihull 2, and John Wolff’s Dufour 30 Classic, Turquoise, won the Lottery Class.

In the Bareboat classes, the following boats took the early lead in their respective classes after victories on the first day of racing: Frederick Walters’ Team Kincsem (Bareboat 1 winner, overall Bareboat winner, and fastest bareboat around the island in 4h, 14m, 14s); Martijn Baartmans’ Harten Heer (Bareboat 2); Marieke Poulie’s Something Hot (Bareboat 3); Jan Soderberg’s Oyster (Bareboat 4); Tim Goebel’s and Neil Harvey’s Chillin’ The Most (Bareboat 5); and Yury Kharazyan Matreshki (Bareboat 6).

2012 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta website