St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - Fleet growing, changes in the works

St.Maarten Heineken Regatta 2010 - (Photo: Tom Zinn)
St. Maartin Heineken Regatta – With less than three weeks to go before racing commences in the thirty-first annual St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, the fleet continues to steadily grow, with nearly one-hundred fifty yachts ranging from twenty-four feet to one-hundred fifteen feet now entered in the competition.

For newcomers to the event, it will be their first taste of the 'serious fun' for which the regatta is famously known. The music, magic and parties ashore won’t surprise veterans of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. But they’ll soon learn that race organizers have instituted several changes in how the action is orchestrated on the racecourse. As always, the new wrinkles have been introduced to make the racing as interesting, entertaining and challenging as possible.

Some of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta’s format—including the three days of racing over the first long weekend in March—has stood the test of time and remains in place. As in years past, there will be two course circles for the A fleet and the B fleet. And once again in 2011, Saturday’s point-to-point destination race will once again take the racers to the French side of St. Maarten and the lively port of Marigot, where the parties will rage long into the night.

But for the first time ever, in a significant new change in how the contests are run, race officials will have numerous options in how they lay out the racecourses and the lengths of each race. In previous regattas, instead of one pre-set course per start each day around a fixed set of established marks, a new series of mark locations have been added to the race instructions for greater flexibility depending on wind strength and direction.

Race officers will have four or five different courses, of varying distances ranging from ten nautical miles to twenty-eight nautical miles, from which to choose. In light winds, they’ll likely opt for the shorter courses. In heavier air, particularly for the fastest boats in the fleet, the longer courses will be utilized.

There is also an innovative change in the start position of the races. Each fleet – A and B – will have their own start circle with a diameter of approximately one to one and a half mile(s). On this circle the designated start boat and on the other side the windward mark and an offset mark can turn to start with the most beneficial wind direction, which should make for the perfect start.

As far as classes are concerned, more changes are in the works. In 2011, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will be broken into five separate divisions (which will likely be subdivided once all entries are in). The CSA Monohull Class will compete under the tried-and-true Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) Rating Rule. For more information on the CSA, visit their website here

The always-popular Bareboat classes, broken down by the lengths of the yachts competing, will race under the CSA Bareboat Rating Rule. The catamarans and trimarans in the event will sail under the auspices of the St. Maarten Multihull Handicap System. The half-dozen boats thus far entered in the Serious Fun Class will also sail using the CSA Rating Rule (with or without spinnakers).

Finally, the Lottery Class—for live aboard and/or heavy-displacement cruising boats or those sailors who want to enjoy the fun of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta without having a full CSA Rating—will race around short, easy courses under a modified CSA Rating Rule. To make things even more interesting for this group, every boat’s rating will be adjusted or modified each day according to their results or performance during the previous day’s racing.

The goal, as in every St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, is to make the 'playing field' as level as possible for every boat, and to make the sailing and competition as 'seriously fun' as ever.

www.heinekenregatta.com.