Monday, March 1, 2010

Countdown to the rock’n roll’n Caribbean classic

Simpson Bay, St. Maarten – With less than 4 days to go before the opening events at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (4-7 March) there’s a steady flow of yachts arriving in the marina including Tom and Dotty Hill’s custom Reichel/Pugh 75 – Titan 15. Final preparations are well underway and entries to this 30th anniversary spectacular have already exceeded numbers from last year.

The bareboat charter fleet is extremely buoyant with over 100 including a high contingent of Beneteau and Jenneau yachts making up the bulk of the fleet. There’ll certainly be no lack of top ranked competition in this fleet either with the likes of Margriet Matthijsse – Dutch, double Europe Olympic silver medallist – who will be racing with her team aboard a Beneteau Oceanis 473 Heineken Rotterdam (Monet II), among the notable entries. The big boat line-up is exceptionally strong too with the rare opportunity to see Tom and Dotty Hill’s new custom Reichel/Pugh 75 – Titan 15 up against George David’s Reichel/Pugh 90 – Rambler, and Irvin Laidlaw’s Wally 82 Highland Fling, and probably in the same class as Roberto Galperti’s Swan 90 White Lie, Patrick Adams’ Swan 100 Varsovie, Peter Harrison’s Farr 115 Sojana, and Christopher Besser’s Swan 80 Team Selene.

These seven large boats represent an unusually strong fleet for recent regattas with three of them (Titan 15, Highland Fling and Rambler) highly comparable new boats incorporating the latest trends in high technology, which should make for some interesting racing. Also, Bill Alcott – an avid campaigner whose spirited effort is always appreciated in the Caribbean – will make a welcome return this year with the super-hot crew aboard his Andrews 68 – Equation.

Other interesting entries to keep an eye on include Clay Deutsch’s chartered canting-keeled Farr/Cookson 50 Privateer, and Richard Matthews’ Humphries One-Off design Oystercatcher XXVI. Given the right conditions, either of these boats could produce some sparkling results. Matthews chatting about what draws him from the UK to this particular regatta said: “I have been a fairly regular participant in the Heineken Regatta, Rolex, BVI and Antigua Sailing Week for the last 20 years as they are a great way to escape the UK winter… Most of the Heineken fleet will probably be charter yachts but there is still some excellent Class 1 and 2 racing, with great courses which we are all looking forward to.”

A solid group is forming to make Class 3 interesting including Kip Curren’s Swan 56 Clover III which is likely to be fighting it out with Stefan Lehnert’s Passion 4C (Turner 56), the Spanish 55 ft X Yacht Reserva de Higueron, Bernard Laurent’s Swan 62 Schider, and the 63ft Judel Vrolijk Stickey Toffee, to name a few.

Guaranteed close racing is also expected in the next class down with a bevy of Beneteau 40.7s such as Toucan, Spirit of Athens, Past the Mark, Lancelot, Elandra and Coyote up against a selection of highly rated A 40s including Malachite, Black Sheep, the well prepared El Ocasso (J/120), and the likely entry of Lost Horizon (J/122).

Smaller boats they may be, but there will be no shortage of strong competition among the three local Melges 24s whose mission it is to beat St Croix-based Bad Girl, the J/100 that, up to now, has consistently managed to out-perform them. Other hot locals include Ian Hope Ross with his Beneteau 36.7 Kick Em Jenny, and St Barth’s entry Raymond Magras with his Dufour 34 Speedy Nemo.

Arguably the newest boats at the regatta, and making a Caribbean debut, will be the SC37 Team Optimix/AEZ – one of the newest, highly regarded generation of Santa Cruz boats.

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta race schedule kicks off at 1000 next Tuesday, 2 March with the ISAF-sanctioned Grade 5 Budget Marine Match Racing Cup. Peter Isler, Gavin Brady, and Peter Holmberg – three of the world’s most respected match racing skipper – will be among the eight-strong team, racing for cash prizes totalling $10,000.

The Gill Commodore’s Cup on Thursday 4 March is proving a popular option with over 40 entries already signed up. This one-day, windward/leeward format, on a course two miles offshore, is used by many as the perfect warm up to the three-day Heineken Regatta series. After racing there’s a special welcoming party at Port de Plaisance giving competitors and visitors to the island a chance to experience the first of many stimulating Caribbean parties. First up, in the line-up of legendary performances planned for the regatta is “Voices of Classic Rock”, an all star ensemble comprising the original lead singers from among the most iconic classic rock acts of the 1980s including Loverboy’s Mike Reno, Toto’s Bobby Kimball, John Cafferty of John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, and Tommy Tutone.

The first race of the Heineken Regatta series is on Friday, 5 March, starting just off Simpson Bay on a course that will take most of the fleet around the Island to Great Bay. After another night of partying, most classes race from Simpson Bay on the Saturday but this time to Marigot.

The final day of racing is from Marigot back to Simpson Bay where the prizegiving ceremony will take place. The iconic Caribbean beach party atmosphere where competitors will be able to relax and dance with a cool Heineken in hand, will be enhanced by the presence of International Reggae superstar Maxi Priest and his band who promises an evening filled with classic hits of the last three decades.

END For full information on the Gill Commodore’s Cup, Budget Marine Match Racing, and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including entry lists, entry forms and news, visit