The breeze was back to traditional tradewinds, allowing the next generation to bring the energy and take some wins!
March 3, 2023 – Simpson Bay, St Maarten – The presence of more than 1000 competitors plus families, friends and supporters at the 43rd St Maarten Heineken Regatta is creating a stir not only onshore, but also on the water, as today’s racing took most of the sailors over to the French side of the island. With the Regatta Village located on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten in and around Simpson Bay, the early morning streets are busy with participants enjoying the local bakeries, cafes, and shops for pre-race provisions.
Today saw the majority of the fleet converging off the coast of Saint Martin for racing, following PRO Mark Townsend’s decision to move the famous Round the Island race to Saturday to take advantage of the increasing wind forecast over the week. Spectators gathered on the beaches along the south coast of the island to watch the racing, which was easily visible from the top of Fort Louis above Marigot, the capitol of French Saint Martin.
With a forecast of 12-15 knots, today’s winds proved quite variable with some telling shifts to test the fleets. A long course set for the VO65s and VO70s in CSA Class 1 and the fastest beasts in CSA 2 sent them first to Table Rock on the southeast of the island. Navigators then had to choose whether to take the northern or southern route around the island to get to their turning point at Blowing Rock, located in the Anguilla Channel. Overly keen to get started, Team JAJO was OCS, and forced I Love Poland and Wind Whisper across early – all had to turn back to restart. Despite this, it was I Love Poland who won first, with Wind Whisper in second and Ambersail2 third.
While there were some raised voices heard on the start line of the Ocean Racer fleet, by contrast, the team on Liquid maintained a quietly efficient boat, ensuring their highly focused team was concentrating purely on the job at hand. And it certainly paid off. Despite nearly losing their foredeck Ryan Tonge overboard at one point, the team thought they had done well in the final race, but considered they might be in second or third place in the earlier two races. “We debriefed on board between races, looking at the mistakes which we thought had cost us the lead,” said skipper Jules Mitchell. “It was only when we got to the dock we realized we had got three bullets.”
Owner Pamala Baldwin was beaming with delight and reckons her youth team on J-122 Liquid to be “the best yet” under the tutorship of newly appointed skipper Jules Mitchell, who leads the team of 17-25-year-old Antiguan talents. “Jules is the most switched-on skipper I’ve ever had,” says Pamala. “He uses his head and has good risk management.” This latter skill is critically important with the team made up of young, up-and-coming sailors hand-picked from the Sailing Academy in Antigua. Having learned to sail first in dinghies and then on a Cork 1720, Jules says the opportunity to race at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is critical for their development. “This is the perfect platform to springboard onto the international race circuit and onto bigger boats,” says Jules.
Pamala has spent the last seven years actively assisting talented and ambitious young sailors to get a foothold not only into racing but into working in the industry or becoming pro sailors. Many of the team are also high achievers in other sports; Jamie Robinson JR is a basketball player and Ryan Tonge is part of the volleyball team for Antigua. He is also a farmer and shepherd to his herd of 23 goats. The irony of having a goat herder on board is not lost on Pamala, who also laughs about the history behind Liquid. “When I bought this J-122 it was previously known as Lost Horizon, a race-winning boat owned by Jamie Dobson, and famous for its ‘geriatric crew’. Now it’s known for all the talented youth on board,” she says.
Today’s fast and furious course racing certainly paid off for Jules and his crew. “We’re young so we can move a lot quicker than some of those old dogs,” he says. “The race stops when everyone gets tired; so we’re going to be quicker on all those hoists and drops today.” There may be some old dogs licking their wounds at the bar tonight!
For the other fleets, it was pretty much a Veuve Clicquot champagne sailing day, with the big cats heading out to Marigot Light, and the smaller catamaran fleets scorching through the waters between Simpson Bay and Marigot.
Youth helm Jordan Pieterse on IGY Racing (Franny) said despite facing tough competition in CSA 7, she was pleased with their performance overall. “We got a pretty good start right by the committee boat, and kept up well,” she says. “I was pretty happy. It was quite an adrenaline rush. It happens every time. We had a little trouble on one of the gybes, but we sorted it out quickly.”
The Diam fleet saw the combined teacher and student team from the Association Sportive du College Mont Accords get top marks for their performance today, coming third overall after three fast races. Getting towards the top of this class is no mean feat, as the AS MDA Diam is raced each day with a different pair of youngsters hanging out beside their sports teacher Alain Pansiot-Villon.
“We’re really delighted, as we haven’t been able to do any training,” he says, explaining that the school is hiring this Diam, but hoping to gain sponsorship to enable them to buy their own boat. Crew Merlin Guerrier was all grins. “I love the speed and the feeling of being on the water,” he said.
Back ashore, salty, sun-tanned and searching for cold liquid refreshments and fresh and spicy Caribbean food from vendors, the Regatta Village filled up for the nightly prize-giving, hosted by Regatta Radio DJ Dr. Soc and Marketing Director Meg Reilly. Tonight’s music at the Regatta includes DJ Prince, Kenyo Baly, DJ EM & What the Funk with the after party Green Zone at the Moonbar featuring Walshy Fire (of Major Lazer).
With Saturday now the date for the epic St. Maarten Round the Island race, many will be taking to the heights at Elev8 tomorrow for the Green Zone day party starting at 1 PM for the perfect point on the island to view the racing and enjoy some Serious Fun!
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Celebrating 43 years, this Regatta just keeps getting better, four days of world-class racing with some of the world’s most seasoned sailors, hailing from over 25 countries. This is genuinely a Regatta for everyone, including professional teams sailing Maxis, Monohulls, and Performance Multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered Bareboats to live-aboard families cruising the Caribbean. Crystal clear waters and cooling northeast trade winds give the pristine conditions for spectacular racing just off the coast of St. Maarten. This event is your bucket list must-do! Come and enjoy life in the Caribbean; come for some Serious Fun from March 2-5, 2023!
For complete information on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including results, photos, videos, party and band information, and much, much more, visit: www.heinekenregatta.com.