March 5, 2022 — Simpson Bay, St. Maarten — The penultimate day of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta brought on the breeze and some serious action on the water. When you see reefed mainsails throughout the fleet during the starting sequence, you know the day is going to be a big one!
On the first downwind leg for CSA 6 & 7, a couple of bright red kites got redlined; one decapitated and the other a relatively clean halyard blow. These losses translated into wins for competitive teams, who turned the others’ misfortune into their fortune as they forged ahead in heavy breeze.
In CSA 7, J111 Spike’s spinnaker burst caused them to take 5th place and drop down to third place overall, which let J122 Liquid slide into first place in the current standings. Team L’Esperance took a first in CSA 6 Race 1 today, despite having their own spinnaker malfunctions, as close competitor Rebel lost a kite and was also racing on only a jib for a bit themselves.
“Sailing with guys like Bobby Velasquez, having Patrick from Antigua that came over to sail with us as a tactician, and having guys that have been sailing together for such a long time is definitely an advantage. Especially with the courses that we run and the decisions that we make,” said Tadzio Bervoets of team L’Esperance, who is currently leading CSA6 overall. “I look forward to sailing tomorrow, I think we have a podium, but of course we are gunning for first place.”
Gear losses usually means that teams are pushing the limits, which ultimately shows there is some tough competition out there. Team Liquid reports seeing gusts of up to 30 knots today and they may regret leaving their smaller kites back at home in Antigua. Tomorrow is forecasted to be even bigger breeze and swells overall — lows of 20 knots and highs of 30 — so the competitive team’s only option is FULL SEND MODE!!
A few boats in CSA1 had some setbacks of their own, in the form of tactical losses on the race course. Race committee made today’s long 40 NM course for the fleet a navigator’s choice with an ambiguous course of Table Rock near St. Barths over to Blowing Rock at Anguilla — leaving it to the navigator to choose which way to go around St. Maarten.
“Over the top of the island paid off. I think it was slightly better angles and about a mile shorter by the routing I did,” said Race Director, Mark Townsend. “When I was watching on AIS, I think Leopard3 was going around Blowing Rock when the southern route boats were just passing Simpson Bay.”
Several DNFs across the fleet indicated it was a tough day for some teams. While a couple of spinnakers were lost and some suffered other gear failures, those pale in comparison to the entire stick coming down on Suki. Luckily no one was injured when the mast came down on the Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 — so much for a relaxing Island Time class! The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard and Marines were quick to come in and assist, bringing part of the rig back to shore as today’s fresh catch.
Not all was lost on the race course. Some teams excelled in the big breeze, such as The Blue Peter in the Island Time Class, who had their best day of racing so far! “After two days of racing, the team is really coming together. Mat’s sail choices were on point for the higher winds. Proud of how both the team and boat performed today,” shared Brian Weber, crew member onboard Mat Barker’s 1930 classic yacht The Blue Peter.
Tomorrow is the final day of racing, which will be the last chance for teams to make gains on the competition. CSA8, Island Time, and Multihull 3 all currently have ties for first places overall, so it all comes down to the last day, which is forecasted to be the biggest one yet! For complete results of the expansive fleet, visit www.yachtscoring.com. Follow @stmaartenheinekenregatta on Instagram and Facebook for all of the action shots on and off the water.