Along the southern shore of St. Maarten, under beautiful blue skies and with an ideal 15-18 knot east-southeast breeze coursing across the waters, 50 spinnaker-division boats in five classes set sail today in the 2014 Gill Commodore's Cup.
The 2014 Gill Commodore’s Cup was raced today in a fresh 15 to 18 knots of breeze. Forty-four boats competed and it was easy to tell who was just starting to sail for the season by the sail handling.
Sponsored by Gill North America, the manufacturer of top sailing gear and the regatta's official technical gear provider, the Gill Commodore's Cup serves as the tune-up series to the 34th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, which begins on Friday, March 7.
With the solid wind pressure kicking up a bouncy seaway, racing conditions were decidedly sporty and there was a wide range of skill and prowess displayed across the racecourse. For some crews, especially those shaking off the rust after a season's break from racing, spinnaker sets and douses were spectacular adventures.
In the first of the day's two races - the race committee set up traditional windward-leeward courses south of Simpson Bay and Little Bay - two Gill 4 boats, Whistler, a J/105, and Intuition, a Reflex 38, both went flying past the first downwind mark as their crews struggled to tame their kites. But they were just two of many competitors who were more than happy that the Gill Commodore's Cup was also a warm-up and practice day for the three-day main event.
On the other hand, many teams executed flawless maneuvers from start to finish, and those boats used the Gill Commodore's Cup to send a message to their competition that they'll be a handful to contend with in the days ahead. In Gill 1, after nailing a perfect start and jetting off to an early lead, Irvine Laidlaw's Highland Fling XII, with Caribbean sailing legend Peter Holmberg calling tactics, made a serious statement right from the get-go. Highland Fling XII went on to win both races in Gill 1 to win the class, followed by William Coates's well-sailed Ker 43, Otra Vez.
Stark Raving Mad in action during the 2014 Gill Commodores' Cup
In Gill 2, Jim Madden and his fellow Californians aboard the J/125, Stark Raving IV, also performed a pair of faultless starts, and in both contests Madden's men led their 10-boat division around the racecourse on elapsed time. But once the handicaps were applied, Frits Bus and his team aboard the Melges 24, Team Island Water World, was atop the standings in Gill 2, followed by another Melges 24, Andrea Scarabelli's Budget Marine/Gill, with Stark Raving Mad IV in third.
In Gill 3, another veteran of both the Gill Commodore's Cup and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - Richard Wesslund, skipper of the J/122, El Ocaso - proved that he's still a force to be reckoned with, sweeping the class easily with a pair of bullets. Close behind, however, with two second-place results, was the Beneteau First 40, Team Boston.
It was a very strong day for the J/Boats in the fleet, and that trend continued in Gill 4, where Robert Armstrong's J/100, Bad Girl, was the winner with firsts in both races. And second in Gill 4 was yet another 'J,' Jordan Mindich's J/105, Solstice.
Finally, in Gill 5 - the event's biggest fleet, with 14 entrants - Ross Appleby's Oyster Lightwave 48, Sailing Logic, was an unlikely but apt victor. Just over a month ago, competing in a regatta in Antigua, Sailing Logic was dismasted in the last race of the series. Since then, a new mast section was flown to the islands from the U.K., the damaged spar was repaired, and Sailing Logic found herself in the winner's circle after registering a first and a second in today's racing.
For over three decades, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has showcased the top boats and sailing-and has become equally famous for its world-class slate of parties and musical entertainment-in the Caribbean. Now recognized by sailors around the planet as one of the sailing world's best regattas, each year the event lives up to its worthy motto: Serious Fun.
Heineken Regatta website