The countdown to racing in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta continues. In just over a week's time, dozens of yachts and hundreds of competitors will assemble in the waters off St. Maarten for the 34th annual running of the regatta.
34th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
To kick off the action on March 6, over 40 spinnaker-flying race boats will set sail in the Gill Commodore's Cup, the traditional warm-up series sponsored by Gill, the regatta's official technical apparel supplier. Then, on March 7, the main event - the three-day St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - will commence.
'Racing on the waters of St. Maarten in early March...what's not to love about that?' said David Pritchard of Gill North America, the sponsor of the event. 'Gill NA is proud to once again sponsor the Gill Commodore's Cup, a warm-up and tuning day prior to the start of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. 'Please stop by the Gill booth or visit our retail partner, Budget Marine, and check out the technical ranges, including our new Race Collection and UV 'HR 2014' branded kit.'
Measuring in at nearly 90-feet, the largest boat in this year's fleet is British magnate Sir Frank Chapman's Oyster 885, Clare, representing the venerable Royal Thames Yacht Club. Another formidable entrant from the United Kingdom, the 72-foot ketch-rigged Zenara, designed by Robert Clark and built in 1972, will join Clare on the starting line, as will countryman John Wilson and Idea of London, a 78-footer designed by Reichel/Pugh.
Another powerful offshore racer is Cuba Libre - coincidentally, when she competed in the 1993-94 Whitbread Round the World Race with an all-female crew, her name was Heineken. The Bruce Farr-designed 64-footer is now under the command of another British team who are veterans of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and they hope to make their mark beginning with the Gill Commodore's Cup.
34th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - 2014 St.Maarten Heineken Regatta
Speaking of all-women crews, this year's St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will feature at least one: Sophie Olivaud's J/109, Albacor IV, from nearby St. Barths. And the popular J-Boat brand is well represented in the fleet, with Robert Armstrong's J/100, Bad Girl; Richard Wesslund's J/120, El Ocaso; Jim Madden's J/125, Stark Raving Mad IV; and Peter Lewis's J/105, Whistler, all slated to race in St. Maarten this year.
As always, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and Gill Commodore's Cup will showcase some of the top boats and sailors from the Caribbean, including local St. Maarten favorite Ian Hope-Ross, aboard the Melges 32, Kick 'em Jenny, and a pair of well-sailed yachts from Antigua, Bernie Evan-Wong's Mumm 36, High Tension, and Patrick Halloran's Beneteau First 40.7, Caipirinha.
All of those yachts will be on the lookout for Otra Vez, a Ker 43 from Houston, Texas, that's skippered by William Coates. Team Otra Vez has moved up through the ranks, previously sailing a Beneteau First 36.7 and then a J/122, which were also called Otra Vez. In fact, in 2011 aboard the J/122, the crew was the CSA 5 class champion. But their new boat, built by the highly respected Salthouse yard in New Zealand, will definitely be the quickest of them all, and it will be interesting to see how the team fares with their fresh ride.
Gill's David Pritchard noted that there's extra incentive for this year's top boat in the Gill Commodore's Cup. 'Keep in mind the overall winner of the day's racing will receive Gill UV shirts for the entire crew,' he said. 'Now we're talking Serious Fun!'
The Gill Commodore's Cup is one out of two pre events of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. On Tuesday March 4th the Budget Marine Match Racing will take place. This is an invitation only event, but a spectacular day of racing, which makes it particularly interesting for spectators. So much is going on; it's a full week of Serious Fun!
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.