The countdown to competition is underway for the 33rd annual running of the world renowned St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The 2013 event, including the Gill Commodore's Cup, the pre-regatta warm-up series for the all-out racing classes, is this year scheduled from February 28-March 3. The entry list is growing daily, with an intriguing fleet of seasoned St. Maarten Heineken Regatta racers coupled with a fresh group of first-time contestants preparing to challenge the established veterans on the blue waters of the Caribbean.
The Gill Commadore Cup was held in perfect sailing conditions off St. Maarten as a warm up for the racing class boats before the start of the 32nd Heineken Regatta.
The sailors themselves are only part of the emerging storylines. So, too, are the boats aboard which they will compete. The Melges 24 and Melges 32 sport boats will be well represented. As will the popular J/Boat line. In the multihull classes, the sleek Gunboat catamaran division is shaping up to be the strongest in years, with at least a half-dozen entries. In the Grand Prix echelon, a powerful 90-footer capable of 35-knot speeds is currently the fleet's 'scratch boat' as the largest in the fleet. On the other end of the size spectrum, a brand-new class of 20-foot one-designs available for charter-the Heineken Light Inshore Class-will open the door for a new breed of regatta racer.
Among the familiar St. Maarten Heineken Regatta faces are many sailors who have found great success and podium finishes in past events. At the very top of the list is six-time regatta racer Richard Wesslund, skipper of the J/120, El Ocaso. Last year, Wesslund and his crew won not only the most competitive division in the fleet, CSA 4, they also received the event's top prize, the St. Maarten Cup, awarded to the Most Worthy Performance Overall. Wesslund vowed to be back, and time will tell if he's able to match his lofty achievement from 2012.
Other returning vets include Puerto Rico's Sergio Sagramoso and Jaime Torres, who will be sailing the J/122, Lazy Dog, and the Melges 32, Smile and Wave, respectively. Local sailors Andrea Scarabelli and Frits Bus will once again be mixing it up for top honors in their consistently competitive Melges 24s, Budget Marine/GILL and Team Island Water World. In the multihull fleet, Nils Erickson will return to tear around the course on his Formula 40 catamaran, Soma. And the regatta just wouldn't be the same without the stately presence of Philip Walwyn's stately, gaff-rigged 12-Meter, Kate.
While Kate is a contemporary classic, the largest entry so far, Lacombe Didier's Welbourne 90, Med Spirit, is a modern rocket ship and one of the many boats that will be competing off St. Maarten for the first time. One of the world's fastest monohulls, Med Spirit is fresh from a fourth-place result in last fall's Middle Sea Race in Europe and a first overall as fastest finisher in the recently completed transatlantic ARC Race. Med Spirit flew across the Atlantic in just 11 days. Built in Australia in 2003, and formerly called BOLS, the Super Maxi has been a familiar presence on racecourses around the planet, and will be a striking visage during the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in her Caribbean debut.
But the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta isn't just for big boats. And this year race organizers have added a new wrinkle to the racing. A fleet of nine Jeanneau SunFast 20s is available for charter in the new, innovative Heineken Light Inshore Class. The format couldn't be simpler: three crew, four days of racing, no spinnakers, inshore courses...and all for the incredibly reasonable cost of $700. Competing in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has never been easier or more affordable. For more information contact fleet organizer Cary Byerley via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, yes, the clock to the best racing in the Caribbean is once again ticking. Will you be there?
For over three decades, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has showcased the top boats and sailing in the Caribbean, and has become equally famous for its world-class slate of parties and musical entertainment. 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. For full information on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, visit www.heinekenregatta.com!Heineken_Regatta.