World-class sailboat racing, like that which takes place at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, is a dynamic sport, often pitting boats of different sizes and dimensions against each other on an oceanic 'playing field' of shifting winds and changing currents. To ensure that every boat has an equal chance of success - so that the liquid playing field is fair and level for all - race boats often compete under measurement rules that assign handicaps to each yacht. In the Caribbean, home to the planet's best sailing conditions, the highly respected Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) is the governing authority for yacht racing.
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
For the 34th running of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, scheduled for March 6-9, monohull racing will once again be scored by the well-established CSA Racing Rule. If you're planning on joining the action, and you haven't already secured a CSA measurement certificate, it's time to obtain one. The in-the-water measurement process is simple and straightforward, and can be done in several locations throughout the islands.
'You don't have to be a CSA member to get your CSA rating,' said Michele Korteweg, the Regatta Director for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. 'The important thing is to book the appointment for your measurement in advance. If you're sailing to the Caribbean and you know when you're arriving on the island of your destination, make your appointment today. That way, you can prepare well in advance of the regatta.'
CSA measurers are available in each of the following islands: Antigua, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Grenada, Guadeloupe, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Trinidad and Tobago. For contact information and complete details on the CSA rule, visit Caribbean Sailing. The site also has reports on preparing your yacht for measurement, optimizing your rating, and the safety requirements for Caribbean boats. It also details the necessary documents and specifications you can gather beforehand to streamline the procedure.
Alfred Koolen is the Chief Measurer for the CSA and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and he offered several tips for first-time participants. 'The process takes about two hours,' he said, though it may be somewhat longer for larger yachts. 'The measurer needs one member of the crew to help, a knowledgeable person who really knows the boat. If the boat has a lot of gear on it (like a cruising boat), the equipment can stay on board. If you take gear off the boat to go racing, you need to remove that gear for the measurement. If it's a (dedicated) racing boat, it needs to be emptied beforehand.'
Skippers should also have a dinghy or inflatable ready to assist the measurer in recording measurements of the hull. Once all the information is gathered, it's entered into the CSA computer program and a CSA rating certificate is produced for that specific vessel. It's then compared with the ratings of identical racing boats or similar racers in the CSA database. Finally, a handicap is assigned and, just prior to racing at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, classes will be organized by the race committee, comprised of boats of similar ratings.
While rating rules can sound complicated, in practice, they simplify scoring. Essentially, each yacht's handicap number is a 'time correction factor,' or TCF, which handicaps its elapsed time on the racecourse for each given race. Once the race is completed, the TCF is factored in to record the yacht's 'corrected time' for each race. The final scoring is determined using that corrected time.
Of course, monohulls aren't the only boats that race at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Catamarans and trimarans are also welcome, and compete in their own separate divisions. For 2014, a team of race-management experts including Stuart Knaggs, Alfred Koolen and Paul Miller of Regatta Guru has developed a new Multihull Ratings rule, which was conceived to adapt the popular Texel Rating system to the local requirements of multihull racing in the Caribbean. Like the CSA rule, this measurement system is also an in-water procedure. For full details, log on to Multihull Ratings.
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.