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The fleet jockeys for podium positions on penultimate day of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

by St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 7 Mar 2020 22:46 PDT 5-8 March 2020
40th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta © Laurens Morel /

There comes a point in every regatta, after several races have been recorded and the top contenders have begun to establish their supremacy, when the competition becomes especially critical. For the crews jockeying for the podium, it's time to put it on the line and make their move, hopefully up the rankings, though that's not necessarily always the case. For the 40th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, today's third day of competition, with a pair of races scheduled for the event's 17 major classes, was a huge opportunity to either put up...or not.

It was, as racing sailors like to say, "Moving Day."

From a starting circle off Cole Bay, Race Committee Boat A sent the two CSA Ocean Racing classes and the Multihull 1 division on a pair of 14.2-nautical-mile races around Pelican Rock with a finish in Simpson Bay. CSA Divisions 1-4 and the two CSA Sportboat classes competed in two slightly shorter 10.4-nautical-mile contests that also wrapped up in Simpson Bay.

In the meantime, setting up in Simpson Bay, Race Committee Boat B directed the CSA 5 and Multihull 2 classes, and the Bareboat 1-4 fleets on two races: a 10.6-nautical-miler along the island's south shore, followed by a 17.1-nautical-miler to a mark off Marigot and back. The Island Time class also sailed the round-trip course to Marigot.

The Multihull 2 class started things off with a familiar storyline: the Puerto Rico-based Leopard 50, George Coutu's La Novia, and St. Maarten's own Ian Martin's Leopard 47, Spellbound, were once again at the front of the pack. And the song remained the same in CSA 5, as James Barker's X-402, MYXY, and Jeremi Jablonski's Hanse 43, Avanti, once again led the way at the top mark.

Then things devolved from exciting to chaotic.

That's because the Russian CSA 5 entry Cristoforo inadvertently picked up that first mark, an inflatable buoy, and began sailing away with it. Several boats close astern just rounded it anyway, while the race committee leapt into action, hailing the fleet via VHF-radio and instructing a mark boat to go on station where the turning buoy was originally set. Eventually, the mark was reset and order was restored to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta universe.

Meanwhile, the morning's early showers gave way to clearing skies and fresh breeze topping off in the high teens. The new wind brought lumpy, confused seas, keeping everyone on their toes. And while all this was happening, the big Ocean Racing yachts came screaming downwind through Simpson Bay to the finish line of their race. It was, as the saying goes, all on.

But about that Moving Day.

The Ocean Racing 1 class began the day with a tie for the top spot between two very different entrants, the Volvo 70 I Love Poland, formerly known as Puma, and the extremely well-sailed Cookson 50, with a hailing port of Sydney, Australia. With a pair of bullets on Saturday, the Aussies extended their lead over the Polish crew, who nevertheless remained within striking distance after recording two second-place finishes.

The yachts in the CSA 1 Sportboat division may include some of the smallest entrants in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, but they also deliver some of most thrilling competition. Local ringer Ian Hope Ross's Melges 32, Kick 'em Jenny 2, began Day 3 with a slim 1-point lead over a familiar Caribbean foe, Antiguan Bernie Evans-Wong's RP 37, TAZ. Unfortunately for the TAZ team, their movement was in the very wrong direction, as their two fourth-place finishes dropped them to third in class, while Kick 'em Jenny 2 consolidated their lead with a solid 1-2 score line in the day's racing.

In CSA 3, all the momentum seemed to be on the side of Pamala Baldwin's J/122 Liquid after their dominant winning performance in Friday's round-the-island race, which put them in a tie with American Sam Talbot's J/111, Spike. But Liquid got, well, spiked today, as they finished second in both races to Talbot's team, who maintain a slender two-point lead over the Antiguans with a final day of racing ahead.

A mere two points separated the top three contenders in CSA 4 as the day began—Jordan Mindich's J/105, Solstice; Patrick Bernier's Dufour 34, Speedy Nemo; and Raphael Magras's X-Yachts 34, Maëlia CEPAC Antilles. With a fourth and a third, however, Speedy Nemo was speeding in the wrong direction, sliding into fourth, while Solstice moved into commanding position at the top of the class with a pair of victories.

Finally, the Island Time class may be composed of laid-back cruisers, but don't tell that to the sailors when the countdown to their starts is ticking down and it's time to go racing. Yes, there may be biminis over some cockpits, and wind generators whirring over others, but it doesn't make matters any less competitive. Robbie Ferron's Nonsuch 33, Bunglebird, and Island Time class founder Hank Schmitt's Swan 48, Avocation, have had quite the duel in the regatta thus far, though it was Jason Calianos's Bavaria Cruiser 45, Parceira, moving across the finish line first today. Even so, thanks to Avocation's fourth in the day's racing, Bunglebird's third was enough to keep them atop the leader board.

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