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J/122 and J/105s Collect Lots of Silverware!
(Simpson Bay, St. Maarten)- The 37-square-mile island of St. Maarten was first settled by the Arawaks and was discovered by Christopher Columbus on behalf of Spain in 1493. Columbus sighted the island on November 11th, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours, and so named the island after him. For the next 150 years the island was passed between Holland, England, France and Spain. The old stone forts that guard many of the island’s inlets are proof of the island’s turbulent past. In 1648, St. Maarten was peacefully divided between The Netherlands and France, and today is the smallest landmass in the world to be shared by two sovereign nations.
Continuing in the traditions of its seafaring heritage, the leadership on the island concluded they should invite yachtsmen from the Caribbean to enjoy their fun-loving approach to life and created the first St Maarten Regatta in 1980. Now in its 39th year, the notion of having “Serious Fun” has evolved into the largest regatta on the winter Caribbean racing circuit- the wildly successful Heineken St. Maarten Regatta, sailed off Simpson Bay.
The 2019 edition may be remembered as the “best ever” by the 110 teams and 1,500+ sailors; with simply amazing weather conditions all four days of the regatta from February 28th to March 3rd, Thursday to Sunday. All four days were marked by blazing sun, 10-20 kt tradewinds, 3-6 ft seas, and temperatures hovering in the low 80s. Basically, postcard perfect, Chamber of Commerce sailing conditions.
Several J/Crews participated in this year’s event. The J/105s trounced their CSA 4 Racing class while the J/122s also pushed everyone hard in CSA 3 Racing class to collect more silverware for their trophy rooms! Following are the daily reports that outline the Serious Fun and hot racing action each day.
Day 1- Almost Perfect Sailing?
With near perfect conditions, the start of the regatta saw the fleet streaming out through the bridge in time for the race starts. Boats set their sails as they headed towards the three separate start areas. The wind, which had been fairly steady at 14 knots, piped up, sending some 20 knot gusts through the fleet, making for some white knuckle excitement amongst the crews.
In Marigot Bay, the ORC Performance fleet, along with the CSA classes 1, 2 and 3 had been set a windward-leeward course, which led to some extremely close competitive racing. A unique feature of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is that all classes finish at the Heineken mark, close to the famous lifting bridge into the lagoon and the Port de Plaisance Marina where the majority of the boats are moored. By 3pm, the boats were lining up to get through the bridge, with the customary celebrations, dancing and fancy dress to entertain the crowds, many with a welcome cold Heineken in hand!
After recuperating from the RORC Caribbean 600 Race, the J/145 KATARA, skippered by Roger Gatewood from St Petersburg, FL, managed a solid performance on the opening day in the seven-boat CSA 2 Racing class. His largely Tampa Bay crew pulled off a 3rd and 4th to be sitting in third place.
Similarly, Pam Baldwin’s J/122 LIQUID from Antigua started off somewhat emphatically with a bullet in their first race of the eight-boat CSA 3 Racing class. That opening gambit was followed up by a 4th in race two to close the day sitting in third position on the podium sitting just one point from first place.
The largest class in the regatta was the fifteen-boat CSA 4 Racing class. Having such a large group of boats that ranged from 30 to 44 feet on the starting line made for some interesting (and harrowing) moments. Reveling in the conditions was the classic J/30 BLUE PETER/ CARIBBEAN ALLIANCE INSURANCE, skippered by the Antiguan duo of Tanner & Shari; their 2-2 for just 4 pts. However, their points total was matched by the Barbados team on the J/105 WHISTLER, skippered by Peter Lewis; technically leading their fleet with a 3-1 for 4 pts, too.
Perhaps the craziest scenario that one could imagine took place on Jordan Mindich’s J/105 SOLSTICE. After rounding the weather mark in 1st place boat-for-boat in the fleet, they set the spinnaker, started to plane down a few waves, then lost their steering. Consequently, after spinning out, broaching, and getting the spinnaker down, they discovered their steering cable broke. A quick “fix” was to insert the aluminum emergency tiller in place at the top of the rudder shaft and keep racing! Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to steer a J/105 with a 3 foot tiller on a poorly-balanced rudder in big seas and big breeze. SOLSTICE salvaged a 7th in the first race and, still sailing with the short tiller, could only manage an 8th in the second race when the winds were blowing into the low 20's.
Day 2- Best’est Day Ever?
Amazing, best day ever, champagne sailing, and wow, just wow, what a day! Those were just some of the words that were used to describe Friday’s Round the Island Race. For some it was serious sailing, and for others “Serious Fun”; but every sailor coming ashore after this epic race had a different story to tell, an unforgettable experience to recount, and a memory to savor forever.
The Round the Island Race is one of the highlights of the four-day event. For many, this race offers the first time to see the whole island from the unique perspective of the sea. For those who have sailed the regatta many times before, they know the excitement of a reaching start, the long beat up the channel between St. Maarten and Anguilla, and the challenges of the big Atlantic swell and choppy seas past Pelikan Rocks at the far eastern end of the island before the final 6.0nm leg to the Heineken finish line off Simpson Bay.
It’s a game of catch up, with the slowest boats starting first, while the super-fast Maxis and Ocean Racing class start last. With at least 25 nautical miles ahead, not counting the extra distance required as boats zig-zag up the beat, for many boats it was going to be an exhilarating, action packed ride, while for others it was a chance to relax, enjoy the sights and top up the tan.
Peter Lewis and his crew on the J/105 WHISTLER won CSA Class 4. “We got the best start, sped off, and never saw the others in our fleet again,” said Lewis. Nevertheless, Lewis was chased hard by the re-energized team on the J/105 SOLSTICE; Mindich’s crew produced a great performance, taking 2nd place for a J/105 sweep of the top two spots, finishing just 1 min 52 sec behind.
Meanwhile, the J/122s loved the Round Island Race, with Baldwin’s LIQUID taking third place to hang onto their 3rd position overall; they were a scant 4 sec back on corrected time from second place! Their stablemate, the J/122 EL OCASO sailed by TEAM SLOVAKIA also sailed fast to take fourth place just 45 secs behind on corrected.
Gatewood’s gorgeous J/145 KATARA again won the race on elapsed in CSA 2 Racing class, but could only manage a 4th on corrected. Despite soundly beating two XP44s and a First 47.7 by at least eight minutes elapsed, they could not correct out on handicap time over those boats optimized for the Caribbean circuit- all sailing with #3 jibs of 102% to 109% LPs. Later, the KATARA crew would lament that not getting rated with their 135% #2 cost them the series, e.g. an easy win!
Day 3- More Gorgeous Weather- Hallelujah!
Saturday’s racing saw some exciting starts and closely fought first beats. With a more easterly breeze, the fleet again enjoyed 10-20 kt winds and big seas all day.
The CSA 2, CSA 3 and CSA 4 fleets had two short races, setting off from Simpson Bay to beat up to a windward mark set just off Fort Willem.
In the CSA 2 Class, the “pecking order” was beginning to manifest itself and continue, coincidentally, for the last three races of the regatta. Winning every race boat-for-boat by at least 9-10 minutes was Gatewood’s J/145 KATARA. Having consigned themselves to on-the-water victory, the crew made the most of it and partied home to the Heineken finish line, collecting two more 4th places to end the day in 4th overall.
Loving the format for the two races and loving the conditions were the twin J/122s. The first race was shorter and took an hour elapsed, while the second was at least twice as long and took around two hours to complete. In the first race, the corrected time spread for the top four boats was a mere 54 secs. Taking third was Baldwin’s LIQUID with a time of 54:54, while just 2 secs back was TEAM SLOVAKIA’s EL CASO finishing with 54:56! In the second, much longer, race, Baldwin’s LIQUID team launched themselves into a big lead and never looked back, winning the race by nearly 2 minutes corrected time. That result put them into third overall with just one race left. TEAM SLOVAKIA EL OCASO missed third by just 6 secs; they could be seen later mumbling in their Heineken pints about how they had left at least 30 secs on the race track due to boathandling errors!
In CSA 4 Class, there was a significant reshuffling of the leaderboard after two boats sailed the wrong course, most notably the regatta leader, the J/105 WHISTLER. Sailing “lights out” was Mindich’s J/105 SOLSTICE, winning both races to vault up the ladder to second overall. Lewis’ WHISTLER was DSQ’d in the 5th race for rounding the wrong mark.
Day 4- Thrilling, Sparkling Finale!
On Sunday, the competitors were again greeted with the unforgettable memory of sparkling azure blue seas, sandy white beaches and windswept ragged rocks.
For the final day’s racing, Race Director Paul Miller and his team devised a format that would create a wall of sails as the boats streamed downwind to the Heineken finish marks. Using two different start areas, the slower boats set off first, with all the boats sailing to the same first windward mark, before heading different course lengths along the south coast and for the faster, classes, up the east coast of St. Maarten, then turning back past Pelikan Rocks on a long spinnaker leg to the finish.
“We set courses of differing lengths, which will get as many boats as possible spinnaker sailing together back towards the finish, creating an amazing and memorable visual image of boats heading back towards the airport and bridge,” said Paul Miller.
For many classes, this final race would prove crucial to the overall results. For some, their results had already ensured a place on the podium. With the 15-18 knot trade winds, nearly all the boats chose to close tack up the shore, with the shifting wind and choppy seas approaching the famous Pointe Blanche, providing plenty of opportunities to win or lose places.
CSA 4 class was won by Lewis’ J/105 WHISTLER who took the bullet in the final race to win the class overall. The skipper on SOLSTICE, Jordan Mindich commented, “it was a fun race against Peter’s team on WHISTLER. We rounded the Heineken Gate in the lead, expecting to win the final race, but a few crew errors on our part, and one last huge surf down a wave right at the finish by WHISTLER gave them the win by just 2 sec corrected. Congratulations to them, it was a well-deserved win overall.”
At the prize giving, Lewis’ WHISTLER was presented with the “Most Worthy Performance Overall” Trophy by the Minister of Tourism- Stuart Johnson. Needless to say, the WHISTLER crew was jubilant, as it was the first time ever to win the honor.
In a similar fashion, CSA 3 Racing class had a very tense final race for the top three leading boats. Baldwin’s J/122 LIQUID again stomped, crushing their class with an emphatic boat-for-boat win by 3 min 30 sec, believing they had won the final race as they savored their beers after the finish. However, that huge margin on elapsed time was not enough, as they later discovered they took second place by a mere 4 sec on corrected time. A bit frustrated they were! However, to add to their thrilling, anxious finale, that meant they were tied on points at 10 each with Scarlet Oyster; but won the tie-breaker to take the silver!
Meanwhile, Gatewood’s J/145 KATARA again won their class by over 4 min elapsed and, yet again, settled for fourth place to take fourth for the regatta in CSA 2 Racing class.
The Heineken St. Maarten Regatta delivered on its promise of four days of serious sailing, with upwind legs dousing the crews hiking on the rails with warm water from the waves breaking over them. Spectacular champagne sailing with roller coaster downwind legs, with a myriad of colorful spinnaker kites flying in the trade winds.
For the sailors, the adrenalin of achieving the perfect start, the tension of getting the tactics right, the physical challenges of racing to the max, and the relief and jubilation as the boat crossed the famous Heineken finish line were all part of the serious sailing experience.
And, as the crew celebrated their day on the water, there was the fun of the boats jostling to get through the lifting bridge, with music, on-board dancing, outrageous dressing up, with the cheers and dousing from water pistols aimed at the boats from the crowds observing the procession from the Sint Maarten Yacht Club. In the lagoon’s marinas, the crews cracked open ice cold Heineken and relaxed in the sun, chatted over the day’s activities before getting ready for the final night of Serious Fun.
Crews, families and friends savored the tasty offerings from local restaurants in the regatta village, sharing the banter with old friends and new, before the Regatta Village turned, yet again, into the best festival venue ever, with the massive stage set up for an outstanding line up of artists playing serious funk, Caribbean jam, hip hop to reggae, and the final night’s legendary sets from Shermanology, Orange Grove and The Jacksons.
It’s the combined mass of all these elements that make the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta a unique event attracting more than 1,500 sailors from 22 countries. The event has seen widespread praise, enthusiasm and overwhelming support for everyone involved, especially in the wake of recovery from the devastation incurred by Hurricane Irma. The most frequently used phrases heard from sailors during the week included, “a great day sailing”, “it’s the best”, “awesome” and “we’ve had an amazing time”. In other words, “Serious Fun”! Sailing photo credits- SaltyColours/ Laurens Morel
Social Media links:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/StMaartenHeinekenRegatta
Twitter – www.twitter.com/sxmheineken
Instagram – www.instagram.com/stmaartenheinekenregatta
YouTube – www.youtube.com/heinekenregatta
For more Heineken St Maarten Regatta sailing informationAdd to Flipboard Magazine.
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MOONSPLASH: EL ACLAMADO FESTIVAL DE MÚSICA A LA LUZ DE LA LUNA REGRESA EN MARZO A ANGUILLA
El evento organizado por el legendario Bankie Banx se realizará entre el 21 y 24 de marzo en Dune Preserve.
Luego de un año de ausencia por las tareas de reconstrucción de la isla luego del huracán Irma, el icónico encuentro musical volverá a convocar a reconocidos artistas del reggae, el rock y el rap durante cuatro noches extraordinarias en la legendaria Dune Preserve en Rendezvous Bay. El evento tendrá lugar entre el 21 y el 24 de marzo.
El año pasado, los amantes de la música y fanáticos de Anguilla recibieron una mala noticia. Por primera vez en 27 años, Bankie Banx - creador y productor de Moonsplash – debió suspender el festival debido a las tareas de reparación.
Este año, Moonsplash vuelve como la fiesta en la playa más atractiva del Caribe. Pensada para que coincida con la luna llena, la noche desplegará su magia en Bankie, recinto que funciona como bar de playa durante el día y se transforma en una vibrante disco cada noche. El ahora renovado espacio puede albergar hasta 1.000 visitantes.
En esta edición, el festival presentará dos celebraciones imperdibles: el cumpleaños número 80 de Sheriff Bob y el 40° aniversario de Third World and Friends. Robert Saidenberg (o “Sheriff Bob”) conoció a Bankie Banx a fines de los años ‘80 en un estudio de grabación en Nueva York. Bankie invitó a Sheriff a Anguilla y ese mismo verano comenzaron a preparar el primer Moonsplash. Este es un momento muy especial para el llamado Sheriff of Goodtimes, no solo porque estará celebrando su cumpleaños en la edición 2019 del Moonsplash sino también porque fue el protagonista del documental “The Sheriff of Goodtimes” que ganó el premio al mejor cortometraje documental en el Festival de Cine Big Apple.
Third World, los “embajadores del reggae”, es una de las bandas de reggae más antiguas conocida por fusionar elementos de R&B, funk, pop, rock, dancehall y rap. Con diez nominaciones a los premios Grammy y cuatro décadas de presencia en los rankings de música, la agrupación lanzará un nuevo álbum de estudio en la primavera de este año producido por Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, ganador en cuatro oportunidades de un premio Grammy e hijo menor del legendario Bob Marley
La actividad del viernes 22 de marzo comenzará a las 18:30 hs con la presencia de Funky Horns SXM en el escenario de la playa. A la noche y en el escenario principal actuarán Omari Banks y Mighty Diamonds.
El sábado 23 el evento iniciará a las 18:30 hs en el escenario de la playa con Orange Grove, la popular banda de Sint Maarten en cuya música encontramos reminiscencias de rock, hip hop y reggae, y la actuación de Sheriff and the Deputy que tocan folk tradicional, rock y música country.
Ese mismo día a la noche, en el escenario principal, será la celebración del 40° aniversario de The Third World junto con el creador del festival, Bankie Banx y True Intentions, la banda de reggae originaria de Anguilla con raíces en Dominica que sacude la escena local y regional.
El domingo 24 la cita es más temprano. Desde las 11:30 hs habrá presentaciones espontáneas de los miembros de Bankie Banx Moonsplash además de variadas y divertidas actividades programadas para ese día.