Holmberg successfully defends his title
Peter Holmberg has won the Budget Marine Match Racing Cup – the opening event at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta for the second year in succession.
The St Thomas-based former America's Cup helmsman and his all-star team including Ben Beer and Maurice Kurg in this ISAF-sanctioned Grade 5 event was up against the likes of Gavin Brady and Peter Isler. Racing identical non-spinnaker, Jeanneau SunFast 20s supplied by Lagoon Sailboat Rentals, Holmberg won two races in the best of three final against Gavin Brady and in doing so secured the US5,000 dollar top prize. Brady in second place overall was awarded US3,000 dollars, while Peter Isler, who enjoyed an interesting petit final against Chris Nesbit and his ‘amateur’ team from San Diego took third overall and a prize of US1,000 dollars.
Chatting about the racing as he stepped ashore at Sint Maarten Yacht Club this afternoon Holmberg summed up the extremely well organised event: “Nice, eh. It’s a fun event but we always get serious as soon as the start gun’s fired. Gavin is a fun guy to race against and we had some good, close racing out there. I have a good team with me and we work together really well. It’s a great event and we like to support it because it has really raised the interest of the regatta. We’ll certainly be back next year.”
Brady, racing with Marc Plaxton and Tucker Thompson gave it a good shot in the finals. They won the start of the first race in the extremely shifty winds, and had control up to the closing stages of the second beat but when the teams split tacked, and the wind temporarily dropped the race effectively started again. Holmberg however, positioned himself over to the right just in time for the wind to fill in from that side of the course and from here on in, led the race to the finish with a 24-second lead.
In the second, and what turned out to be the closing race of the final, Holmberg won the start and led a close battle keeping careful cover on his opponent. Brady reeled in Holmberg on the last run to the finish but it was too late and Brady had to settle for another second place, this time with just an eight second deficit.
Plaxton talking about the racing said Holmberg sailed a better final: “Basically they were just a superior, all round team and although Brady sailed like a total pro and did a phenomenal job he had a crew who’d never sailed together before except for half a day’s practice yesterday. Racing against the likes of Holmberg who has been sailing together with his team for 20 years, was a hard one to match, so hats off to him. They out-sailed us and totally deserved the victory.”
The race of the day had to go to Chris Nesbit and his amateur team who had a dream win against two-times America’s Cup winner Isler in the first race of the petit finals. Nesbit, who has a career in real estates and has only really been on the match racing circuit for the last year or so, sailed a near perfect first beat and after two rounds had extended his lead at the finish to 23 seconds over Isler. Isler praising Nesbit’s performance said: “Chris Nesbit and team sailed really well. I know they’ve been focussing on match racing for the last year or so and been doing a few Grade 2 and Grade 3 events so they clearly have what it takes now.”
With one loss under his belt, Isler and team upped their game and went on to win the last two races. “That felt really good,” commented Isler. “It’s always rewarding to enjoy the fun part of match racing which is to come from behind with two straight wins.”
Nesbit commenting on his win said: “It was an awesome day’s racing and having the chance to race against Isler and take a race win. Sadly we have to go back to work tomorrow so won’t be competing in the Heineken regatta but hopefully we’ll be back next year.”
In fifth place overall was Colin Rathbun from the British Virgin Islands, while Marc Fitzgerald who was second in the Budget Marine Match Racing Cup last year had to settle for sixth overall but admitted he mucked up with the timing of the event thinking it was taking place on Wednesday. “I’d actually lined up match racing pro Andy Beadsworth to take the helm this year but ended up having to do it myself again. Thankfully it’s really enjoyable, the boats are great to sail because you can really throw them around, and I have a good, fun crew. It’s also such a privilege to be able to sail against some real top ranked pros. It’s a great event and not to be missed.”
The next big event in the run up to the 30th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is the Gill Commodore’s Cup which takes place on Thursday 4 March. This simple, one-day, windward/leeward format event is fast becoming a popular choice for race teams keen to tune up and ‘iron out the kinks’ before the start of the main regatta, and so far there’s a healthy line-up of 48 entries.
1st Peter Holmberg
2nd Gavin Brady
3rd Peter Isler
4th Chris Nesbit
5th Colin Rathbun
6th Marc Fitzgerald
7th Jakub Pawluk
8th Eugeny Nikiforov