Equation out of the equation
With easterly tradewinds continuing to rake the waters off the island of St Maarten, the big breeze and boisterous seas played the central role today during day two of the 32nd St Maarten Heineken Regatta. But the solid winds, gusting to 25 knots or more over certain portions of the racecourse, proved to be both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, the solid air pressure provided sporty, challenging, and ideal sailing conditions for the traditional day two race to Marigot, on the island’s French side, for most of the competitors in the St Maarten Heineken Regatta fleet. That was the plus side. However, the steady breezes also extracted a heavy toll, forcing the race committee to abandon a race that was well underway after one of the course marks drifted away, and also causing one of the fleet’s marquee competitors, the STP65 Equation to retire from not only the day’s racing, but also the remainder of the regatta, with rig damage.
First, the abandonment: On the Division A circle for the Multihull 1 and CSA 1-6 classes, race officer David Campbell-James designated separate courses for the larger and smaller divisions in his fleet. The Multihull 1 and CSA 1 and 2 divisions would sail point-to-point offshore contests on a counter-clockwise course around the islands. All three classes began their races on time and without incident.
For CSA 3-6, the plan was to sail two races on Saturday, the first a windward-leeward affair along the island’s southern shores, and afterwards, a point-to-point race from Simpson Bay. The four starts for the windward-leeward race again began faultlessly. However, on the second and final lap around the buoys, Campbell-James hailed the fleet via VHF radio to inform them that the race was abandoned.
“Unfortunately, the leeward mark decided it wanted to visit Anguilla,” said Campbell-James. “I think the wind got up a bit and unfortunately the chain was short. I’d rather lose the race than have a set of Mickey Mouse results. So we abandoned the race and started those four classes on to Marigot.”
During the lull in the action, Equation - the 2007 Sydney-Hobart Race winner, when she was Rosebud - radioed the race committee to inform then they were retiring from the race due to unspecified damage. Later, as the boat waited for the bridge to the Simpson Bay Lagoon to open, when asked what happened an Equation crewman said, “We just came off a wave…” and then pointed to the second spreader of the triple-spreader rig, which had sheared off some six inches inboard of the shrouds. As the boat can’t be repaired in time for Sunday’s final day of racing, in CSA 1, Equation is out of the equation.
When racing resumed for CSA 3-6, the action on the race to Marigot was fast and furious. After a short windward leg, the racers turned downwind and set spinnakers for a run to the island’s western point before tacking to a set of marks in the Anguilla Channel. Not every boat managed the maneuver successfully. One of the boats, the Melges 24 Budget Marine/Gill took off like the proverbial scalded cat after hoisting their kite. But when one crewman shouted, “Ease, ease, ease!” as a puff came rolling down the course the boat rounded up and a spectacular wipeout ensued. On a day when several protests were lodged throughout the fleet, it was one of many memorable close calls.
On the B Circle, for the CSA 7, Bareboat, Multihull 2, and Lottery Class divisions, the entire fleet sailed a single race from a starting line off Simpson Bay, around a set of buoys in the Anguilla Channel, with a finish off the alluring French town of Marigot.
“As on Friday,” said Campbell-James, “the sailing conditions were absolutely fantastic.”
With two days down and one to go, the cream is rising to the top in each of the event’s 15 respective classes. The following list of provisional winners was incomplete at press time, as protests were pending in several classes, including CSA 6, and Bareboat 2 and 6.
In CSA 1, with Equation’s retirement, the door opened wide for Ernesto Cortina’s Volvo 70 Gran Jotiti (ex-Telefonica Black), and the crew of the Farr-designed VO70, which contains many America’s Cup and round-the-world race veterans, took full advantage of the opportunity, winning Saturday’s race to take the lead in the four-boat class. In CSA 2, Bill and Carolyn Titus’s Swan 100 Virago was the victor for the second straight day.
After recovering from their 'crash' early in the race to Marigot, in CSA 3, Andrea Scarabelli’s Budget Marine/Gill recovered nicely to win today’s race, which puts the boat in a tie for first with another Melges 24, Frits Bus and Peter Houtzager’s Coors Light, which won on Friday. With three points apiece, the scene is set for a possible winner-take-all match race on the third and final day of racing.
Today’s winner in CSA 4 was Jordan Mindich’s J/125 Aunt Jessie. However, with a third today, to go along with a first yesterday, Richard Wesslund’s J/120 El Ocaso retained a comfortable lead atop the standings. So, too, did local legend Bobby Velasquez aboard his Beneteau 45 L’Esperance, who added today’s victory to yesterday’s second to hold his lock on the leader board in CSA 5.
As in CSA 3, 'Showdown Sunday' will pit very two different designs that were locked in a tie for first in CSA 7 on Saturday, Matt Brooks’s classic S&S yawl Dorade (with a first and a third) and Colin Percy’s Nonsuch 33 Antares (with a third and a first).
In Multihull 1, with their second win today in as many races, Peter Aschenbrenner’s Irens 63 trimaran Paradox maintains solid control of the class. Today’s winner in Multihull 2 was Robbie Ferron’s interestingly named Lagoon Team Organizational Reconstruction. With a second today, however, Dave Nelson’s Catana 471 Pas de Deux remains the class leader. In the Lottery Class, today’s winner was John Wolff’s Dufour 30 Classic Turquoise.
In the Bareboat classes, winners included Frederick Walters’ Team Kincsem (Bareboat 1), Marieke Poulie’s all-women-crew Something Hot (Bareboat 3); Jan Soderberg’s Oyster (Bareboat 4); and Tim Goebel’s and Neil Harvey’s Chillin’ The Most (Bareboat 5).