Superb sailing, point-to-point distance racing, classic round-the-buoys windward-leeward courses, perfect spinnaker sets, botched spinnaker douses, and even a busted halyard that ended the racing for one of the event's largest yachts just moments after it began: It was a wild day. And, when all was said and done, 211 boats that began racing this morning off Simpson Bay, on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, concluded a full day of action in Marigot, on the French shores.
On the Class A circle, there was also a big surprise right at the outset, when PRO David Campbell James sent the 'big boat' divisions - CSA1 and CSA2, and Multihull1 and Multihull2 - on a 26 mile race from a starting line south of Cole Bay to Marigot. A day after the clockwise round-the-island race, the rarely employed race course for day two took competitors on a counterclockwise spin along the north coast of St Maarten and down the Anguilla Channel before finishing inside Marigot Bay.
The Multihull1 class - also known as the Gunboat fleet - started the day's proceedings in 14-16 knots of breeze with a clean start clearly won by the Gunboat 62 Tribe, which was originally built by and for the company's founder, Peter Johnstone, who is sailing here aboard the boat.
Minutes later, in the Multihull2 class, Swedish sailor Calle Hennix - another builder sailing one of his own, sleek creations - crossed the starting line first aboard his SeaCart 26 trimaran. Nils Erickson on the Formula 40 Soma and the speedy Toro 34 cat, Team Design Catamaran, were close behind Hennix.
The Grand Prix monohulls in CSA1 were next in line. Aboard the RP52 Highland Fling XII, just moments before the start, one of the crew was hoisted aloft to address a rigging or sail issue, which may have been why the Ker 43 Otra Vez and the R/P 78 Idea of London were the first two boats across the starting line, with Highland Fling XII in third. Moments later, however, Idea's main halyard parted at what couldn't have been a more inopportune time and the boat was forced into an early retirement while her crew scrambled to control the yacht's huge mainsail.
After the first four Class A divisions were underway, Campbell James switched gears and set up a traditional windward-leeward course for CSA classes 3-9, respectively. Afterwards, these same divisions sailed a second point-to-point distance race to Marigot along St. Maarten's southern flank.
In the first of the two races, the spray was flying and there was plenty of drama when the boats came screaming down to the first leeward mark under spinnakers. Indeed, there were plenty of opportunities for gains and losses at each of the tight mark roundings. In CSA3, Jim Madden's Stark Raving Mad IV, flying a gigantic asymmetric kite off a long bowsprit, did a horizon job on her competitors, who were far behind and literally nowhere in sight. In CSA4, Richard Wesslund's J/122 El Ocaso, winner of Friday's kick-off race, was in a tight and unexpected duel with Polish skipper Przemyslaw Tarnacki's Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8, which led El Ocaso around the mark. It's been a good week for Tarnacki, who recorded a podium finish with a third place showing in the earlier Budget Marine Match Racing Cup.
Not everyone handled the pressure as well as El Ocaso and Quokka 8. In CSA6, Ian Martin's Lavranos 48 Adventure Sports Sailing had quite an adventure when the crew couldn't tame the spinnaker at the leeward mark and the boat careened past it and into the spectator fleet before regaining control. The Contest 42CS Beluga suffered a similar gaffe when its team had trouble dousing it's huge pink kite, which ended up in the drink astern. That's what sailors call "shrimping," and it's never a good thing.
Meanwhile, as many of the big boats in Class A headed east on their circuit of St Maarten, all the competitors on the Class B circle - including Multihull 4 and 5, the five Bareboat fleets and the three Lottery classes - went west, on a point-to-point race to Marigot. As with several of the CSA divisions, the Bareboats also sailed a second race on Saturday, with their encore racecourse set up in the Anguilla Channel.
The Channel was dotted with sails all afternoon long. First came Highland Fling XII, for the second straight day the victor in CSA1. The sleek blue yacht was followed by a trio of CSA2 yachts flying clouds of sail as they made their way first around Blowing Rock before heading for the finish line. Alpina, Youri Loof's Nautor Swan 82FD, led the way ahead of another pair of 100ft Swans, Highland Breeze and Varsovie. It was also Varsovie's second CSA2 bullet in as many days. The same could be said of Soma, the Multihull2 cat, with two wins in two races.
Many of the Class A and Class B boats descended on a common finish line off Marigot Bay in unison, and the race committee boat was busy blowing whistles as one boat after another crossed the line.
By day's end, the boats that raced twice today had three results on the overall scorecard. In some cases, yachts had amassed what might be insurmountable leads. In others, nothing will be sorted out until the third and final day of competition on Sunday. And that's certainly the case in CSA3, where Stark Raving Mad IV and Ian Hope-Ross's Melges 32 Kick 'em Jenny each scored a first and a second today, leaving the outcome very much in doubt going into the last race.
In CSA4, Wesslund's El Ocaso consolidated her strong lead with a first and second today, leaving them all alone atop the class leader board. Meanwhile, in the CSA5 Melges 24 class, Andrea Scarabelli's Budget Marine/Gill is dominating her competition; with two firsts today, the boat has yet to lose a race thus far.
CSA6 is still wide open, though John Bainbridge's Swan 48 Zen took command today on the strength of a pair of first-place finishes. Sir Bobby Velasquez's L'Esperance took a first and second today, which was good enough to maintain the CSA7 lead. In CSA8, David Southwell's Morris 48 Kismet is now the leader after a 1-2 finish in today's races. In CSA9, where three separate St Maarten youth sailor crews are competing in the 13-boat fleet, the leader is now the St. Maarten Sailing School 1 squad, who did a fine job with a first and a second on Saturday, closely followed by the SMYC Youth Sailing Team.