Photo: Tom Wilkes

Titan continues to dominate

As Highland Fling suffers a halyard failure on the penultimate date of St Maarten Heineken Regatta

Saturday March 6th 2010, Author: Sue Pelling, Location: none selected

On the penultimate day of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, competitors were treated to superb conditions for the Marigot Bay race. A lively southerly breeze topping 20 knots this afternoon made for some exciting, classic Caribbean racing which led to more than a few thrills and spills within the 240-boat fleet.

While the fast racing boats enjoyed a couple of early morning, short, sharp windward/leeward races a couple of miles offshore, off Philipsburg, and then an afternoon sprint round the coast, the cruising classes and bareboat fleets raced on a course taking them to Simpson Bay in the north, where they were able to go ashore and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the sun.

One of the first to suffer misfortune today was Irvine Laidlaw’s Wally 82 Highland Fling. Peter Holmberg and team had just crossed the line in the first race when the genoa halyard failed. A swift recovery from the super-efficient team it may have been, but it wasn’t enough to make up ground on yesterday’s Spinnaker 1 winner Titan 15. This 75ft custom Reichel Pugh design owned by Tom and Dotty Hill and helmed by another racing legend, Peter Isler, controlled the first race of the day with their outstanding downwind performance and led George David’s Reichel Pugh 90 Rambler on a lively sleigh ride to the finish and took line honours with a delta of 49 seconds, and finished first overall on corrected time.

There was also fun and games a bit further down the fleet, in the second race, when Clay Deutsch’s chartered canting keel Cookson 50 Privateer got a bit too close for comfort by misjudging a situation at the first windward mark and managed to clip the pushpit of Vela Veloce with her bowsprit. Thankfully Richard Oland’s Southern Cross 52 suffered minor damage to the pushpit and Privateer escaped unscathed. Clearly unfazed, Vela Veloce went on to take second overall on corrected time with Titan claiming the top spot once again in the second race of the day. Chatting about the incident, Jack Slattery, tactician aboard Privateer, commented: “We took the close racing we’ve been having with Vela Veloce a bit too far today. Thankfully there was no major damage.”

Team Privateer who normally race aboard Deutsch’s Swan 68 Chippawa admitted they’d had mistake-packed day in the lively conditions, but put it down to a fairly steep learning curve. Slattery added: “It was awesome racing and although the big guys were in front of us and going fast, we were able to hold on to them particularly in the windier last race where we finished third on corrected time. Privateer is so fast compared to Chippawa. On her we used to romp around in high speeds of 10 knots, but on Privateer everything happens so quickly. It takes a bit of getting used to.”

In Spinnaker 3, Paul Solomon’s Henderson 35 Blackberry Enzyme from Trinidad has, after today’s three races, managed to split two of the closest boats in the fleet – the Reichel Pugh 44 Peake Yacht Services Storm sailed by Peter Peake and team, and Richard Matthews’ Oystercatcher XXVI. Peake Yacht Services Storm and Oystercatcher XXVI continued their battle on the racecourse throughout the day and, although Oystercatcher XXVI notched up a final race win over her closest rival, a scoreline of two wins in the windward/leewards for Blackberry Enzyme in both morning races puts her in second overall. But there’s only one point between all three boats which means there’ll be plenty of action in tomorrow’s final race. Tim Kimpton from Trinidad, and sail trimmer aboard Blackberry Enzyme this week said: “We had a great day with two firsts but had to settle for fourth on corrected time in the last race when we thumped the finish mark and had to do a 360.”

Elsewhere on the race course in Spinnaker 6 Guy Eldridge’s Beneteau First 10R Luxury Girl posted another couple of first places on corrected time today which puts her in a strong position atop the fleet, with Ian Hope Ross’s Beneteau First 36.7 Kick ‘em Jenny five points adrift. Currently in third place overall going into the last race tomorrow is David Cullen’s J/109 Pocket Rocket. Representing seven different nations including Israel, Grenada, Ireland, England, France, Italy and the Netherlands, this truly international team is giving the top two boats a fair run for their money and looks set for a final showdown tomorrow. In the stronger breeze today, the J/109 excelled and won the last race of the day on corrected time. Paul Heyes of Key Yachting in the UK, and trimmer/tactician this week said: “The conditions were just perfect for our boat. A little more breeze and a mixture of reaching and running legs really suit the J/109 so we had a great afternoon. This is my first time here at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and I think the sailing and the courses are the best I’ve ever been to, certainly the best in the Caribbean, and I’m definitely coming back.”

The Bareboat charter fleets, which, with 99 boats on the water, represent the largest number of yachts here at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, are also enjoying close racing. Jan Soderberg from Sweden and regular visitor to Caribbean regattas is sailing Team Aspen, a Beneteau Cyclades 43 in Bareboat 5 - Cyclades 43. Although he is also a fairly regular winner, and is currently leading the 11-strong fleet, there’s no room for error in the last race with just two points between the top two boats.

The wind forecast for tomorrow’s final race indicates another moderate day, although there’s a chance it could freshen later in the afternoon. Interestingly the wind is due to shift round to the north overnight, which like the southerly that’s been prevailing for most of week, is fairly unusual. The prevailing wind for 90 per cent of the time in St. Maarten is generally from the east.

Full results here

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