So on we went to the start line, with tongue in cheek, lobster in the fridge and everyone geared up for a bit of a laugh!
Race Day 1 – Around St Maarten
The first race day dawned bright and sunny and with next to no wind! We were to set off from Simpson Bay and circumnavigate St Maarten clockwise, finishing up in Philipsburg, Great Bay, a distance of around 45 miles. Liz, Karen & Francisco had drawn straws to see who would be “Skipper for the Race” in our intra-boat competition and our guest winchers (Francois & Marc) were under strict instructions to “keep it zipped” for the entire race! As they are both skippers themselves, this wasn’t always achievable, but from time to time we welcomed their superior race knowledge and advice!
Liz got a good start over the line and after we rounded the South coast of St M and started [pullquote_right]”tacking up the Anguilla channel we had some nice close hauled jousting with Queen of Hearts”[/pullquote_right]tacking up the Anguilla channel we had some nice close hauled jousting with Queen of Hearts, a Swan 47, who eventually passed us. There was a total of 16 boats in our class, all flying a pink bandana from the backstay, but our main rivals turned out to be ‘I’ll Think About It’ a dark blue hulled Beneteau 50 and ‘Lucky Star’, a Gibsea 51 sailed by a team of RUSSIANS!
The wind was not on our side and as a heavy cruising boat laden with gear, Ibis needs about 12 knots or more of wind to start sailing well. The wind was changeable along the coast and we were treated to some nice strong gusts followed by frustratingly little wind, and we weren’t expecting a podium place! Our first day finished unlucky 13th…..an achievable target for Francisco the next day!
Race Day 2 – Race to Marigot
We made a pitiful start on the second day – although the evening’s festivities had been hosted in Philipsburg, the Race Committee, in their wisdom, had set the start line 4 miles away in Simpson Bay! And as Francois and I hurried to fix a broken vang fitting, we fired the engine on full speed and just made it to the line in time to turn of the engine and drift across! Another day of little wind on the way!
This time our route was anticlockwise around St Maarten, and the light wind picked up as we rounded the South-West tip of St Maarten and started tacking up the St Barth’s Channel close….a little too close from the chat in the cockpit….to the coast and the rocky islands less than a mile away! [pullquote_left]”we had a great lunch of grilled lobster with garlic butter and some salad on the way”[/pullquote_left]It was a long but enjoyable day’s sailing again and we had a great lunch of grilled lobster with garlic butter and some salad on the way….a task made easier by the lack of wind!
Our competitors were out of sight for much of the day due to course choices, however we had the Russians in our sights as we sailed back down the Anguilla Channel towards the finish line in Marigot and we were neck and neck with the Beneteau across the line. On points, we beat both of them, coming in 10th despite the light winds. Nice one, Francisco!
The party was in Marigot that evening and Karen, Liz and Francisco headed off into the melee for dinner and dancing…..Skipper hit the sack!
Race Day 3 – Race to Simpson Bay
Karen was up on the last race day, leaving Marigot and sailing out towards Anguilla before heading back along the South coast and finishing in Simpson Bay where the nights festivities were planned for Kimshaw Beach. The wind was lighter than ever, and our Russian friends, fresh from a night on board their luxury hotel ship, got a better start than us….then, just a zephyr of breeze hit us and we started to pick up speed, their “hotel” motored right across our path on a photo-mission, stealing our wind completely!
Our radio protests to the hotel boat and to the race committee fell on deaf ears, and our hopes of a good start died with the wind!
As the race went on with very little wind, the Committee made no efforts to shorten the course and we were treated to rain showers too. [pullquote_right]”we came to a complete standstill with not a breath of wind and everyone dived off the back and started kicking”[/pullquote_right]At one point we came to a complete standstill with not a breath of wind and everyone dived off the back and started kicking……I’m sure it’s not in the rules, but hey….I’m not sure we moved at all either! Other boats took some extraordinary measures to lighten their boats to pick up speed and we drifted past a shoal of about 30 croissants, jettisoned at will.
With differing courses, all the racing boats, large and small started to come together towards a communal race mark. It was at this point, of course, that the wind picked up and shifted direction, and we found ourselves in the middle of about fifty boats all bearing down on the mark at the same time….and fast! We jostled with 20ft day boats and 100ft racing machines flying spinnakers….BOY was THAT scary! And YES, I was seriously thining of tacking away and letting them all past!!
Lunch that day was homemade curry & rice with mango chutney and I dished up just after we rounded the mark. It was pleasing to see the envious looks of other boats as they caught a whiff of our lunch and we cracked a beer and cranked up ACDC for the final run home.
This video is also on Youtube.
By 3pm and with a 4pm cut off in race finishers, it became clear that there was no chance for us to finish the race, and we made our way onto the anchor in Simpson Bay, bypassing the finish line and watching our Russian rivals fire on the engine in an attempt to sneak around the last mark and gain a place! Over our bottles of distinctly un-fizzy bubbly we talked over the implications of most of our competitors not finishing the race, particularly the Beneteau which had been behind us at the previous mark and was obviously also a non-finisher!
However by the time we reached the results board at 6.30pm we discovered that they had been recorded in 5th place despite not finishing! In actual fact only 4 boats in our class got anywhere near finishing, but 6 finishers were recorded. Although of no importance in the overall Heineken championship, it did affect our intra-boat competition, and besides, it really wasn’t cricket!
I attempted to make a protest but the cut-off time for protesting had been 4.30pm, only half an hour after the finish of the last race….there was absolutely no chance for us, or anyone else still on the race course, to have made the deadline.
We also tried to make our point to the Head of the Race Committee but it fell on deaf ears and things got a bit heated, particularly where my French Crewman was concerned!
The Heineken Regatta is touted as being “Serious Fun”…..fun it may be, but a serious regatta it definitely is not!
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