Heineken Regatta Turns 30

Although many regattas have struggled of late as a result of the current economic climate, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta marked three decades of serious racing and partying this past week with some 240 yachts taking part.

As in years past, the three-day event, organized by the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, attracted some of the world’s most talented sailors, including America’s Cup veterans Peter Isler, Peter Holmberg and Gavin Brady, round the world sailor Kenny Read, Olympic sailor and America’s Cup skipper Andy Beadsworth, and Dutch double Europe Olympic silver medalist Margriet Matthijsse.

Standout boats this year included Irvine Laidlaw’s Wally 82 Highland Fling, Tom and Dotty Hill’s brand-new Reichel/Pugh 75 Titan 15, George David’s Reichel/Pugh 90 Rambler, and a healthy mix of Swans, Farrs and top-flight custom builds. As in regattas past, there was also a healthy smaller-boat contingent, including no less that 99 bareboat charter boats.

The final race of the three-day regatta—a 27-mile jaunt around the coast from Marigot Bay on the French side of the island to Sint Maarten Yacht Club on the Dutch side—lacked sun, but had plenty of wind, thanks to a rainy northerly. In the three-way battle between Titan, Highland Fling and Rambler, it was Titan that benefited from a strange twist of misfortune when she blew out her A5 spinnaker. Forced to go with a slightly flatter A3, the sail proved to be the perfect choice when the wind shifted round to a tighter angle. Reveling in the 20-knots squalls, Isler sailed Titan to the limit, storming past Highland Fling and Rambler to take not just line honors, but first overall in class.

Among the smaller boats, Hans-Joachim Tiggels and team from Germany sailing a Beneteau Oceanis 523 were the overall winners of Bareboat 1, with the Duketown Official Royal Sailing Team finishing second. One of the closest regatta-long battles was in Spinnaker 3 between the Reichel/Pugh 44 Peake Yacht Services sailed by Peter Peake and team, and Richard Matthews and team aboard Oystercatcher XXVI. The two raced neck and neck throughout the series, often match racing each other round the course, but in the end it was Oystercatcher XXVI that won the day. The winner of Bareboat 6 was Robbie Nitche and a team from Germany sailing the Dufour 455 Let Me Go, with three straight wins.

For more on the regatta, including complete results, click here

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