• close family • small boat • big world •

Heineken Regatta, Bucket Regatta

March 19, 2015

by Greg
At anchor, the Lagoon, St Martin

Captain and some of the afterguard. Unlike some of the "serious"
boats, we're not too concerned with extra weight. The bananas
hanging back aft rode with us the entire race.

I realized the captain, who was actually quite busy driving the boat, was yelling at me: "do I have to come up and do that for you?!" (Yelled in heavily French-accented English, so it took me some seconds to figure it out.) Apparently, he didn't like the speed with which I was grinding in the large genoa. Truth is, we had been racing for several hours, and I was getting tired. This was a big old Lewmar 70 self-tailing winch, the base of which is larger than a dinner plate, and it took a lot of grinding to bring the sail all the way in.

I was lucky enough to get a last minute crew position on this boat in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, one of the big boat races in the Caribbean Circuit. The boat is Altair, a 51' Beneteau "First 51" built the mid 80's. (Wish I had more exciting race pictures, but I kept pretty busy.) Eight of us on board. (The captain, his daughter, and her friend were French. There was a Brazilian engine guy (the engine was having trouble). Two crew had come from Chicago specifically for this race, and there was I and another American cruiser.)

We weren't Number 1, but
we had a great time.

We had a great time of course. The crew got along well and the crew work was good with almost no mistakes. We had some great starts and very good tactics. We thought we were on track for a very good overall finish after three days of racing. However, the Lottery Class threw us for a loop. When possible, sailboat races are organized so that like boats race against each other. When dissimilar boats compete, a handicap system is often used to try to equalize the boats. We were in the Lottery Class. This is a handicap class that is considered a "fun" class as opposed to a "serious" class. Results for our class were slow to be posted, and I was unable to get a list of our handicaps, but they seemed to be adjusted after each race.   So we were surprised to discover that our corrected finishes in the
three races were 5th, 10.5th, 8th for a overall finish of 8th out of 14.  But again, we had a great time.

St Barts Regatta

Steve Job's Venus
The Caribbean big boat racing season is in full swing at this point, and the next event is the St. Barts "Bucket" Regatta. There are plenty of mega-yachts here in St Maarten including Darwin Deason's Apogee, Steve Jobs' unconventional Venus, and largest of them all  Limitless, belonging to the Victoria's Secret CEO, who has never release pictures of the interior. (Hmm....) (The St Maarten's drawbridge was actually widened for Limitless - see her going through here.) But the majority of mega-yachts here in St Maarten are motor yachts. The cool thing about the St Barts regatta is that it is specifically for sailboats over 100' in length.

The Bucket is very focused on fun, and the racing rules included these:
  • Those who maneuver and handle their yachts out of the congenial spirit, meaning they are being too competitive and aggressive, will be excluded from the race.
  • Teams and crews can make protests (of rule infractions) as long as they bring champagne. 
  • Owners must be on board for all races
  • Competitors must maintain a 40 meter clearance from other competitors
I am pretty sure I won't get a last minute crew position on any of these boats, but I look forward to seeing them. Our plans today are to sail over the St. Barts for the the Bucket.

More miscellaneous pictures and a video below.

From Altair near Pelican Island

Sail training ship.  (Photo-bombed by a crew member).
Always a traffic jam going through the drawbridge on the Dutch side.
The stern of Limitless. (Notice that the platform rotates up to seal things off.)

Venus going through the St Maarten drawbridge (click for video)