The fleet heads out for the first day of racing.
“Ting!” My best friend exclaimed when I told her I was going to St. Maarten for the Heineken Regatta. “Bring back lots of Ting!” She digs the grapefruit soda after she spent two summers working in the Caribbean.
I’m not too excited to figure out to get a case of this into my suitcase at the end of the trip, but it was good to get a bit of local guidance from her. This trip is my first one to the Caribbean, and after talking to her and others who were familiar with the place, it wasn’t too hard to leave gray, sub-freezing Newport yesterday morning.
Soon enough, I was touching down at the Simpson Bay airport with two very excitable girls speaking rapid-fire French next to me. “Ah, la plage est belle!” “Tres jolie!” I tried to pick up some of their phrases and refresh my rusty college-level French. The island is half French, half Dutch, so I figure it might come in handy.
The sun was just setting as we landed, and I headed over to the regatta headquarters at the Sint Maarten YC. En route, the drawbridge that connects Simpson Bay to the ocean lifted up, letting in a long string of boats for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, the spectators over on the YC porch cheered as flashy boats and friends passed through and waved.
The tagline of this regatta is “Serious Fun,” and I don’t think it will be too hard to confirm that.
It’s known for not only the great racing, but also the parties. Wylef Jean and the Black Eyed Peas have headlined in previous years. This year, they have a bunch of acts lined up from around the Caribbean. I’ll make sure to have some fun for you!
In terms of the racing, I’ll be out on the Detroit-based STP 65 Farr Equation on Saturday. Co-owners Bill Alcott, Tom Anderson, and Ed Palm bought and revamped this boat after it suffered damage during the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2009 as Rosebud.
The team had a stellar first day at the Gill Commodore’s Cup, winning both races around the buoys and making it look easy in their three-boat class. I watched the racing from a press boat and got some video footage as they cruised by. Can’t wait to get onboard!
Other notable performances were made by Beneteaus in two divisions. The Beneteau First 40 _Smile and Wave _won Gill Series 2 by 1 point, with second and third place tied up. Meanwhile, a First 40.7 _Team Red, White & Blue _took Gill Series 3. JPK _Eliot _won Gill Series 4, and the Melges 24 _Budget Marine/Gill _finished second, beating out two other 24s in their class.
I’m looking forward to more great and truly Caribbean conditions in the next couple of days. Today was warm, with 18-22 knots, and we got to see a few pretty spectacular wipeouts along the way. Tomorrow, the fleet will sail around the island, and end up at the Dutch capital of Philipsburg. For now, it’s off to the party!
And the Ting? I’ll let you know if I can get it past customs.