Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   August 2002
North Sails Lagoon Regatta
A Positive Trend
by Robbie Ferron

The success of the first ever North Sails Lagoon Regatta was a confirmation that competitive Caribbean sailors want more one-design sailing. Fourteen hot regional teams descended on Simpson Bay Lagoon, St. Maarten, to race Jeanneau Sunfast 20s on June 29th and 30th.

Teams from the USVI, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and Curaçao joined eight local teams. All teams first raced in two seeded pools; those with top results then went to the championship pool and the rest to the consolation pool. The winning skippers were Mike Green from St. Lucia, followed by Cor van Aanholt of Curaçao and Simon Manley of St. Maarten. The consolation pool was won by Eelco Sint of St. Maarten, followed by John Foster of the USVI and Niels Lund of Trinidad.

The caliber of racing skippers attracted to this event was high. Green and van Aanholt are Olympic sailors; Claude Theiler from Guadeloupe has won second place in the Hobie 16 Worlds; Chris Goedhart from St. Maarten has come second twice in the 120-boat Bareboat Class at that island's Heineken Regatta; John Foster came third in Racing Class II at this year's CORT series; and beach cat sailor Luc Knol St. Maarten has won his class at the Rolex regatta in St. Thomas.

Drawn like magnets to a resident fleet of identical, speedy boats, the visiting teams flew into St. Maarten and went straight to the welcome party without having to worry about handicap certificates, or whether all the crew had arrived with all the gear, or how long it would take for the boat to clear Customs, or whether dockage was arranged. There were no dinghies to consider and no last-minute repairs. The major concerns were getting the T-shirts colour-matched, having sufficient sunblock and keeping the entire crew of three persons reasonably sober and well-rested.

The Jeanneau Sunfast 20s are day sailors with typical mid-90's non-planing underbodies. The keel is a centreboard but not weighted; the ballast is in the hull itself (which sounds inefficient but actually works surprisingly well). Because the foils are fine they react very well indeed - the positive side of having the ballast in the hull. The centreboards make it possible to beach the boats, trailer them and get them into very shallow water.
Even though the boats, from the Lagoon Sailboat Rental fleet, were all equal they were still rotated between every race. There were seven boats on every start line, making positioning important but without making a second-row start entirely disastrous, especially in the lagoon's notoriously fluky winds. There were no dull moments as helmsmen quickly learnt the necessity of anticipating gusts and wind shifts. As usual, the good got lucky. Unusually, more people got to learn very fast. The fluky winds offered a good chance of taking a bad tack and losing places, but also good chances of gaining places on the very short (15- to 22-minute) up-and-down courses. The interest level was multiples higher than on a five-mile reach in open water!
Cor van Aanholt started off with all his four children on board. Some preferred jumping off the dock into the water thousands of times but the others became first-class foredeck crew as they poled out the jib on the downwind legs. Offspring also crewed with Claude Theiler, Chris Goedhart, Andrew Dove from Guadeloupe and Pedro Jonker from St. Maarten.

With Green firmly in the lead, the second position was still up for grabs at the start of the final race, with a three-way tie of Simon Manley, Cor van Aanholt and Claude Theiler. The final race put Cor into second place, Simon into third and Claude fourth.

A great regatta is always a pleasure. The greater interest however is in developing regattas in which the participants can enjoy sailing without having to spend a fortune, ruin their family life and return home ready only for a real vacation. The idea of "simple sailing" is also the philosophy behind the IC24 class in St. Thomas and the SR Max in Trinidad. This is a wonderfully healthy trend in Caribbean sailing that will be of great benefit to the sport.
If the North Sails Lagoon Regatta becomes an annual event, it will not detract from premier events such as Antigua Sailing Week and St. Maarten's Heineken Regatta, where world-famous boats and expensive equipment are brought to Caribbean shores. Instead it will serve to upgrade the quality of our local sailing and help create a stronger cadre of sailing organizers and participants in the region.
Come and join us next time.


Copyright© 2002 Compass Publishing