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Champions crowned in Heineken Regatta

In what will go down as one of the windiest, wildest events in the history of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, a long list of new champions were crowned in the 29th edition of the annual Caribbean competition.

A solid northeasterly breeze greeted competitors at the 29th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

New winners include Ronald O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer, and Wendy Schmidt’s Swan 80 Team Selene as well as several past St. Maarten Heineken Regatta victors such as Sergio Sagramoso on the Beneteau 44.7 Lazy Dog and James Dobbs on the J/122 Lost Horizons.

The 2009 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will largely be remembered as the year a solid northeasterly breeze kicked in on the first day of the three-day event, and continued in unrelenting style for the duration of the racing. Because of the severity of the winds, which peaked at nearly 40 knots on Day 1, and the massive, confused seaway that soon accompanied them, race officials decided to forgo the usual Saturday and Sunday racing schedule that in previous years took the fleet in and out of the exposed French-side port of Marigot.

Instead, the race committee concentrated the weekend competition off Simpson Bay on the island’s southern coast. Even so, there was no lack of drama on the race course, where calamity often reigned and blown sails, toppled masts and bone-jarring collisions were all part of the action.

Privateer capped off a tremendous St. Maarten Heineken Regatta series to win the Spinnaker 2 class with a perfect scorecard of four first-place finishes. Privateer not only left its entire class well astern, but on the final race they caught and passed the entire Spinnaker 1 division with the sole exception of the Farr 115, Sojana.

“It’s another year of experience with the boat,” says O’Hanley, a Bostonian who bases Privateer out of Newport, R.I. “Last year was the first time we’d sailed in any kind of big breeze. But all the effort the crew’s done since then has paid off. Our crew work was perfect and our trimmers were just superb. These were our conditions.”

Another boat with a strong New England pedigree also earned a place in the winner’s circle. Schmidt’s Team Selene is a familiar presence in Newport and Nantucket, Mass. But for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta — in which the striking 80-footer registered a five-point win over Peter Harrison’s Sojana in Spinnaker 1 — Team Selene was truly an international one, with nine different nations represented among the 22-strong all-star crew.

The 30th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will take place March 4-7, 2010.

Privateer also recently took the overall title for the 29th running of the Montego Bay Race and collected the silver Pineapple Cup.

The 811-mile race from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Montego Bay, Jamaica, gave line honors to Roger Sturgeon’s STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT of Fort Lauderdale with an elapsed time of 2 days, 11 hours, 28 minutes, 35 seconds — one hour shy of the race record set in 2005 — and won the IRC A class. Daniel Woolery’s King 40 Soozal of Alamo, Calif., won the four-boat IRC B class, while Jack Desmond’s Swan 48 Affinity won the three-boat PHRF class. Conditions for the race were mixed with winds consistently in the 20-knot range, although slightly different in direction than typically expected.

International Rolex championships awarded

The International Rolex Regatta, hosted by St. Thomas Yacht Club for 36 years, this year saw more than 60 local and visiting teams from the United States and Europe.

In IRC class, Jim Mitchell’s RP52 Vincitore turned in two more seemingly effortless victories, adding them to three others in a six-race score line. The boat posted bullets in two “town” races that put both tourists and islanders into stop-and-watch mode as the fleet made its way from the club to the harbor of Charlotte Amalie and back. The final course played more to an audience of offshore sea birds, but Vincitore impressed the rest of the class by legging out early and never letting up.

Phil and Wendy Lotz’s Swan 42 Arethusa from New Canaan, Conn./Newport, R.I., which posted a 3-3 final day, finished second overall on a tiebreaker with Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer from Boston. That left David Aisher’s Rogers 46 Yeoman XXXII from the United Kingdom in fourth, with Jim Muldoon’s Custom 72 Donnybrook from Washington finishing fifth.

Dave West of Tortola, BVI, who steered his Melges 32 Jurakan to victory in the CSA Spinnaker Racing class, says it was great to win a Rolex watch, especially after three previous attempts to win this regatta in the same boat.

Any of four boats could have won the CSA Spinnaker Racing/Cruising class going into the final day, but it was the regatta’s early leader, James Dobbs of Antigua, sailing his J/122 Lost Horizon, that pulled the rabbit out of the hat.

“We figured we had better than a 50 percent chance of winning,” says Dobbs, who before the race reviewed everything he and his crew did wrong to let them fall into second place behind Bruce MacNeil’s Morris 48 Barra from Lincoln, Mass.

“You gotta learn from your mistakes,” he said after winning his final two races and posting a winning total of 15 points to MacNeil’s 18.

In the CSA Non-Spinnaker class, Thomas Mullen’s J/120 Shamrock V of Campton, N.H., maintained its lead by finishing third in that class’s single race. Chris Schreiber of Christiansted, USVI, sailed his Hobie 16 Auto-Manic to second place to stay at the top of his class.

This article originally appeared in the Florida and the South Home Waters Section of the June 2009 issue.

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