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North Sails Caribbean One Design Regatta

As a fun exercise, how do you measure the best sailor in the Caribbean? Does a solo Laser Championship won round the buoys count more than a Racing Class win sailed with a crew round the island? Is a beach cat the equal of an IC-24?

St Maarten’s annual solution to this bar-room debate is the North Sails Caribbean One Design Keelboat Championships. Now in its fourth year, the CSA-sanctioned event sets out an identical fleet of Jeanneau Sunfasts, invites the cream of Caribbean sailing talent, and lets them hammer it out among themselves.

16 teams came to Uncle Harry’s Bar on Simpson Bay Lagoon over the weekend of June 18/19, representing Antigua, Barbados, BVI, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Puerto Rico, USVI and St Maarten/St Martin.

Last year’s winner - John Holmberg from the USVI, as well as Mike Green from St Lucia were not able to attend, and the team from the Dominican Republic dropped out at the last minute, but competition was just as fierce as that which led up to 2004’s thrilling finish.

After three qualifying races, racing was divided into Silver and Gold Fleets with Frits Bus’ Carib HiHo crew becoming the first Dutch side team to reach the Gold fleet. Seven championship races were then held to find a champion. 2003 winner Robby Hirst from Tortola, joined by brother Mike and Chris Haycraft, quickly reminded everyone of his credentials, firing off bullets in the first four races.

Winds were light on the first day, breezy and shifting on the second, meaning the course was frequently altered by Race Officer Andrew Rapley. Hirst’s main challenger was Fraito Lugo from Puerto Rico. Last year, Lugo disappointingly found himself in the Silver Fleet and unable to wrestle with the big boys. This time round, he made up for lost combat, winning race five. But Hirst was untouchable and took the overall Championship with an 8-point margin. St Barth’s Markku Harmala was third, just three points behind. All that 7.50 monotype racing each month in St Barths paid off with a podium finish. Bus, absent last year, took fourth place, with Antigua’s Karl James in fifth.

In the Silver Fleet, St Maarten’s Luc Knol edged Barbados entry Kwame Hinds by just one point. Shag Morton was two points behind in third and Simon Manley fourth.

Dates for the Fifth anniversary event in 2006 are June 17/18.

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