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Captain Oliver's Carib Beer Regatta 2005

For an event that was conceived on the spur of the moment and planned at the speed of a shotgun wedding, an entry list of 34 boats in five classes was a terrific delivery by the Captain Oliver’s team for May’s Carib Beer Regatta.

In a matter of mere months, the Oyster Pondsmen assembled a regatta team, found a sponsor, set up a yacht club, cultivated the press and threw down the challenge to local and regional sailors to attend.

Among those who did, for some there was a chance to resume rivalry from the Anguilla Regatta a week before, while for others this was their first racing run-out on another island. Bus/Ferron in the Racing Class and Velasquez/Herve in the Cruising Class fell into the former category, the three St Barths 7.50 Monotypes into the latter. A last-minute addition was the Beach Cat Class. Racing Director Stuart Knaggs had originally ruled the class out due to safety concerns, but a change of heart allowed three Prindle 19s and a Nacara 18 to compete.

Racing began in brisk winds on the first day, with the Racing Class on a windward/leeward course best viewed from up on Crystal Mountain. The other classes set off in the direction of Tintamarre, with a mark to be rounded eventually in Marigot.

Fittingly, it was Bus’s Carib-sponsored Melges 24 2ContactCarib/Buccaneer Bar that crossed the starting line first in the first race of the inaugural regatta. From up on the hill, it looked as if the breeze was fairly uniform, but down on the water there was no room for complacency as Bus, main rival Robbie Ferron on Sea Jet (also a Melges) and the three 7.50s swapped long tacks upwind throughout the three races of the day.

“The main thing was good starts,” said Bus. “After that, there was a shifting wind with lots of changes in air pressure.”

In dominant form, Bus was able to reverse his loss to Ferron in Anguilla. The latter took a fourth place in the final race behind 7.50 Pen Sardine to finish third overall. With no wind at all on the Sunday, racing cancelled, and some boats returning to the marina by paddle, spectators were denied the chance to see how this three-way battle would have evolved.

In the Cruising Class, Phillippe Herve’s Vanille got the better of Sir Bobby Velasquez’s L’Esperance with the latter approaching the finish line hot on Vanille’s transom.

“He beat me a week before in Anguilla, but in winds of 10 knots, we are very fast. Bobby needs more wind to get going and should be a lot more ahead of us. As the wind picked up at the finish, he came back at us,” said Herve.

A large Multihull Class stacked with local French sailors saw victory for Les Deux Pigeons on corrected time, despite Palm Palm hurtling home in under four hours. While the Multihulls’ arrival was graceful, an element of chaos characterized the Beach Cat finish – two of the four recording a DNF because they were not aware of where the finish line was.

No such farce in the ‘Cool’ Class, where the nippy H-boat No Stress came home ahead of 10 other competitors, enjoying relatively flat seas and a dying 10-knot breeze.

A lavish post-race award ceremony capped three days of on-shore hospitality which saw many well-know faces from across the island make the trip out to Captain Oliver’s Marina.

Speaking at the prize giving, co-organiser Juul Hermsen praised “such enthusiasm at such short notice,” noting that the regatta “happened so fast it made my head spin.”

Yacht Club Commodore Herve Harel gave a short but poignant speech in which he thanked St Barths sailor Luc Poupon for bringing so many of the island’s boats over. “The fact that we want to get in a boat is because of people like him,” he said.

Captain Oliver announced that next year would see even greater involvement from the St Martin Tourist Office, following a pledge by Romeo Flemming.

Despite the rain and lack of wind on the second day, the first Captain Oliver’s Carib Beer Regatta was well-received. “The idea is good,” commented Philippe Herve. “But it’s a newborn one, so needs time to grow.”

The arrival of the St Barths contingent was a vital ingredient. Speaking about the 7.50s, SBYC sailor Julien Darmon explained that, “they’ve been on the island for a while but we bought them in September and refitted them. A group from the yacht club started racing them two times per month for an ongoing championship but this is the first time they’ve sailed outside St Barths.”

While Oyster Pond’s non-existent bus links to the outside world ruled out any speculative spectators turning up to enjoy the regatta, many others made the effort to come out and watch the action. To see the dockside buzzing with boats, sailors and spectators once again is a reminder that while the Regatta was a great debut, it was also a welcome return.

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