Feb 06, 2022, Herb McCormick
Above: Competitor CMC: Nemo. Photo Credit Laurens Morel / Salty Colours.
It was one of those Caribbean days with a little bit of everything: early squalls followed by radiant sunshine, whitecap-flecked waters smoothing in the lulls, then more rain (and plenty of it). In sailing terms, the challenging conditions favored those who could shift gears quickly in up-and-down breeze, reduced visibility and an ever-changing seascape. And on the last day of competition in the fourth edition of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge, the most versatile and persistent skippers and crews were rewarded with class victories.
In a strong and surprising CSA 1 effort, Anthony McVeigh’s South African-built Schionning 51C, 2 2 Tango, took down the brothers’ Slyngstad: Greg and his talented squad on the Bieker 53, Fujin; and Todd, with a roster stacked with pro talent (including offshore expert Ryan Breymaier) on the HH 66, Nemo. In CSA 2, the “Leopard cat class,” Petro Jonker at the helm of Seaduction, his Leopard 47, outlasted Ian Martin (Catamaran Guru Brokers) and Georges Coutu (La Novia) in the closest and most competitive racing in the entire regatta.
Many of the event’s lasting visuals were supplied by the triple-hulled trimaran wranglers that made up the entire CSA 3 division, but the top three one-design Diam 24s, just recently introduced to the racing scene in St. Maarten (with several more on the way), carried the day and the podium. When the final scores were tallied, both Pierre Altier (Cry Baby) and Sylvain Corroy (Air Nest) were locked in a tie, but Cry Baby’s two bullets in the six-race series broke the deadlock and earned Altier both bragging rights and the winner’s trophy. Alexis de Boucaud’s Merlin was third.
Competitor Diam 24, AIR NEST. Photo Credit Laurens Morel / Salty Colours.
In the two-boat Pirate class, with the emphasis on fun and camaraderie, the all-women posse on the Moorings cat, My Treasure, topped the jubilant crew on Jan Sotelo’s Lagoon 450, Amari, by nabbing first-place finishes in three of the class’s four races. With a team comprised of sailing rock stars including skipper Annie Gardner, first mate Betsy Crowfoot and navigator Mary Wrigley—and ably assisted by several St. Maarten Yacht Club junior sailors from the Kidz at Sea program—it must be said that the all-gals gaggle were serious sheep in wool’s clothing.
“The most rewarding part of racing this week was teaching and mentoring the young women from St. Maarten,” said Gardner. “Their thirst for knowledge coupled with their desire to perform well was impressive. The team gelled really well, and in the end, I believe we all accomplished my goals: fun, safe, fast.”
On the final day of competition, race officer Rein Korteknie was determined to maximize the racer’s opportunities to finish strong, and in that spirit sent the CSA 1 crews on a pair of races, the first a quick slash along the southern shore followed by an epic 24-miler that sent the yachts on a long beat to the rocky outcrop known as Molly Beday, and then a longer reach down the coast to a mark off the isle’s western point before a return to Simpson Bay.
Competitor Amari, Pirate Class. Photo Credit Laurens Morel / Salty Colours.
In the starts of both races, all eyes were on Fujin and Nemo, and they did not disappoint. In the first race, in boat-to-boat action, Fujin rounded the top mark in control but Nemo took a long offshore jibe and when the yachts converged, Nemo had taken the lead and did not surrender it. In the second, it was Fujin in command from start to finish—though the colorful custom Joubert/Nivelt 52, Arawak, was in the mix in the early running—and finished the day’s two contest with a strong first and second. In doing so, Fujin (with a rock star of its own, double Olympic-medalist Jonathan McKee) displayed the form it was denied in Saturday’s racing, when a mainsail issue forced them to the sidelines in both races.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to coronate Fujin and/or Nemo: the sleek cat with the Tango dancers emblazed on the hull and main, McVeigh’s 2 2 Tango, carried the day (and yes, they sported a rock star too, longtime St. Maarten sailing force, Cary Byerley).
McVeigh has endured his fair share of disappointment campaigning his pretty 51-footer, aboard which he won his very first race in the 2018 running of Antigua Sailing Week after sailing her to the Caribbean from South Africa: 2 2 Tango won the next two as well, and then…disaster, in the form of a broken mast. It took a while to get a new rig sorted back then in Antigua, and on the eve of this regatta, he said, “I just hope we can finish without breaking something.” And when the scoring was established on corrected time, with three firsts in five contests, he was finally a winner.
Competitors CSA 2 Fleet. Photo Credit Laurens Morel / Salty Colours.
CMC Competitor Tryst. Photo Credit Laurens Morel, Salty Colours.
“The regatta was a great success in every sense,” said McVeigh, whose 2 2 Tango was named Most Worthy Performer and Overall Winner, for which he received an Oris diver’s watch. “Varied wind from 12 to 25 knots. The Sprint around St. Barth’s was a great success with everyone coming around in record times. The choice of courses was excellent. We had some breakages, which happens in 25 knots. Unfortunately for Fujin, their breakages in the third race took them out of contention.
“My crew was excellent, and it was an honor to sail with them,” he continued. “We recorded a phenomenal 19.5 knots in 25 knots of wind. Today we did 23 knots in gusts to 27. It was absolutely brilliant. This is the happiest event in the Caribbean, the St. Maarten Yacht Club is the most successful club for racing in the islands, with all nationalities represented. It was a fabulous event. We’ll look forward to returning next year.”
CMC Competitor Fujin. Photo Credit Laurens Morel, Salty Colours.
In CSA 2, Korteknie sent the fleet on a tricky course from St. Maarten to Marigot and back, and while it wasn’t quite as epic as Saturday’s round-the-island race (“We were stuck right next to each other all the way around,” said Catamaran Guru Broker’s Ian Martin of the match race that he engaged with his longtime mate and rival, Seaduction’s Jonker), it was still tight all the length of the race. This time, however, it was Jonker, not Martin, first across the line. And when Martin scored a third today, the CSA 2 champ was Jonker and Spellbound.
“The boats are so evenly matched, it’s like one-design racing, it’s that close,” said Jonker. “Who gets the start, who gets the shifts. Today’s start was very interesting. We were to leeward, and able to push the others up and had a gap to get through. We had a good lead at the start. We opened up a good lead to Marigot, we were covering Ian. Then, fortunately for us, on the downwind leg we had wind and La Novia sailed into a dead spot, so we were able to save our time. From there, it was just hanging on to the finish.”
Stephen Burzon, the Director of Marketing for the event, said, “This weekend has been great. With support from our major repeat sponsors plus our new ones for 2022—American Airlines and the St. Maarten Ministry of Tourism—we are poised to create an even better CMC in February of 2023 where the Sprint to St. Barth’s will be repeated and we plan to add a new big-boat 52-mile distance race from Simpson Bay to Saba and back. This race has received support from our Ministry of Tourism and we are looking for new records to be set. See you in February 2023!”