My Heineken 2024 Report

Mar 20, 2024

By Larry Huibers; Photos by Tim Wright

The Serious Racing, Serious Fun regatta lives up to its advertised promotion. After missing this regatta for a few years, the chance to go back came up and I jumped on it. (Ed Note: Larry and Warthog won their Division!)

The Boat – Warthog

A program I have been keen to sail with made some room for me and it was all I hoped it to be. Jim Vos owns the boat; I know him from doing J109 racing on Long Island Sound. Jim decided to transition from racing his large catamaran and looking for something in a manageable monohull that would provide a good turn of speed and be competitive. Over the winter we reviewed what was available and perhaps a bit of a sleeper. The decision to optimize the R/P37 also known as an Extreme 37, previously known as TAZ seemed like a good start. 

The boat is all carbon fibre and is a powered-up sport boat that is relatively civilized. Jim Vos has excellent relationships with a contingent of young Antiguan sailors who took on getting the boat in serious racing shape. The freshen up included all new running rigging, making the boat more suitable for the day regatta circuit than the Caribbean 600 and adding horsepower in the form of new sails. 

The outcome of the guys’ labour was immediate and significant. The boat performed well after the initial teething pains were addressed and the untapped potential became very apparent. For the Heineken the crew was a blend of Antiguan youth and North American more senior folks. Using the CSA rating system, we ended up in Division 2. This division included a Solaris 55, a Lombard 46, an open 40, all of which did the RORC Trans-Atlantic Race to get to the Caribbean, a Pogo 12.50 from Canada and a Mills 41 from US east coast. We were one of the slower rated boats so when we could see the fast boats, we knew we were in good shape.

Disclaimer – as PHRF LO president I am a huge supporter of the PHRF LO rating system, and it is quite effective given the wildly different conditions we need to rate for. That said the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) rating system does a great job as a measurement rule.  It has an advantage of dealing with a traditionally narrower wind range. The attraction to sailing in the Caribbean is the stability of the trade winds.  It’s rarely below 8 knots or over 23 knots so predictability of build forms is more consistent. The CSA rating tends to favour more stable hulls over planning hulls. Our fleet had a blend of both types. 

The Racing

On windward leeward types of courses our performance was better than anticipated and we felt good after the first 2 days scoring bullets in the 3 races, including the splendid around the island race. The next 2 days were more reaching, favouring the longer water lined Lombard 46 named Patra Negra. This boat is very well sailed and found their groove winning the next 2 races. One of their crew, who has done dozens of Sydney Hobarts and just about every big ocean race in the world, commented that he was pleased in the courses of the last two days, giving them an advantage over the lighter smaller boat we are.

At the end of it all we finished with 7 points to Patra Negra’s 12 points giving us the top step on the podium in class. But the racing is only part of the story. The chance to meet and re-meet friends in the sailing world from all over the world gives this event a special appeal. The fleet ranged in size from the impressive 100’ Leopard and Volvo 65’s down to the Melges 24, J70 and a cool German boat named Karin, a KK28, that sailed on its own bottom from Europe to the event. Additionally, there is a huge fleet of bareboat charter yachts that had incredibly close racing as well as an Island Time fleet who’s rating was adjusted after each day seeking parity for the slightly less race orientated boats. 

The Fun

The regatta is known for the transit out of Simpson Bay under the bridge at the St Marten Yacht Club, there’s plenty of this posted on You Tube, worth the look. On Friday a large 250’ yacht named Loon, that has a very active You Tube channel, was departing while the 100 plus boats were trying to make the bridge opening. It was like moving a 747 on the QEW during rush hour. Excellent seamanship by everyone and no scratches or water rage.

As I’ve said before in previous articles, I am unbelievably fortunate to be able to participate in these events. I am eternally grateful to Jim Vos and the whole crew on Warthog to have me along for the racing. I am even more grateful that I got to fly home and not do the 100-mile uphill delivery back to Antigua. I have my fingers crossed I’ll be able to join Warthog again for the next event on the calendar, the Antigua Sailing Week.

I recommend this the Heineken event as an excellent representation of all that is great about Caribbean racing. There are lots of pay to play spots on various race boats ranging from Volvo 70’s and smaller. If you have an established crew, book a boat from Moorings, and join the very competitive bareboat class, you get to stay on the boat as a bonus and it’s a short stumble, I mean walk, from the regatta site.

Till the next time, happy sailing thoughts.

Larry Huibers is president of PHRF-LO; he races everywhere he can, especially from his home port of St. Catherines, ON

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