From Trade Winds to No Winds

Report by Bas De Rooij part of the Budget Marine/Gill team winning CSA5 class overall and best performance on Saturday of the Heineken Regatta 2014


The last race of this year’s St Maarten Heineken Regatta took us from Marigot to Creole Rock (Grand Case) around the ‘Reserve’ mark. At this stage we went around in first position closely followed by our nearest rivals as we were heading downwind to Blowing rock, Anguilla. We rounded the rock in 2nd place, just after the overall 2nd placed Melges 24. Indeed at this stage we had won every race so far and we had calculated that only a last place on the day would cost us our 1st overall position.

Blowing rock? …. Whatever! As soon as we had rounded the rock, heading to the next mark, out of the coast of St Martin we saw the boats in front of us, it was like looking at a painting …. Beautiful but oh so still….. No more wind, gone just like that. We are heading straight into it while the other boats in our class cleverly tried to go around the hole. Decisions decisions…

Heading back to Marigot was really no option as it was totally off course. We are still doing 4 knots in the correct direction, shall we keep going? The boat 20 meters in front of us is not moving at all, boats to the left are coming to a halt, to the right they look to have turned around!! Some boats further ahead are on port tack, we are on starboard tack and we are going in exactly the same direction, look someone is hoisting their spinnaker, also going in the same direction. We are no longer moving. In the mayhem I believe we made a conscious decision to go straight into the hole. When I say Mayhem it’s probably also weird because we all panicked but quietly, in my memory I believe we were all whispering our thoughts.

At this stage we are last of our fleet, and our biggest competitor is now in front of the pack. Crap! (not the actual word that was used). We are floating but not moving. In some sort of desperation I looked up to the sky, big drops of rain coming down, dark clouds beyond and a very happy windex making 360’s at a lazy pace. Some excitement from one of the team;

“we are doing 0.5knts … heeehaaaa”, oh wait it’s -0.5knts, that means we are going backwards, now was a good moment to start crying, or if we were a bareboat, open a beer and play some depressing song by Tom Waits.

It took a while to agree and all 5 crew had their ideas of how to go about the situation but truth is that all ideas merged into one. And this is where I believe we won the regatta. This team is so experienced and clever; I am still amazed by their knowledge and their skills. There comes a time you realize there is no escaping, the hole is gaping in front of you and you are going into it, the same happened to all our competitors. So the team started to discuss what the best way was to enter into certain catastrophe. A bit like chess, thinking several moves ahead and it paid off. Things started to happen exactly in the way the guys had predicted it. I’ve been in similar situations in the Heineken Regatta 2012 and always thought that the boats picking up wind first were just lucky, but I know better now. Anticipation is the key. And picking up wind first we did, we finished the race 1st with a lead of over 10 minutes on the 2nd Melges 24!!

Fantastic racing, great organization by the regatta and a super Budget Marine/Gill team who have taught me a lot about preparing, planning, tactics, patience, and so much more, a great combination of nationalities and characters.

Thanks Chris Marshall (Trini), Derek Little (Aussie), Bas de Rooij (Dutch), Rene Edwards (Frysk), Andrea Scarabelli (Italian), Lomig Henry (Breton) from left to right (white shirts).

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