Beach cats return to the Heineken after a long hiatus

Seen in the Daily Herald Special of March 1st
Written by Robert Luckock
Beach cats will be racing in the 36th St.Maarten Heineken Regatta for the first time since they last participated in the event in 2008. It will be a small fi eld of just six F18 boats, possibly eight, by the time registration closes, but should be no less competitive for that.
Logistically speaking, catering to a large class of beach cats in the past has been a headache for organisers in terms of providing extra security on the water; but with fewer entries, that is not seen as an issue this time. Beach cats will have their own courses, at least two safety boats following, and a dedicated Race Officer. That person is Jamie Clark from Cowes, Isle of Wight, a very experienced International Judge and Race Offi cer who also speaks French fl uently; defi nitely a bonus as practically all the competitors are French nationals. 
Veteran beach cat sailor Bernard Sillem and Race Director Paul Miller have been credited with making the inclusion of beach cats possible this year; Sillem certainly through his connections with fellow beach cat sailors.
In picture: Bernard Sillem and Stephan Looser racing to victory in the Tour of St.Barths in 2015.
(Photo Antoine Photography) 
Miller cited reasons beach cats became a “nuisance” in the past was because they were not given what they wanted but treated like every other boat, doing the same courses as the others. “We’re doing it in a completely diff erent way this time, giving them their own courses and a Race Officer,” he discloses. “We’ve listened to them and I couldn’t have done this without the input of Bernard. The cats wanted to do the around the island race so they will be going Beach cats return to the Heineken after a long hiatus around with everyone else on Friday. “Aside from that, they will have their own race committee on Saturday for innovative courses in Simpson Bay, based on an America’s Cup format and can do as many races as they want. For spectator-watching on the Simpson Bay beach, it will be fantastic. And on Sunday, they will have a choice of a course to Marigot and back to Simpson Bay or more windward leeward courses”
Even though he’s disappointed the beach cat number is not in double digits, Miller sees managing the beach cats under this new format as a proving ground that can open the way to having more one design classes and tailor-made courses in the future. “The message needs to get out that the Heineken Regatta can do more than it has done in the past to meet more competitors’ needs,” he emphasises. “I’m trying to position the regatta to attract one design classes. For example, if we get the X1 20ft sport boats next year, they don’t want to do long courses.
“The good thing about the small number of beach cats is that it will be easier for us to fine tune it as we go along, and make that small group even happier, not to mention the possibility of attracting more beach cats next year. Th ere’s also the VX 1 class that is racing in the British and US Virgin islands this year and those guys are interested in coming to the Heineken in 2017. “These one design classes don’t go to some regattas because they can’t get the racing they want. So I want to make sure we are positioned to off er them what they need.”
At least five of the beach cats entering this weekend are from St. Barths with just two boats from St. Martin. Sillem will be racing on Gonzalo, a Cirrus B1, with Joris vanden Eynde while Dominique Platelet and Henry will be on the other St. Martin boat. Another boat listed on the regatta entries page from St. Martin is a Cirrus, Pomy Speed, but no details about the crew mentioned. Among the St. Barths sailors are Jeff Ledee and Vincent Jordil on their Nacra MK II, St. Barths Republic, Sylvie Pollien and Yan on Ned Ahpc C2, Markku Harmala on a Cirrus Tradewind Aviation, David Guiheneuc and Noah Turtshi on a Nacra, and the Laplace brothers Turenne and Patrick, also on a Nacra. According to Sillem, the beach cat sailors will be staying in one group in the floating house, La Maison Flottante, in the Lagoon.

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