The 10th edition of the Gill Commodore’s Cup featured a record entry of 84 boats for the stand alone event prior to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The Gill Maxi Class was a fantastic sight, powering to windward in the big sea state of the Anguilla Channel, before surfing downwind at 20 knots in a ball of spray. The sportsboats were just as exciting, battling it out on a tight course in Simpson Bay, with close action upwind and frenetic action downwind. The Bareboats were out in numbers and produced the closest contests of the day’s racing. Whilst the multihulls enjoyed a long race around the spectacular Blowing Rock. Andrea Scarabelli’s St. Maarten Melges 24, Gil Race Team, was top of the Melges 24 fleet. Seven highly competitive carbon-fibre flyers duked it out and Gill Race Team’s performance was rewarded with the overall prize of the  Gill Commodore’s Cup. Andrea has competed in the Gill Commodore’s Cup for many years but this was his first victory.

David Pritchard, President of Gill North American was delighted with the record entry and the long association with the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “Coming to the Caribbean is a joy for us and working with an outstanding partner like Heineken really energizes us. Heineken is not just a co-sponsor but a customer of ours and this regatta lets us collaborate with Heineken and many of our customers, as well as several Gill race teams. These connection with our customers and partners are very valuable to us. Also I must mention the great effort by over 80 volunteers working at the Gill Commodore’s Cup and I would like to say thank you to everyone of them. Without them giving up their precious time, this event would not be possible.”

Full On in Anguilla Channel

With a rough sea state and the wind piping up to over 20 knots, boat handling was at a premium in the Gill Maxi and Gill 1 classes racing off Marigot Bay. The big boats revelled in the conditions, Race Officer Stuart Childerley, officiating at the regatta for the first time, set three windward leeward courses. In Gill 3 there was glory for local legend Bobby Velasquez racing Beneteau 45 L’Esperance. The team from St. Maarten won the first race and placed third and second in the subsequent races to win the class by a single point. Lawrence Aqui’s Dufour 40, Wild T’ing, from the US Virgin Islands, won the last race of the day to snatch second on countback from Jordan Mindich’s American J/105, Solstice. Richard Wesslund’s Florida based J/122, El Ocaso scored a perfect three bullets to win Gill 1 from Don Terwilliger’s American First 47.7, Dauntless. Chris Jackson’s First 40, Team Boston was third.

Peter Harrison’s TP52, Sorcha scored three straight bullets in the Gill Maxi class to stamp their authority on the opposition. Although Irvine Laidlaw’s mighty Highland Fling X1 only took part in the first race and looked to be a real flyer in the big breeze. Ralph Johnson’s Bajan TP52, Conviction was second in class, a fine result for a young team in harsh conditions. Alan Edwards pristine Swan 65, Spirit was made for big breeze and lumpy seas and was a fantastic sight crashing to windward through the waves.12 yachts made up the big boat class, which enjoyed a taste of the competition to come, once the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta gets into gear from tomorrow.

“We decided to compete in the Gill Commodore’s Cup to get more time on the boat and we are so glad we did.” commented Campbell Field, navigator for Sorcha. “Most of the team have flown in from the UK, so the more we use our time the better and to get a bit of cloud cover today was good to stop the sunburn. We set out to just sharpen up boat handling and mark roundings, but once that gun goes, you can’t help but get competitive. Three windward leewards was just what we wanted as we will be taking part in the MedCup this summer. It is unlikely we will see those conditions too often in a TP52; it was seriously good fun, blasting downwind. It was also curious to line up against a Volvo Ocean 65 and we were very impressed by the young team on Conviction. They really got there game together as the day went on and we will need to keep an eye on them during the next three days.”

Gusty conditions in Simpson Bay

Boat handling and tactics were at a premium in Gill 2 and the two Bareboat classes with two tight windward leeward races held in Simpson Bay. Despite the flat water, a strong current at the top mark combined with the gusty conditions to provide thrilling action on the water. With seven Melges 24s and three Melges 32s the downwind legs were a joy to behold. Getting on the plane, and more importantly staying on it, was the key to victory. Luis Juarbe’s Puerto Rican Melges 32, Soca was in fine form; fast upwind and electric downwind, to win the first race by over four minutes on corrected time. Andrea Scarabelli’s St. Maarten Melges 24, Gil Race Team, was the top Melges 24 and snatched the class victory by just half a point from Soca. Nicolas Gillet’s Gfa caraibes was third in class. No less than seven teams made the podium in the three race series.

Congratulations to Russian match racer, Sergei Musikhin and his team racing United Region Boys. Placing third in Race 1 and first in Race 2, which was just enough to win Bareboat 4 on count back from DILLIGAF Racing, skippered by Jim Roland. Sergei was runner up last year, so this year’s win will be that much sweeter! Mike Cannon & Neil Harvey’s KHS&S Contractors won the first race but a sixth in Race 2 dropped the team to third.

11 yahts raced in Bareboat 5 with three teams enjoying a tremendous battle for the win. Aleksei Dushkin’s Kiev Racing Yacht Club scored a first and a second to win the class by a single point from Yury Kharazyan’s Red Star. Burkhard Fahrenkrog’s German team, racing Baltics was third. A closer look at the results confirms that Kiev Racing Yacht Club’s margin of victory was just 21 seconds in the deciding last race.

The multihull class was set a long race, comprising a short beat into Simpson Bay followed by a long 16 mile downwind leg to Blowing Rock, with a reciprocal upwind leg to the finish. Gunboat 62, Flow skippered by Stephen Cucchiaro and Bieker 53, Fujin skippered by Greg Slyngstad arrived at the top mark together. After unfurling downwind sails Fujin accelerated into a lead that the team would extend upon, taking line honours and the win on corrected time. Two Russian yachts enjoyed a close battle; Alexey Arkhipov’s Nala was second after time correction, by just 16 seconds from Andrey Arbuzov’s Karla.

For full results for the Gill Commodore’s Cup: http://regattaguru.com/heineken/100137/results

Racing at the 36th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will start tomorrow, Friday 4 March with a Round the Island Race. For full information on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including results, photos, videos, party and band information, and much, much more, visit www.heinekenregatta.com.

For full results for the Gill Commodore’s Cup: http://regattaguru.com/heineken/100137/results