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While the world teetered on the brink of what many though would be World War Three, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta opened for business with the annual Budget Marine Match Racing Cup (BMMRC).

The Cup is sailed on the difficult waters of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Anchored yachts, high land to windward, superyachts with their cliff-like topsides moored in marinas just a few yards from the course, all influence the breeze making it unstable at best.

For those who don’t understand match racing, and there are many of us (well, I understand it a bit), it is a mini version of the Americas Cup in that two boats race against each other. The comparison stops there because the boats used in most match races are small and don’t cost a king’s ransom to purchase, in fact, racers have just as much fun sailing ‘recycled’ one-design boats as they do sailing high-tech, multi million dollar machines that are part boat and part airplane. The secret being that all the one-design boats in the fleet are all equally ‘recycled’ to give no one team an advantage. Just to be on the safe side, competitors exchange boats after every race, so there can be no ‘yours was better than mine’ when the winner is clutching the trophy and, as is the case of the BMMRC (an ISAF Class 5 event), a check for $5000US.

The BMMRC uses a fleet of Jeanneau Sunfast 20s owned by Lagoon Sailboat Rental. The fleet was put together by Robbie Ferron, the man credited with founding the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 34-years-ago. He had a vision then, and he has one now, and St. Maarten is at the forefront of one-design racing with a growing number of locally owned Melges 24s and 32s competing on the Caribbean circuit.

Everyone agrees that match racing hones sailing skills and one-on-one racing is a joy to watch. What people don’t know is that one-design is also a force for world peace. When the Russian Team was pushed into second place by the Ukrainians during the finals, tension filled the air. And when, on stepping ashore, a bear of a Russian crewman strode purposefully towards the Ukrainian skipper, I readied my camera to record the first blow.  But instead of a punch, he gave him a hug. It brought a tear to my eye. The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta – solving the world’s problems through sailing.

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