PORT DE PLAISANCE--Don’t want that long uncomfortable slog to get to St. Maarten’s Heineken Regatta from down island? Solution: rent a mother ship and tow your boat.
That’s what the Martinique-based crew from GFA Caraïbes-La Morrigane does. It might not be practical or affordable for everyone but for the GFA Caraïbes crew they arrive fresh and energised to do battle over the next four days.
In their case there’s good reason to tow the boat. It’s a 24ft Surprise Archambault which has zero comforts on board, no electronics, no possibility to sleep, and is purely set up for racing. Besides, it’s way too small to take six crew on a long passage without risking a mutiny.
“It took us 42 hours to get here,” says skipper Tristan Marmousez, amid the buzz of activity at registration in Port de Plaisance on Wednesday. “It was longer than usual because of having to stop several times to clear Sargassum weed. Normally its about 36 hours to get here. But we prefer to stay dry and sleep well for long trips such as to St. Maarten and Antigua.
The mother ship is a catamaran they have rented for the week. It will also house the crew from the other Martinique boat, the J109, Sang Neuf. GFA Caraïbes and Sang Neuf are owned by the Morrigane Sailing Association.
Tristan has raced the Heineken Regatta seven times, previously on a Melges 24 before switching three years ago to the Surprise, an old design from 1986. The crew have a reputation for sailing the boat very well to handicap.
As crew member Diane Damon puts it: “The competition doesn’t want to see us behind them on the water but if they do that’s bad news for them.”
Last year the team won the Most-Worthy Performance Trophy for the around-the-island race. Uppermost in Tristan’s mind is to get revenge for the team’s second place last year in CSA 8, losing by mere seconds to first placed J105 Solstice after sailing a new flawless four days neck-and-neck, only to get it wrong in the last race. This year they are in CSA 7.
“So, we’re back with the same crew. Usually six, or five if the wind is light. We have optimised the boat as much as possible with new sails and feel we have prepared the boat as best we can. Let’s see. I have been sailing the Surprise for 20 years and have a lot of experience on it. And we are very motivated.”
The crew comprises Quentin Elie, Lazlo Dubois, Diane Damon, Tristan Marmousez, Hélène Rousselo, and Damien Delpy. After Heineken the team will return to Martinique before doing Antigua Sailing Week in April.