SIMPSON BAY--Merlin won the Diam 24 Class and Nemo took top honors in CSA 1 of the 6th edition of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge Race and Rally.
A total of 35 multihulls, 9-boats CSA 1 division; the ten entrants in the one-design Diam 24 class; and the 16 entrants in the Rally fleet competed in this year’s CMC. “February is the windiest month of the year in the Caribbean with winds above 15 mph 65% of the time and winds above 20 mph 20% of the time,” said Stephen R Burzon, the CMC’s Volunteer Director of Marketing and Operations. He continued, “But for 2024, we are seeing abnormally low winds from 2 mph to 10 mph. On the fourth and final day, the easterly breeze for which the islands are known at last made an appearance, and the racing classes in the enjoyed a full slate of competition. With three firsts and a third in the last four races, Alexis de Boucad’s Merlin topped the 10-boat Diam 24 division. With a trio of bullets in as many starts, Todd Slyngstad’s HH66 was the undisputed winner of the 9-boat CSA 1 class. Merlin was the cream of the crop, raced to near perfection with an all-star team that included well- racing sailor Benoit Champanhac and Ivan Skobtsov in its three-man crew. Champanhac is on a serious roll, having won the Diam class in last year’s edition of the Heineken Regatta. Merlin held a tenuous three-point lead over another well-sailed St. Maarten entry, Erick Clement’s Karibuni, with another top team that includes local racer and Board Member of the SMYC Joris vanden Eynde and St. Maarten Yacht Club racing coach Sam Peeks. It’s been said you can’t win a race on the starting line but you can certainly lose one, and such was the case with Karibuni’s first race of the day. Opting to attempt a risky port-tack start, Karibuni was forced to tack ahead of a starboard boat and got hung up on the pin end of the starting line. Though Clement managed to extricate themselves and made a strong comeback to finishthird in that contest, with Merlin’s flawless performance on the day, Karibuni’s fate was sealed. In the day’s first race in the CSA 1 class, an almost exact scenario unfolded. At the start of the day, Slyngstad’s Nemo was deadlocked with Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Gunboat 66, Mano, with identical scores of 6 points apiece. Mano also tried to port tack the fleet, but the aggressive tactic backfired when they were forced over the line early and had to restart while Nemo charged ahead unchallenged. Mana, which finished second in CSA 1,never fully recovered, as Nemo sailed faster and higher for the remainder of the day. With easterly breeze that fluctuated between 5-10 knots for most of the day, principal race officer Chris Mansfield had a challenging task to get in several races. After a light-air first race down the south coast of St. Maarten, he opted to set a shorter windward/leeward racecourse in Simpson Bay for the remainder of the day’s competition, and was able to conduct four races for the Diam 24’s and three for the CSA 1 sailors.