The organizers called it “Five Years of Flight,” a fitting tagline for the fifth anniversary of an event that from the very outset was aimed directly at a very select group of sailors and their boats: racing and performance-cruising catamarans and trimarans. St. Maarten was a very fitting venue for the regatta, having been the island that arguably was the birthplace of modern big-boat multihull racing, back when a local fanatic named Peter Spronk was designing and building fast, capable catamarans that he launched off the beach. The islanders who were around back then are proud of that link and their history, even more so now that they’re involved with growing and continuing it.
With a record-setting number of participants and a whole new element added to the festivities — a dedicated cruising rally run in conjunction with the racing regatta that’s been the hallmark of the event — the fifth running of the annual Caribbean Multihull Challenge Race and Rally, which took place from February 3-5 at Simpson Bay, St. Maarten, was an unqualified success. As the CMC continues to grow and evolve, it’s an ideal time to look back at what transpired this year and ahead to the next edition, scheduled to take place next February 2-4, 2024.
Principal race officer Rein Korteknie needed perfect Caribbean trade-wind conditions to pull off what amounted to a Triple Crown of offshore contests, the CMC Trifecta of point-to-point races for the CSA 1 class, and the weather gods fully cooperated. Looking at the weekend forecast, he decided to run the shortest race of the three on the windiest day, and scheduled the CMC 27 Mile Around Island Circle Race sponsored by Amstel Bright for Sunday’s finale. With that date established, he then sent the fleet on the Around Saba Dash sponsored by the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau on Friday and the Caribbean 60 Mile Multihull Sprint, a power reach around St. Barth’s sponsored by FKG Rigging, for Saturday.
All three races were won in dominating fashion by Greg Slyngstad’s 53-foot Fujin, making its third appearance in the CMC, which in so doing also captured the CSA 1 class. The half-dozen entrants in the division included two intriguing CMC newcomers, the Gunboat 60, Cui Bono, and the classic Lock Crowhter-designed trimaran Oceans Tribute, which sailed all the way from New Zealand to sail in the CMC. Neither, however, could better the series that was sailed by another CMC veteran, Anthony McVeigh’s well-sailed catamaran 2 2 Tango, which placed second in CSA 1.
The growing Diam 24 class of one-design 24-foot trimarans continued to grow, as evidenced by Pierre Altier of Cry Baby earning the title of Most Worthy Performer for the regatta, an award presented to the boat that registers the most convincing victory in the event’s most competitive class. Both Slyngstad and Altier also took home new Swiss dive watches from Oris, repeat sponsor of the CMC.
“The Diam 24 fleet was very exciting, I’m hoping for more Diam 24s in the future,” said CMC director of marketing Steve Burzon, a member of the event’s original founders and steering committee. “We still need to get some more high-level race boats to come beat Fujin! My plan is to pursue those competitors by continuing to attend boat shows like Cannes and the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland. I’m very bullish on the racing part of the event.”
With a dozen boats in the fleet in what was the CMC’s inaugural running of its new rally for cruising catamarans and trimarans, the total CMC entry list topped 30 boats for the first time. And the rally, which was run in three legs with overnight stops in Anse Marcel and Anguilla, proved to be a huge hit for organizers and participants alike. Balance Catamarans, a brand of high-performance cruising cats from South Africa, led the way with a half-dozen entries, which Burzon sees as a blueprint for future growth in the rally fleet. “The deal with Balance was incredible, and it’s something we want to offer to other brands going forward,” he said. “They got parties, live music, dancing, photos, organized games and sailing, all for the price of their entry. I really want to get other brands like HH Catamarans, Lagoon, Fountaine Pajot and others involved. They bring the boats and their customers, we put on the event. My plan is to organize the rally for as many cruising sailors and even bareboat charterers as possible.”
Burzon added, “We welcomed back our repeating sponsors like Oris Swiss Watches, Fope Fine Italian Jewelry, Ballerina Jewelers, as well as the companies that sponsored our CMC Trifecta and many others. But I have to say the backing of the St. Maarten Tourist Board really made the difference. They gave us a lot of support. They said to use their money for marketing, which is exactly what we did. It allowed us to promote St. Maarten as the epicenter for multihull sailing, which is exactly what we are. There’s a long history of great multihull sailing here on the island, and the CMC exists to honor that history and continue to build on it.”
The St Maarten Yacht Club will host the sixth annual Caribbean Multihull Challenge Race and Rally from February 2-4, 2024. The event is open to all multihull sailors on racing catamarans and trimarans as well as chartered cats and cruising multis. For more
information visit www.caribbeanmultihullchallenge.com.
For more information about the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, visit www.smyc.com.