By Herb McCormick
If you wanted to make a movie about a boat with nine lives; a light, beautiful and timeless design from a legendary naval architect that has become a Caribbean treasure; one that has survived multiple hurricanes and continues to sail and race with power and grace, well, you’d be hard pressed to find a better leading star than St. Maarten’s own 36-foot trimaran, Tryst.
These days, Tryst is owned and sailed by a couple of familiar islanders, Bernard “Appie” Stoutenbeek and Arthur Banting. When they hoist Tryst’s sails in early February, in the first Caribbean Multihull Challenge, they’ll be celebrating an important milestone for the sleek red tri: it will be her 50th birthday.
The Caribbean Multihull Challenge will be a celebration of all vessels that soar on two and three hulls, so it’s fitting that Tryst will be a centerpiece of the regatta. After all, she has a remarkable history. It all started in a New England shipyard a half century ago.
Her main hull and amas (outriggers) were built in Orlando, Maine of cold-molded mahogany at the Thurston Company boatyard. Designed by Dick Newick, the preeminent creator of trimarans at the time, the parts were then shipped to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, along with the identical hulls and amas for another set of boats, all of which were members of Newick’s Trice class.
There, in St. Croix in 1969, Tryst was assembled and began life as a day charter boat, taking tourists out for short sails and snorkeling trips. A decade later, the Turner brothers, Pat and Bob, brought Tryst to St. Maarten and began offering similar outings from Pat’s Tropical Wave beach bar in Le Galion. Some five years later, the Stoutenbeek family had arrived on St. Maarten – including the impressionable young son, Appie – and acquired another Newick tri called TP II. By now, in the mid-1980s, there was a quartet of Newick trimarans racing against each other in the neighboring islands. Appie fondly remembers the group as “Newick fanatics.”
Pat Turner was Tryst’s owner and loving caretaker for 36 years, nursing and repairing her after many a tropical storm. But when Hurricane Gonzalo tore through the islands in 2014 – and Tryst flipped over, with the mast puncturing right through her main hull and deck – it was time to move on.
And so the next unlikely chapter in the Tryst saga was launched, this time with Arthur and Appie playing the supporting roles. It took over a thousand hours of hard labor to get Tryst back together again, with Arthur doing the lion’s share of the work and Appie pitching in whenever possible. “We did everything ourselves,” said Appie. “We opened her up, remade the stringers, refitted new sheets of wood, built up the fiberglass, did the fairing, the paint job, everything. You name it, we did it.”
In 2015, Tryst was again sailing, but not racing. That’s when Appie said to Arthur, “Dude, we need to get her out on the circuit again.”
At the time, Appie was busy racing Melges 24s, but he wasn’t getting any younger and he was eager to get back to his sailing roots. “I grew up on multihulls,” he said. “I love the speed. I want to be back on the helm, driving my own boat. That’s the way it was when I was a kid, either my dad or me on the helm.”
It was time to get Tryst back on the racecourse. But, once again, fate intervened, in the form of yet another hurricane, this one called Irma.
As the manager of the Lagoon Marina, and knowing that Tryst suffered major damage in the last hurricane because her mast was up, Appie pulled the spar out of the boat and then towed her to shallow, protected Mullet Bay, where he put her on a pair of moorings and placed hundreds of gallons of water in tanks down below to sink the waterline and reduce windage on the hulls. Then, he crossed his fingers and left Tryst to her own devices.
When he returned after the storm, Tryst was again upside down. A guest at the neighboring resort witnessed what had happened. Apparently, Tryst had been riding things out magnificently until an attendant tornado rolled into Mullet Bay. Appie said, “The guest came down to me and said, ‘Oh my god, is that your boat!?’ He said Tryst went right up into the air, nose down, stern up, still attached to the moorings, doing twists in the tornado. When we found her capsized, there must have been 20 turns on the mooring lines!”
With the aid of a crane, Tryst was again righted, but during the operation, the water inside the boat shifted and blew out the deck. Still, in the grand scheme of things, this was minor damage, and after yet one more refit, Tryst was once again whole. And it was after the Irma refit, this time with Appie taking the lead, that he and Arthur became official partners with Tryst.
After Irma, Appie was more determined than ever to get her racing once more. He entered the 2018 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta with 15 minutes left to register, and though the boat wasn’t properly rated and not competitive, she was still racing … this time with a set of “Band-Aid” patches affixed to her hull.
Then, in December, Tryst got her first real test in the Course de L’Alliance, a three-leg regatta from St. Maarten to St. Barts, on to Anguilla, then back to St. Maarten. In the five-boat fleet, Tryst took first place.
Now, she’ll be on the starting line for the Caribbean Multihull Challenge. Appie and Arthur can’t wait. “This boat is something special,” said Appie. “For a multihull to survive all these hurricanes, there’s got to be something special with this girl. She doesn’t want to go.”
No, Tryst isn’t going anywhere. And yes, fifty years later, Tryst is ready for her close-up.
About the Caribbean Multihull Challenge Sint Maarten:
The Sint Maarten Yacht Club will host the first annual Caribbean Multihull Challenge from February 8-10, 2019. 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.smyc.com/caribbean-multihull-challenge.
About the Sint Maarten Yacht Club:
Established in 1980 with the goal to promote sailing on the island of St Maarten. It organizes multiple sailing events throughout the year, with the St Maarten Heineken Regatta as its crown jewel. A youth sailing program stimulates local youngsters to become part of the sailing community, teaching them life skills like team work, perseverance and confidence. Always looking to further develop sailing on St Maarten, the Club is active in promoting the sport, as well as the beautiful destination it is located at. For more information visit www.smyc.com