A Festival, A Regatta, A Celebration
A Preview of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge from Race Committee Chair Robbie Ferron
By Herb McCormick
The inaugural Caribbean Multihull Challenge (CMC) St. Maarten will be a unique and memorable event, bringing together a fleet of like-minded sailors and enthusiasts in the blue waters of the Caribbean in a festival of competition and fellowship. On the eve of the racing, it’s a perfect time to check in with well-known yachtsman Robbie Ferron of Budget Marine, the chair of the CMC race committee.
“Regattas are becoming more and more specialized,” said Robbie. “You could almost say they’re like restaurants – Greek, Italian, Chinese – with different tastes being catered to in different ways. But there’s never been one in the Caribbean just for multihulls. It’s not just that we’re catering to a specific group, but this is a group that hasn’t been catered to before, and we know that there’s a little different culture with multihulls. It’s also a learning effort for us. We know we’re doing something a bit differently in the regatta culture.”
Arriving in St. Maarten in 1979, Robbie had a ringside seat to watch one of the true multihull pioneers in action: designer and builder Peter Spronk, who was based on the island but whose work earned him worldwide renown. “When I got here Spronk was ‘the man’ and there was a large following around him. He attracted a group of far-sighted people. In those days, the material of choice wasn’t composites, it was wood and epoxy. He put a stamp on multihulls around the world but he did it from St. Maarten so it was quite special.” And it’s a reason St. Maarten is the ideal venue to launch a regatta like the Caribbean Multihull Challenge.
“He was a stubborn Dutchman,” laughed Robbie. “He was grandly stubborn. If you wanted a Spronk boat that didn’t match his concept, you were out of luck. But that made others become even more enthused about getting a boat from him. His boats were amazing, they were about simplicity and manageability, they were great sailing boats and they did a lot of things well. They’re still very good and usable. Nothing straddles the decades like Spronks.”
Today, of course, multihulls have become ubiquitous, and have become the vehicles of choice for countless bareboat charterers, performance cruisers and flat-out racers. “When you look at new-boat arrivals in the Caribbean, they’re dominating now,” said Robbie. “The percentage of multihulls is constantly increasing.”
In scanning the entry list for the upcoming CMC, Robbie sees a fleet that reflects the innovation and versatility that have made the growth of multihulls so prevalent. “I’ve raced against GUIMMAMALOU for years, a great all-around boat. Pretty quick and good accommodations. Twin Sister is a Spronk design, which is very fitting. The Neel 45 trimaran Liquid Sprit should be interesting, we haven’t seen one in the Caribbean, I can’t wait to see how it goes.
“Fujin is an amazing boat, kind of a modern Spronk,” he continued. “I’ve seen her come by me on a reach on flat water doing something like 18 knots, just with ease and comfort. My jaw dropped. R-Six is a Morelli & Melvin so you know it will perform. It’s sort of a multihull Swan, built for luxury, that goes fast and is well endowed with comfort. And we have a couple of Leopards from Robinson & Caine, just good, solid cruising boats. It’s a very diverse fleet.”
In conclusion, it should be a memorable affair. “Part of the regatta is to make all these points,” said Robbie. “We want to put a stamp on what’s already happening, to stimulate it, and also to make this a celebration of the success that’s been achieved.” In other words, we can’t wait.
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