Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten: The Caribbean Multihull Challenge has now established itself as the major annual event for racing and cruising catamarans and trimarans throughout the islands. And in keeping with that position of leadership, for the first time, the fleet in last February’s event included the Fope Women’s Sailing Team, an all-girl international crew sponsored by Fope Fine Italian Jewelry (www.fope.com); a natural fit as Fope’s beautiful pieces can be worn as active wear in action sports. It was an ideal match for everyone.
And the Fope crew held up their end of the bargain. Sailing the Leopard 47, Seaduction, and skippered by highly experienced St. Maarten sailor Stephane Ferron, the team met and overcame several challenges in the windy regatta to earn the event’s Spirit & Style prize. There’s no question the women competed with plenty of both.
Stephane, the daughter of local sailing legends Robbie Ferron and Cary Lee Byerley, obviously comes from a terrific sailing family. She further honed her skills during a decade working as a professional sailor racing and cruising massive yachts before returning to St. Maarten and taking a position with Budget Marine, the company her father founded. That background made her the perfect choice to command the Fope Women’s Team.
“Those ten years gave me a lot more confidence than I had before,” she said. “It also opened my eyes to the male dominance in the sailing world. It’s actually shocking how little confidence women have, which is one of the main reasons I did this regatta with an all-girls team.”
The crew Stephane assembled was a strong one, ranging in age from 14 to 64, with all levels of sailing experience and from all walks of life. “Jordan was the youngest, she’s from South Africa and was traveling around the world with her family,” said Stephane. “She’s a good sailor so I put her on tactics because I thought if she could master the skill of confidence and speaking up then I think she’ll really be able to go for it, and she did that.” Another crew member was “a lawyer who had never sailed before, but she was keen to join in and did everything she was asked to do.”
There was a fair bit of adversity to overcome during the course of the event: the jib furler line was lost, the traveler broke and, during one windy race, Stephane said, “We lost our steering during a tack. I was actually able to fix the steering cable myself which was something I’d never done before. So definitely an improvement there with my engineering skills! But despite it all we were able to keep going and keep coming back. I’m proud of what we did.”
Stephane also said that Fope and their local retailer Ballerina Jewelers was a fine, supportive sponsor. “I’m not sure they knew what they were getting into,” she laughed. “They got us some nice shirts and their presence was there throughout the regatta. I think they were very happy. They sold some jewelry and who doesn’t want a group of nice ladies at the after-race parties wearing their gear and posing for pictures? I think the Fope brand works well for women’s sporting events. The jewelry is very nice and is designed to be worn at all times and not taken off while sailing. It was a good fit.”
Stephane says she’d love to do it again for next year’s third annual CMC. “Yes, for sure,” she said. “I’d spend more time preparing, planning and practicing so we’d really be ready.”
In the meantime, the Fope Women’s Team made history, and empowered and enabled a great group of sailors to participate in the process. That’s what’s called a win/win situation. If ever there was an inclusive regatta, for multihulls and those who love them alike, it’s the Caribbean Multihull Challenge. Next year’s running is scheduled for February 5-7, 2021. Mark it on your calendar now.