Simpson Bay, St. Maarten: They are similar in so many ways. Petro Jonkers and Ian Martin sailed to the Caribbean from their home waters of South Africa and never looked back. They each run day charter businesses in St. Maarten where they can mix business with their passion for sailing. They even sail and race similar boats, sleek Leopard catamarans built by Robertson & Caine in their old haunts near Cape Town.
But when the starting gun fires to begin the first race of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge St. Maarten next month, they will become rivals and competitors, albeit very friendly ones. “In the great tradition of seafarers, Ian is always first to help if we have a breakdown or problem,” says Petro. “Sharing a beer and sea stories keeps a good friendship with plenty of friends on the right tack.”
Ian agrees. “Petro and I are really good buddies,” he says. “His boat, Seaduction, is a Leopard 47, and my Spellbound is a Leopard 45. We discovered they both sail really well and it’s really good fun racing against each other. We cross the starting line with a cup of tea on the dashboard. Very nice. It’s like old man racing!”
Petro and Ian knew one another back in South Africa, but they didn’t become truly good mates until they arrived in St. Maarten. Petro sailed to the island in 1999 on an extended cruise with his wife and three kids. Ian has been here for 25 years after a visit while in the midst of a grand prix yacht-racing career. He decided then and there he would live in the Caribbean, and after returning home for a stint as a boatbuilder, returned for good. “This place fits me perfectly,” he said. “I love it here.”
Once in St. Maarten, the duo began sailing together, with the highlight a class victory in the Caribbean 600. Coincidentally, they each began chartering operations. “With Ian in a similar business the competition to provide the best charters and most fun for our clients never stops,” said Petro. In fact, Ian has a second boat in his fleet, another Leopard called Spellbound TooI that’s available for charter in the non-spinnaker Pirate Class for the Caribbean Multihull Challenge.
Meanwhile, Ian and Petro will be battling it out in the flat-out racing fleet. “Both of our boats got beat up in the hurricane, but we fixed them up and we’re out playing again,” said Ian.
In 2017, the pair squared off at Antigua Sailing Week. “What fun,” said Petro. “The boats are so similar that we found ourselves match racing the entire regatta. My boat is slightly heavier but our speeds were closely matched with no quarter given.” Ian’s Spellbound won that battle, and followed it up by besting Seaduction in the recent Course de L’Alliance. But Petro says he was in cruising mode for that contest, and will be up to racing speed for the Caribbean Multihull Challenge.
“For the Challenge racing the boats will be weighed ensuring close handicap results and given the known even performance the bets are on,” said Petro.
That said, Ian reckons Petro still owes him a case of beer for his win in Antigua in 2017. “We’re still waiting,” said Ian. “He’s probably running around with it in the back of his car.”
Either way, win or lose, cold beers and great companionship will follow the racing at the Caribbean Multihull Challenge. After all, everyone who participates will be a winner. Ian and Petro would have it no other way.
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.
The Leopard catamarans Spellbound and Spellbound Too will be on the starting line at the Caribbean Multihull Challenge St. Maarten this February.