Reporting live from the Heineken International Cup in Puerto Rico, ybw takes a look at the events of the first day

The Heineken International Cup, held in Puerto Rico in the Spanish Virgin Islands, is the first event of the Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle and though not the largest event, it has it’s own special appeal. The Caribbean Series has grown considerably over recent years with the introduction of more events. As one regatta finishes the next begins, which in this case will be the second event of the Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle, the BVI Spring Regatta, which begins in the next couple of weeks.

The Heineken Cup Regatta holds its own special appeal. Caribbean regattas are more than sailing races, they are a social event where your crew’s popularity is rated on how many rum punches, or in this case cans of Heineken, you can sink over the three to five days, and the only handicap is a tee-total. The Heineken Cup offers great racing between boats of an 80-strong fleet, yet is not so huge that each team becomes just another on the list. One gets the feeling that the regatta is more like a friendly club race, and whilst everybody’s out there to win, the result is only an excuse to party more. Nobody is made to feel like an outsider, and owning the newest boat does not necessarily secure a good result.

The Heineken Cup began today, and runs over the weekend with the last race on Sunday. The typical classes are competing under the Caribbean Sailing Association Rating system (CSA), which is based purely on measurement, and does not penalise light-displacement boats. Of these the J-boats appear to be the most popular, of which the J 24 is the most common model. Nine Melges 24s make up the largest fleet of Melges in any Caribbean Regatta, and the Hobie 16s have turned out in force. At the larger end of the race fleet, a Farr 65, a Swan 65 and an AND 68 cut a striking presence. Also, for those who don’t own boats, the ‘bareboat class’ makes it possible for a crew to get together, charter a cruising boat, and enter in their own class. There are several such bareboat entries participating, the crews having chartered their boats from Stardust, part of the Sunsail charter company.

The first day’s racing was delayed due to light winds, but the skies were clear, the sun was bright and the mood was set for a party. Boats milled around the start line waiting for the wind, which steadily built up to the promised 15-18 knots after the first hour or two. While they waited, the crews made the most of the free beer, the only real movement along the start line being those who took a swim to cool-off, while the best use of the spinnaker was as a sunshade.

The racing eventually kicked-off and spectators enjoyed some close racing between some of the best sailors on the Caribbean circuit. The results at this time have yet to be announced, but will be posted on the official website later this evening