A Travellerspoint blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2011, Philipsburg, St. Maarten

sunny 30 °C

We had the best shore excursion ever today! We had the opportunity of being crew on a mid 1980’s vintage America’s Cup 12 meter yacht. They have 3 down here – “Stars and Stripes” – the 1987 winner of the America’s Cup which was helmed by Dennis Connor.and which defeated Australia to return the cup to the US. Also here are the two Canadian challengers of the same era “Canada II” and “True North” which was the only yacht ever to beat Stars and Stripes. They load up each of these yachts with 16 of us tourists plus 3 trained crew members. All of the tourists who wish are assigned to active crew positions. The rest are assigned minor roles or get to sit in a spot out of the way of the action. We then sail the yacht out into the outer harbour and practice tacking back and forth using the winches and coffee grinders for 30-40 minutes. Then the organizers mark out a proper modified Olympic style race course. They set up a proper timed running start and off we go. It takes about an hour of tacking back and forth as well as two down wind legs before one of the yachts finally wins the race. These big sixty-four foot beauties handle like a boat half their size and cover the large distances very fast in the solid trade wind breezes here. Everyone on board gets very competitive as the lead changed several times during the race as winds shifted and as they always do in sailboat racing. The good news was that the boat we were on won the race, the bad news was that we were on Stars & Stripes and not one of the two Canadian boats. It was a lot of fun and most people agrees that it was one of the best excursions ever. It was surprising the amount of work for the tourists. Dave was a main sail grinder (really hard work) and Hazel was a winch wench (surprisingly challenging to know what to do and when). It is easy to see why this excursion has been voted the best in the Caribbean. It was also nice to see how well maintained these sailing beauties of over 20 years ago are. Due to the fact that these yachts are flat out racing machines and custom built solely for the purpose of sailing in the America’s Cup race they are often put out to some inglorious pastures very soon after the America’s Cup race since the next race will require the very latest in yacht design technology to even be competitive. We were told that the 1987 campaign of Stars and Stripes to win back the America’s Cup cost the sponsors in excess of $70 million. Pretty pricey for a boat that has neither an engine nor a head (bathroom) and is essentially obsolete a month after the final race is over.

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America's Cup Racing Yacht in St. Martin's

On the ship side of things, we had a request from Lafarge by email for copies of our passports. Easy to do if we were home but when we are on a cruise ship? However, they are pretty resourceful on this ship and a quick trip down to the ship’s concierge proved that point once again. He did not even bat an eye. Of course we can help you he said without a moment’s hesitation. I’ll just scan your documents into a pdf file and email it off right now. In three minutes he had it done. It is just one example of the tremendous “can do” attitude of all of the crew. You gotta love modern technology. For an explanation of why we needed to send the passport copies off. see the next section.

This evening’s main stage entertainment featured the full cast with a high tech, high energy show of popular music and dancing with some Cirque style high flying aerobatics thrown in.

Posted by DavidandHazel 09:19 Archived in Saint Martin

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